Season 2:

Episode 26

January 4, 2022

One Beverly Hills with Lauren Eckhart Smith of Alagem Capital Group

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Overview

In today’s episode, I discuss the topic of sustainability with my guest Lauren Eckhart Smith, the Head of Design at Alagem Capital Group in Beverly Hills, California. I also speak with her about One Beverly Hills, a mixed-use project that includes residential, retail, hotel and both new construction and renovation components. This project, located at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard, is a one-of-a-kind building with the most advanced technologies for health and sustainability.

Additionally, I discuss with Lauren how this particular 17.5-acre site is one of the largest projects incorporating sustainable design and architecture in California, far beyond the hand-waving that we see in our industry. She also shares with us her experience working with the City of Beverly Hills as well as her experience working on past jobs, such as designing the IAC Headquarters in New York by Frank Gehry, the Bloomberg LP Headquarters in London by Norman Foster.

A new wave of sustainable building designs has emerged – and it’s nothing compared to what we have seen in the past. Join us on today’s episode if you are interested to learn more as we dive into this topic, including Lauren’s personal experience working in the industry.

Learn more about Lauren Eckhart Smith

Lauren Eckhart Smith is the Head of Design at Alagem Capital Group in Beverly Hills, California. After beginning her career at Gensler Associates, she spent a large portion of her career working on iconic buildings such as the IAC Headquarters in New York by Frank Gehry, the Bloomberg LP Headquarters in London by Norman Foster. Lauren is currently in charge of the design of One Beverly Hills, a master-planned and unsurpassed development at the gateway to Beverly Hills including 300 luxury residences, retail, a lifestyle members club and eight acres of botanical gardens.

[00:00:00] Announcer: What goes into making an iconic building in America? What are the stories and who are the people behind the next generation of architecture? If your work touches the real estate industry in any way or you’re just curious about what goes into one of a kind cities and towns all across our country, join us on the American Building Podcast.

In season two, we learn about everything from skyscrapers to single family homes. From the famous and soon-to-be famous designers and developers responsible for them. This season focuses particularly on the pandemic and how our buildings will change in response. Our sponsor is the iconic design firm, Michael Graves Architecture & Design. And now your host award-winning architect-turned entrepreneur Atif Qadir, AIA.

[00:00:59] Atif Qadir: This is American building, and I’m your host, Atif Qadir. We are recording from the historic home of world-renowned architect, Michael Graves in Princeton, New Jersey. Check out this amazing space for yourself at the Michael Graves Architecture and Design YouTube channel. Now let’s build something. Our guest is Lauren is the head of design at Allergan capital group and Beverly Hills, California. Previously, she held senior roles in real estate at Lincoln property group, the Georgetown company, Bloomberg, LLP, and IAC.

She began her career at Gensler associates. We will be talking about one Beverly Hills, a mixed use project in Beverly Hills, California. It includes residential retail and hotel, as well as new construction and renovation components. More broadly, we will talk about how large projects like this one can seriously address sustainability far beyond the hand-waving that we may see in our industry.

Thank you so much for being here with us.

[00:02:02] Lauren Eckhart Smith: My pleasure. It’s wonderful to see you and to be a part of this. I’m very honored

[00:02:06] Atif Qadir: to be. Absolutely. Thank you so much for spending your time with us. So a large portion of your career has been spent working on iconic buildings on the owner side, namely the IAC headquarters in New York by Frank Gehry and the Bloomberg LP headquarters in London by Norman foster.

Tell us about these projects and what you learned.

[00:02:31] Lauren Eckhart Smith: Oh, for sure. I mean, I feel really fortunate to have been lucky enough to work on some of these incredibly iconic projects throughout my career. And really, you know, part of what I’ve learned is, and, and part of really why I got into this industry was to really contribute to the community that these buildings.

And really raising the level and inspiring others. Couple of these are pretty luxurious too. Right. And, and you think, well, how is that? You know, it’s just contributing to, you know, whatever rich people and all of that really it’s about making people be inspired and pushing boundaries, challenging process, and been pretty cool to work with some really iconic leaders as well.

So I’ve been very forced.

[00:03:23] Atif Qadir: Out of curiosity from the two firms, both IAC and Bloomberg, as well as the designers, Frank URI and Northern foster lines that have thought and behavior that were similar things that were very different amongst them. Tell us, tell us what they were like.

[00:03:37] Lauren Eckhart Smith: It’s a really interesting question.

