With sustainable redevelopment becoming commonplace, property owners rely on having accurate historical and current environmental data—which is provided by the burgeoning environmental risk information industry.
The data that is used to determine specific needs for redevelopment projects—including brownfield reclamation and building retrofitting—includes historical aerial photographs, fire insurance and topographic maps; 50-year chain-of-title searches; and searches for environmental liens, city directory listings and past tenants.
As a national environmental risk information services and data company, EDR has partnered with customers on more than $1 trillion of annual real estate transactions, for which the firm has accessed more than 3.1 billion property records. EDR also powers report delivery on more than 200,000 transactions with technology platforms that integrate data and report-writing features, and shares industry intelligence through CommonGround, a social network focused on environmental due diligence.
EDR was founded in 1990 by environmental professionals and is headquartered in Milford, Conn., with 20 additional regional offices located throughout the U.S. The firm is considered the innovator of the largest and most accurate database of environmental and historical land use information in the world.
NREI spoke with EDR executive vice president of products and marketing James Stanton about EDR’s latest products and services and their impact on the environmental risk information industry.
An edited transcript follows.
NREI: What are some of the latest products that EDR is offering for environmental contamination screening?
James Stanton: Recently, we launched an interactive wizard, called the EDR VEC App (Vapor Encroachment Condition). For the first time, our environmental consultant clients can use an application that seamlessly blends a variety of our data sources with an interactive wizard that interprets local ground conditions. The end result will help them determine whether toxic vapor poses a threat to the property.
NREI: EDR serves quite a wide variety of professionals: environmental consultants, real estate investors, lenders, corporations, insurers and consumers. How do you serve all these various entities?
Stanton: While our primary audiences are environmental consultants and lenders, any stakeholder in commercial real estate transactions or property management can benefit from our services.
For example, our flagship product, the EDR Radius Map with GeoCheck, along with our historical reports such as aerial photos and Sanborn fire insurance maps, helps environmental consultants perform environmental due diligence assessments.
But our products and services are also used by attorneys and corporate real estate professionals, as well as by governments for brownfield assessments and others for a variety of property evaluation purposes. For lenders, our Desktop Due Diligence bundle combines data with a professional opinion to help them better manage exposure to financial risk. We also have custom deliverables that help corporations monitor their existing property portfolio and any new portfolio for potential environmental concerns. EDR has also supported insurers in various stages of their underwriting process.
NREI: EDR has worked on creating and updating a comprehensive database of environmental records and land use information from government and private sources for the past 20 years. How have things changed in terms of the data you’re seeing?
Stanton: We collect and monitor available data sources on environmental concerns—over 1,400 unique databases in all. In fact, we have information on every single property in the United States; commercial and residential.
The data we acquire is held in towns, counties, states, regions, tribal offices, and at the federal level. With all the talk about sustainability these days, communities are quickly realizing that their land is a finite resource; we have seen more and more towns increase their focus on improving the quality of environmental record-keeping.
Another trend is the expanding importance of historical data collections. This prompted us to acquire the Sanborn Fire Insurance map collection, build an aerial photography collection, and include city directory research into our offerings.
Using these resources, we can help a land owner or lender understand the history of their property—in some cases back to the 1800s. Recently, we even integrated our Sanborn collection with the City of New York to improve the city’s application process for Certificates of Occupancy.