Be sure to check out our podcast examining the state of sustainability in commercial real estate.
By Mike Ratliff and Jack Kern
It has been interesting watching green commercial real estate practices evolve over the years. The advent of LEED certification in all property sectors has now transitioned to an industry standard for conscientious new development. Tenants in all classes of real estate are proud to take up space in design-forward buildings, and owners can enjoy increased energy efficiencies.
But being green today goes far past LEED certification. An enlightened culture has emerged in commercial real estate, and many firms have evolved to provide a dedicated squad of sustainability professionals, usually led by a chief sustainability officer, a job that scarcely existed just five years ago. While the service firms largely led this movement, the owners themselves are now getting in on the action.
One recent trend is a focus on the scope of impact on the environment beyond the walls of the building. Programs like LEED for Neighborhood Development take a panoptic view that aims to improve the health of not just the planet but its people, with a focus on changing the way we get around and interact. In our survey, we looked at current practices used in green construction and operations. This year, we saw a substantial increase in the percent of companies pursuing energy incentives for tenants, a trend that is likely in part due to municipalities requiring owners to disclose their utility usage. Other interesting data dealt with the value of LEED. While 62 percent of these firms say they believe LEED increases property value at sale and 81 percent believe LEED certifications matter to residents and leasees, every single company plans to pursue more LEED activity in the future.
For the purpose of scoring firms, we took into account what information was submitted to us in narrative form and balanced that against scoring categories having to do with dedicated personnel, industry specialization, levels of current and planned LEED certification and announced plans for 2014. Service providers, which we view as catalyzing agents in the greening of commercial real estate, were ranked against each other using the same criteria. Because as catalysts they have less of a direct impact on the environment than building owners do, we oriented them to the middle of the list.