Things that are similar pushing back. Both firms really, you know, we are sort of talked with icy about being Lewis and Clark and the canoe that we were doing, something that hadn’t been done before. For example, the warped glass panels that are cold work panels that are on the facade there hadn’t been done at that scale.

And, you know, they were excited about it. They were challenged by it. They worked very closely with the vendor to. Come up with something that had never been done before. Same with Lord Foster’s team, they just pushed the boundaries in every single on the project, which makes the product, the process difficult and challenging.

But if you’re up for it so much more rewarding. So I would say that that’s really the real thing that the thread that ties the two firms to. Incredibly different,

[00:04:32] Atif Qadir: right. In terms of their architectural styles, for sure. Yeah. You might be interested in knowing that Lewis and Clark’s canoe, uh, actually was built in Harper’s ferry, West Virginia and their initial intent.

For the one that they ended up going with was a collapsible canoe. And this is hundreds of years ago, this idea that you could fold a canoe into a smaller piece and then carry it across when you were no longer on the river, that idea didn’t work so well. So they went back to the traditional version.

[00:05:01] Lauren Eckhart Smith: Oh, interesting.

The comparison then, because I think any in particular. Folding that you were doing made me think of, you know, in terms of process, Frank Gary works as very much in models, right? And so there was this folding of, of different sort of architectural models, the amount of ma I mean, just incredible amount of model making that went on and still goes on.

I think in their studio. Whereas Foster’s team, they do a lot of incredible sort of renderings and images that they create and create views that really cash. They also build models, but not the same kind of iterative models that, uh, Gary partners does. But that’s interesting that Lewis and Clark did the same thing.

It’s a great comparison.

[00:05:45] Atif Qadir: It is. And I think, uh, having interned at a farm and then knowing the Michael Graves from so well, I’ve come to realize that there’s an entire spectrum of firms and how they interact with physical models. Some use as simply as a means of recording. Some people use it as a method of BizDev and then some actually still use it as a method of the design process itself.

And I think that’s probably the richest and the most important one. Right.

[00:06:12] Lauren Eckhart Smith: Yeah, absolutely. And I could, both of them do just at different points in the process. I’ve had the pleasure of working with, uh, Robert M Stern’s office as well, and they still use clay models. And so they very much in a different way than Gary partners, but very much still use three dimensional models and it is inevitable.

The foster team has produced an entire model of the site for our project, but yet to see it in person, because of course it’s still in London, but just being able to take the camera into the views here created by that right away, you saw three or four things. They’re like, oops, okay. We’ve got to, we’ve got to adjust that we’ve got to make, you know, that’s not quite what we need.

I thought the way it was going to be. And no matter how much experience you have in this industry, you still, even, if you can read in three dimensions from a set of architectural drawings, there’s just those moments for it. It just isn’t replaceable doing, doing the models. Computer models definitely help, but there’s something about that tangible.

Sort of three-dimensional piece of whatever it might be wood or paper or phone call or whatever it is that really helps the process.

[00:07:23] Atif Qadir: Absolutely. So then you move from New York to Los Angeles right before the pandemic started. So talk to us about that.

[00:07:33] Lauren Eckhart Smith: Well, it was really about personal life choices as opposed to kind of all about career.

Although I have to say, you know what, new Yorker doesn’t want to move to Los Angeles. I mean, the weather here,

you know, it was an opportunity with, uh, with the company that I thought was amazing is amazing. Um, and it seemed like the right move. You know, we love New York city. I still love New York city. I’d be happy to go back, but it was just, just the moment. And when things kind of got a little, you know, stalled out a little bit with that opportunity, I got introduced to the folks over here and it was, you know, stripping Matt.

We really enjoyed each other’s company. And it was, it felt like it was meant to be, which is really interesting because I ended up moving. Gosh, five minutes from the site and the fact that this, you know, I joke that I always was very fortunate to walk to work when I lived in New York city and New York is such a great walking city.

And Los Angeles is not a walking city, people drive. And somehow I managed to find this incredible project that was moments from my doorstep. So once again, I walk to work. So I feel pretty.

[00:08:51] Atif Qadir: Uh, and before district clarify, before New York, you are from

[00:08:57] Lauren Eckhart Smith: yeah. And, uh, my husband and I decided kind of, you know, we were, we were young and thought New York would be fun and we could, you know, be there for a couple of years.

And we was 20 before we moved on. Part of why it made it easier for us to kind of pick up and leave. New York was we didn’t have any family there. We’d kind of grown a family there and, and certainly friends that have become very dear to us, but it, it makes it a little easier to pick up a new, um, but it’s difficult.

And again, Challenging yourself in that way to do something that’s like a little bit crazy, really sort of is exciting, but it’s scary because of the ambiguity of what what’s going to happen. That wasn’t so much about risk. It was more about the ambiguity of what life is going to be like, but it’s been pretty one.

So,

[00:09:47] Atif Qadir: so I think the, the fact that you Canadian explains why you’re such a nice person. Uh, so tell me about when you, that you mentioned meeting Benny Allergan, uh, how did that first interview go? Like, what was that process like? That decision-making, was it a short courtship process or really long

[00:10:03] Lauren Eckhart Smith: tell us the day?

Well, you know, it was kind of in between however, all done over virtually, unfortunately, because of it was right in, you know, sort of the. Worst part of the pandemic and we’ve all been quite careful, but really about building relationship. And I think, you know, I had gotten touch with Benny and the team here through relationships that I had in the industry out here.

And so over the sort of the courtship, um, we really just, we’re getting to know one another. It’s important, both directions, right? It’s important that I feel like I can contribute and be a part of their community and, and equally as such that they feel the same way about me, but did go really well from the onset, which is often the case.

Right. It feels right from the

[00:10:48] Atif Qadir: start. And in this case, you actually had, you were living close to the site before the interview process.

[00:10:56] Lauren Eckhart Smith: I was, yeah, I was living, I can see the Waldorf a story from my apartment. So, you know, it just kind of strange that that happened, but it did, you know, it sort of falls into the meant to be sort of scattered not to be too fatalistic, but that’s, that’s how, why it felt so much that

[00:11:13] Atif Qadir: way.

So let’s talk a little bit about the project. Give us an overview of Beverly Hills and of this particular site at the, which is at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard. That’s

[00:11:28] Lauren Eckhart Smith: right. So it’s a triangular site that really isn’t the gateway to Beverly Hills and century city is sort of immediately to the west of this.

17 and a half acres in a really, you know, very close to sort of all of the wonderful parts of Beverly Hills, you know, rodeo drive and all those famous parts. Um, the Beverly Hills high school is sort of immediately to sort of the south east, I guess. And then there’s another school to the north Caldwell road day out.

And then it’s right on along the Western boundary is the LA country club, which has. The U S open in 2023. So it just, is this incredible. Last undeveloped parcel in the city of Beverly Hills. And Beverly Hills is a unique, I didn’t know this when I, I moved to Los Angeles and maybe I’m the only one, but Los Angeles has kind of made up of smaller sort of cities if you will.

And Beverly Hills has its own mayor and its own community, and it’s run kind of very separately as a school. In part of the LA county school district, but it really is a smaller community and it really does feel that way when you’re here. And so, you know, the kids ride their bikes around in the community and the schools all are, you know, there’s two elementary schools, one middle school and one high school.

And then it’s amazing that this environment lives within the larger sort of metropolis of Lawson.

[00:12:59] Atif Qadir: So you’re mentioning this a local municipal infrastructure. I’m a city planning commissioner, and know that entitlements are incredibly complicated. And especially in small wealthy cities, like, like Hoboken and small, incredibly wealthy cities, like I would imagine in Beverly Hills.

So how was it working with the city and the various other aspects of.

[00:13:21] Lauren Eckhart Smith: Well, I’ll caveat with what I’m going to say, that I joined the team when they were in the throws of this process and really towards the tail end, amazingly towards the tail end of that process, because they got through it in about 11 months.

And I’ll sort of give you some insight as to why, but dealing with the city of Beverly Hills, I mean, you know, probably similarly to some of those other, uh, cities that you met. I really incredible group of individuals that are very passionate about their community have lived here for the majority of their lives and really were vested in kind of making sure that this last piece that, uh, you know, and big project, right for the city of Beverly Hills is one of the largest projects that they’ve ever done if not the largest and really, because it was so important as the.

Entry into, from the one side of the site, they wanted to make sure that it was setting the precedent for future development and also, you know, kind of doing all the things that they would hope it would aspire to. So there was a, there was a lot of involvement, all of which, by the way, it was during COVID.

So it was all again done virtually, which is really interesting. I think it helped in some regards and it, and it made it more challenging and.

[00:14:37] Atif Qadir: What we found in Hoboken is that by doing at least city planning commission meetings, by zoom, it really encouraged a much wider swath of people to participate, particularly younger, particularly parents, particularly of people of different demographic categories than before.

Although I’d have to say, I really enjoyed the Oscar worthy performances. During the public interest section different presentations. And I’m sure they probably were the case, uh, there as well. So the, the site has had many lives before this particular one. It used to be a nursery and a Robinson May’s department store.

The Chinese developer Wanda group, uh, was working with Richard Meyer on a development plan here. Let’s dig into that and how Allergan capital group gained control and what they did when.

[00:15:24] Lauren Eckhart Smith: So on for the Wanda project, which was a Richard Meyer designed project. And it was a little, it was low rise across the site.

They actually got, interestingly we’re worked for years and were able to get the entitlements for the amount of condo and hotel rooms and kind of the far for the site itself. And we piggybacked on those entitlements to actually get the approvals that we did, but they did the development, you know, and I guess, you know, they ended up wanting to sell in and around 2018 and that’s when Benny with the Cain international stepped in and acquired the site.

So pretty wonderful timing on their part, but it definitely. Uh, additional lies. And then of course started its life as the nursery that, you know, when we get to talking a little bit about the future of this site, we’ll heart come back to this. But that started as the nursery for the majority of the kind of large trees that now line the streets in Beverly Hills.

And that’s one of the distinctive, of course, everybody knows about the large homes, et cetera, but there’s also these incredible trees and number of them that are kind of these heritage. Incredible assets to the community that’s here. And so it holds a special place for that reason.

[00:16:45] Atif Qadir: Out of curiosity. So I enlarge older trees and like the smaller east coast cities, like Princeton, where we are now are typically Oaks and Elms and chestnuts.

Are there more tropical trees? Are there Palm trees in Beverly Hills? Is that the trees that

[00:16:58] Lauren Eckhart Smith: you oh, absolutely. In fact, one of the sort of botanical gardens that we’re doing in our larger botanical garden is a Palm Grove, but absolutely. And there’s, there’s a number of the streets that are aligned by these incredible Palm trees.

I mean, they’re gosh, they. They tower. I mean, it’s really wonderful. And of course the Beverly Hilton, the iconic Beverly Helton, and I had always had these two incredible Palm trees right on the site. So, and the site itself is lined by a number of Palm trees. So yes, there are, there’s not as many notes or alums, but there there’s definitely.

And that’s part of, you know, we’ll talk about the botanical gardens. I sure later. Heard of why Rio. This is so such a great choice in terms of landscape architect, because they know the botany of this area, so well, but it is so, so different than other parts of the world.

[00:17:51] Atif Qadir: So talk to us then about the design strategy.

So Richard Meyer was the original designer and then eligible capital group brought on Norman foster Rios was a landscape designer. What was the overall design strategy in terms of the site, the architecture, the interiors. And how far along are you in that process?

[00:18:09] Lauren Eckhart Smith: Okay. So the team here did a competition, which in fact fosters one.

And part of what was the inspiration for choosing the foster team was this concept of kind of taking the green carpet. If you will. The golf course and running it down through the site towards the Waldorf Astoria, which in terms of the site, that the kind of point of the triangle, if you will, it is exists.

The world are for story, which is arguably one of the best hotels in the country, which upending of course. Right beside that as the Beverly Hellman. And so this greenscape, the idea was that this greenscape would run across that entire sort of area. And in order to kind of create enough open space to create this botanical gardens foster had this incredible idea that we would go up instead of going out like the Richard Meyer proposal dead, which meant that we would have to get entitled for a lot more height than this anywhere else.

And part of why they argument for entitling the site with this height is because it, it sort of backs century, city, and we’re right near where there’s incredibly high buildings relative to, to anything that’s in Beverly Hills. And that it kind of creates that transition between century, city and the height there.

And that. There and then kind of eases down it’s Beverly Hills with this incredible botanical gardens now will. And all of that was what sort of the fostering partner’s vision, which really came from a Lord, Norman foster and a couple of partners there, Armstrong and David Summerfield. And they just really.

You know, created a vision that not only sold Benny and the Allergan team and keen international, but the community as well, that this suddenly become not just sort of. A for-profit development, but a gift to the community. So that’s sort of where that transition happened. Foster and partners. And in that whole team too, I’ve been very amiss to not mention Gensler cause Gensler was part of.

All of those conversations, lot of the great ideas and that everything we’re kind of catalyzed by Gensler and brought along and they’ve had a relationship with not only Los Angeles. I mean, they do an incredible amount of work out here, but also with Allergan and having designed the Waldorf history.

[00:20:44] Atif Qadir: So, let me ask you this question.

What was the prompt that you gave Norman foster? And what’s the overall scope of this project? Because there’s, uh, several hotels that are encompassed and new construction renovation. There’s a lot going on this triangular site.

[00:20:58] Lauren Eckhart Smith: Well, I think that the, you know, the prompts really is about as really about creating iconic design, which of course foster is all about iconic design.

You know, sort of this idea of uncompromised luxury and healthy living as a way of life. So those were kind of the three big sort of pillars of what this development aspired to do, but sort of tactically in terms of what we wanted to achieve and deliver on the site, if you will. So it’s certainly economic back or.

You know, wonderful stuff really was building 300 residences on the site in and around 300 residences. We’re building, you know, roughly just under 50 hotel rooms, as well as seven star luxury hotel on the site as well, renovations to the Beverly Hilton, the curse that Beverly Hilton hosts, not only the global.

But a number of other really through renowned conferences, et cetera. So renovations to that facility as well, providing a new conference center and pool facilities and other. Of course this botanical garden that I just spoke about, which was inspired by them. But now, you know, suddenly, you know, what’s the greatest thing is when you present something like that as an architect, having being on the other side, is that suddenly that then you own it.

The owner owns it. And over 2000 parking spaces, which is a big deal on the site, which all sit underneath this kind of freeing carpet, which is actually sitting on top of the podium. Okay.

[00:22:27] Atif Qadir: So there’s a major underground construction

[00:22:29] Lauren Eckhart Smith: and going on major underground construction is actually three levels of parking below grade and a whole bunch of infrastructure work that needs to be done.

This. Utilities to the site and then, uh, a lot of back house. So what allows, you know, that also allows kind of us to link all the various buildings on the site that I just mentioned. And, you know, there is a private drive that runs between wheelchair in Santa Monica. That’s called Merv Griffin way that is used by the local community and was very important to the local community.

And so the, actually the, the botanical gardens bridges over top of. Of that street. And so there’ll be sort of a, sort of a kin to the central park tunnels that exists is, is kind of the inspiration that lard foster sort of put in front of us is high end. So high inspiration, but nonetheless the idea, but that was very important to the community.

And in fact, they, you know, they were very good at charging us with making the project better and adding bike lanes to that private drive. And so we.

[00:23:37] Atif Qadir: So in terms of the focus of such a monumental project like this, there are the incredibly beautiful buildings, but also the most challenging parts of major projects are actually the infrastructure and the underground work.

So in New York and New Jersey, one of the biggest concerns is flooding and making sure that, uh, water doesn’t come into underground construction and I’m guessing. A similar challenge is making sure that buildings are prepared for earthquakes and other seismic issues. How did you guys think about the biggest challenges for the underground and the not so sexy parts of your.

[00:24:08] Lauren Eckhart Smith: Well, you’re right about all of that is what I would say. And I, I actually think it is sexy real estate and construction because I think that stuff below grade is super interesting, but it’s really, you know, the challenge is not necessarily sort of just looking at. Code is going to require of you being really smart, to sort of challenge yourself to sort of say, well, what is the best way we should be approaching this for this project?

And what is the level that we really need to be designing to in order to make sure that our residents are safe, that our guests are safe and that their property is protected. And so we’re working through all of that to try and. You asked earlier, what stage are we in? We’re sort of in the phase of design development, which we all know well.

And so we’re continuing to kind of challenge ourselves, even though sometimes at this phase, those kind of questions about resiliency and. Being ready for anything. And having lived through personally lived through Sandy and September 11th and that crazy power outage that happened in 20 2003, that, you know, these things do happen, right?

It’s like if there’s a 30 year earthquake, like, okay, that may very well happen. So what do we need to do in order to make sure that the silver we’re really going through and challenging. You know, sort of looking at what the code is going to require, trying to make sure we’re doing the right thing throughout the

[00:25:36] Atif Qadir: project.

Excellent. So talk to us about the major materials that you are using throughout the site and how you are planning to mitigate supply chain problems that are plaguing major construction projects all across the United States.

[00:25:55] Lauren Eckhart Smith: Well, first of all, we’re being smart to hire smart people, right? My expertise for sure.

But we have hired a e-com to be our guide and that way, and of course they’re a huge international firm. That’s really helping advise us. And there they’ve got a team of people that are looking into all of this. Um, we’re also being smart about thinking about pre-purchasing and we’re being smart about thinking about design build and where, and when that will make sense to, and what trades it’ll make sense to, to actually engage in that way on the project and just kind of going into it eyes wide open.

We, we also benefit from some big project. It’s a long schedule, right. And not to sort of push things off and we’re not, I’m not at all. There’s, there’s not enough time to do any of this, but hopefully, and maybe this is me being just overly optimistic. Things may be better in a couple of years when we’re actually, you know, sort of really starting to procure materials.

But in the meantime, we’re trying to be as, as sort of proactive as we can about, about

[00:27:02] Atif Qadir: all of that. Is there any particular material or system or equipment or product that you’re worried about or at this time? Nothing really stands out.

[00:27:12] Lauren Eckhart Smith: Well, I’ll tell you me personally, I’m worried about everything, right?

Because on these jobs, it’s always something that you didn’t anticipate. That’s why it makes it interesting. Right? That’s why we do this kind of thing is like you didn’t expect that your lighting manufacturer was going to go out of business or you didn’t anticipate that someone was going to go on strike.

And so, you know, we can do all that. But, you know, on a project as big as this, that you have to be ready to adapt and have to have a team that kind of is excited and challenged by, okay, now, what are we going to deal with this challenge that said, of course you try to plan every eventuality. It’s just that knowing that that there’s still going to be something that comes up that’s, that’s a challenge.

Understood.

[00:28:03] Atif Qadir: So I’m going to take a break here to let our listeners know that we will be having the fabulous all lie on the show. Next month, all day as an architect and with our firm focuses on retail interiors, particularly for startups, she’s done multiple projects for the wing, the women’s coworking space provider and T uh, a women’s health care network.

Subscribe to the podcast@americanbuildingpodcast.com. So you don’t miss out on a single episode. Redis helps to unlock public financing for commercial real estate. Check out this new venture backed technology company@redis.us. So let’s go a little bit bigger picture on this project. What does sustainability mean to you, Lauren, on such a monumental project?

[00:28:50] Lauren Eckhart Smith: Well, me personally, I just think that it has to be part of our DNA. Right. It has to, it’s our responsibility as developers and as you know, strict professionals that we really need to do everything that we can to make sure that we’re creating an environment. We want this project to last for as long as it can last, I’d say a hundred years is probably longer than that.

And what do we need to do to set it up in a way that’s going to contribute to the community that it serves, as opposed to. Steal from it. And so, you know, all of that, of course, wasn’t my ideas. That’s what really was part of the DNA of this project. And part of why it appealed to me to be part of this team is because, you know, they really feel that it’s, it’s very important and it’s very important, not just.

Or serving the community, but for the folks that are gonna live here, the idea is, is that, you know, you will be healthier having lived here and it’s not just because there’s going to be a big, huge, you know, sort of gym and club and all of those kinds of things that you can participate in that, you know, personally, but making sure that you’re exposed to as best that they environment around Los Angeles can provide.

[00:30:12] Atif Qadir: So there are a lot of terms that are used in sustainability and they involve lots of acronyms. So there’s lead there’s well, et cetera. How do you compare them? And do you actually focus on something bigger than just name sort of recognition on the projects?

[00:30:31] Lauren Eckhart Smith: Well, it’s really interesting to ask that question because I feel so fortunate to have worked on these projects and, you know, sort of, I’ve been lucky enough to go from project to project throughout my career.

And every time I say that is the best project I’ve ever worked on, I’m never going to work on a better project. That’s it? It’s that, you know? And it just seems like there’s another one coming along and what I have to say. Every single one of these projects, I’ve been lucky enough to work with people that believe that sustainability is a part of the DNA of the project.

Uh, the Bloomberg project was sort of the highest rated Brianne. And that was because of the fact that we were doing, we were going to do everything that we possibly could to make sure that the project was. And that did all of the, the right things from a sustainability perspective that we could, and then certification came afterward.

And sometimes I’ve been lucky enough to work on projects where we just do what’s right. But we don’t necessarily go ahead and get the certification. I think the certification is important because it gives acknowledgement to those organizations as well as a gives folks an idea of what the barometer.

We’re development, but what is more important is that we do it anyway, right? And that we source appropriately that we are smart about our missions, that we are smart about where we’re getting everything and that we’re sort of setting up the whole MEP system to be appropriate for

[00:32:02] Atif Qadir: the environment. Cool.

So let’s talk a little bit about one of those systems, which is the heating system. How did you approach that particular aspect for this.

[00:32:13] Lauren Eckhart Smith: So, again, I can’t say I personally did it cause it was on your way before I got here. But part of the, so there’s a central plant for the succeeding system for the entire development.

We are contemplating and hopefully going to implement a geothermal system as well throughout the site. And so it really was. Sort of that centralized system, not only delivers kind of the best environment to the residents, but also has a smaller impact on the.

[00:32:45] Atif Qadir: And then from an electricity perspective, are there renewables and solar systems?

How are you approaching that? There

[00:32:53] Lauren Eckhart Smith: is, we’re going to use foot of a tag panels as much as we can throughout the site. And we’re going to source renewable energy as our source through our utilities. But one of the other things that we’re doing is that there is no gas on the site. What, so there’s no national gas on the site whatsoever.

All electric. So all of the appliances. I replaces all the, everything are all going to be electric throughout the site.

[00:33:20] Atif Qadir: So help me understand, generally, from the perspective of someone that likes to cook gas ranges are often considered superior to electric Rangers because of the heat, the range of heat that you can get.

I have there been advances with electric ranges to make them that much better than

[00:33:36] Lauren Eckhart Smith: that. Absolutely. And a number of the top chefs are really, um, or at least to understand are starting to convert and starting to use only electric, but we’re working very closely with a number of appliance manufacturers that we will be sourcing to that are really coming up with some amazing advancements in this regard.

So it’s going to be exciting because we’ll be implementing kind of. Really what we think is next, right? That we’ll all start. Cause I like you cook. I love gas. When I cook, I love the kind of the ability to turn it on and it’s full blast right away. But there really is some incredible induction cooking from all the best appliance manufacturers that you can think of.

What you

[00:34:18] Atif Qadir: might be interested in knowing is the city of New York is considering a legislation to ban. New natural gas hookups for large commercial properties in the city of New York, which would be utterly transformation that is leapfrogging probably five to 10 years and our industry’s evolution. Well, and

[00:34:39] Lauren Eckhart Smith: that’s exactly right.

Y again, we’re sort of trying to think ahead. What’s coming. It’s really interesting to hear that New York is doing that. And we’ve been trying to do that as much as we can, as well as sort of anticipating what is coming, what’s going to be coming in the next 10 years. So we, we actually believe that that is that’s going to happen.

[00:34:57] Atif Qadir: And I think a lot of it is on the, or is the responsibility, or is because of changes in legislators. So I think that particularly with Kathy, becoming the governor of New York, that was one particular drive for her. And I’m excited to see what the new city council in New York city will be able to, uh, deliver that.

Actually curiosity. Do you consider yourself a new Yorker since you were there for 20 years?

[00:35:22] Lauren Eckhart Smith: Oh my God, of course. How can you not once in a Yorker, you know, in New York, they can’t take the New York out of the girl. I mean, of course they do. How can I not the most amazing city.

[00:35:35] Atif Qadir: I just want to make sure you hadn’t changed your loyalties when moving to the west coast.

Oh, that’s hard.

[00:35:41] Lauren Eckhart Smith: Bilingual.

[00:35:44] Atif Qadir: Okay. So, uh, one of the other major aspects of concern or interest on such a large site in a relatively dry environment is what use, talk to us about the strategies for water use on your.

[00:35:57] Lauren Eckhart Smith: Well, so in terms of the botanical gardens, we are, all of the irrigation will be coming from our gray water system and we are recycling a hundred percent of our grade water, and we are going to be using it for all of the water features of which there are many.

Um, the site putting some ponds and waterfalls and things like that. And so that’s the intent because we really didn’t want to be a, we’ll be in a net to play in that, add to the community as opposed to really, you know, taking water from a community and an environment where it’s really a coveted natural resource.

And

[00:36:36] Atif Qadir: then in terms of what are used for the buildings themselves, the units, are there aspects such as low flow fixtures or other key plumbing items, that’ll be part of this overall decision

[00:36:46] Lauren Eckhart Smith: process. That’s all part of how we’ll be approaching. You know, I mean, we’ll be doing everything and above and beyond sort of in terms of sort of our MEP system.

Relative to that. And we’re actually hopefully going to be using in customizing some fixtures, um, that will be not only, you know, aesthetic and wonderful, but all of the low flow and kind of sustainably sensitive fixtures that we can. And it’s difficult to balance that with luxury, right. But the hope is, is that everyone understands that this is part of, you know, sort of the approach to healthy living and healthy environment.

That is one.

[00:37:24] Atif Qadir: I think what is a really interesting idea is. Luxury have to mean excess does luxury have to mean ostentatious? I don’t think it has to. I don’t think

[00:37:36] Lauren Eckhart Smith: it does. No. I totally agree with you. And part of what is, we need to think about this sort of having a botanical garden and being able to live in an environment that, um, that, that garden actually, which I didn’t mention.

Um, and when you see images of the project is really being brought up into the residences and then all of these residences have this incredible outdoor terrace. And so the idea is like you are immersed in this kind of bulk technical garden environment. Isn’t that the definition of true love? Right. I mean, being able to be outside in a wonderful environment that hopefully, you know, there’ll be birds and flowers and bees and all of those wonderful things, but yet you’re in a big urban center.

That to me is the definition of local.

[00:38:29] Atif Qadir: And I think the reality is that that definition is changing because of a desire for more sustainability as you’ve been describing the episode. But there’s also this other issue, which is climate change. So let’s take it again. Broader perspective. So for example, in the New York area and New Jersey, a luxury wood flooring suppliers are a friend of mine.

He’s mentioned that he is now recommending to developers and investors to consider a flooring choices other than home. So namely, for example, engineered flooring, the reason being that engineering flooring has made a lot of advances and it’s a much more stable material in terms of expansion and contraction than hardwood.

The issue being that the humidity of the environment in New York and New Jersey has drastically changed over the past several years because of climate change. And now it is not a responsible. To use hardwood flooring, even though this material has been used for hundreds of years in this particular climate, another probably even more significant issue is the potential danger of building underground because of flood risks, both in New York and New Jersey.

And now that’s a particular part of the equation. So now in a place like Southern California, which is increasingly prone to swings of temperature and also fire, how do you fire risk? Plan for the near term when you are building such a monumental project that takes so long to build a particularly knowing that there are such drastic changes to the world.

[00:40:10] Lauren Eckhart Smith: Well, well, it’s a very interesting subject. Well, first and foremost, as you sort of mentioned all the finishes and we’re kind of not there yet on the project, we’re starting to talk about it, but we will be approaching it a lot of the way that you’re, you sort of mentioned. I do think as a profession, we have to get away from stealing from their environment.

It just is, you know, sort of going to these old growth forests, which we don’t do as much, but, you know, I sort of think about the stone and the same, right. We go to these nouns in Italy and Carmel. Who’s incredible pieces of stone. Gorgeous. Right. And then they’re installed for, you know, 10, 15, 20 years.

And then they end up in landfill and how do we sustain that? We can’t right. And so I’m not just saying that we’re not going to use stone on this project. Of course we will use some stove, but it’s being smart and responsible about where you’re sourcing that and how you’re using it to the broader question in terms of kind of the environment and.

Kind of the risk profile here in Southern California is we certainly do think about fire. We certainly do think about the kind of risk of earthquake and seismic risk. And many of the other things that we worry about are, are kind of being. It’s through sort of our sustainable practices and relative to kind of the water usage that I mentioned earlier and being responsible as it relates to that and recycling our water.

And in terms of our energy usage, that trying to be as environmentally conscious as we can, as I mentioned, we’re hoping to do the geothermal and we do have a thermal energy storage as well. So that we’re being smart about when we’re, we’re not loading. The the grid at the time of peak load, Beverly Hills is this wonderful, incredible places.

Microclimate, even in the city of Los Angeles, our environment is very temporary. Even if you go sort of 10 to 50 miles away in the summertime, you’ll find that the temperature spikes up sort of 10 to 20 degrees depending on the day. And that’s because we’re surrounded by. And so how do you, you know, even though we’re in this wonderful environment, that we’re being responsible to that broader community, and we’re very conscious of that.

[00:42:31] Atif Qadir: Excellent. So on that note, I want to say thank you so much for joining us today on the American building podcast.

[00:42:39] Lauren Eckhart Smith: Thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure. And of course, an honor, and wonderful to meet you.

[00:42:44] Atif Qadir: Thank you so much. So listeners, if you want to hear the behind the scenes stories of how I conic buildings in our country were designed and built subscribe to this podcast on Spotify, iTunes, Google anchors, Stitcher, or wherever you like to listen, uh, rate and review us on iTunes to help us reach a wider audience.

And please follow us on Instagram. American building podcast. We all know real estate is a tough industry to make it. So how can professionals stand out and make a name for themselves in today’s world? Uh, here for me, the team and Michael Graves and Redis, and many of our spectacular guests, just like Lauren, on what we did to make it where we are.

Grab our exclusive guide at seven tips on how to stand out in your field at American building. Dot com finally, we live in the richest country in the history of humankind. We must reach out beyond the boundaries that we see and the boundaries that we create in order to help build homes and communities today, Lauren and I had made donations to girls, Inc, which supports the educational and life goals for girls in challenging environments.

I encourage you our listeners to support their worthwhile work as well. My name is Atif Qadir and this has been American Building.

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