Initiative spotlights energy-efficient real estate tenants

Our nation's buildings account for the largest share of energy consumption (41 percent) and corresponding carbon pollution (40 percent) in the U.S. Understandably, we have a lot of interest in finding opportunities for building owners and managers to improve the energy performance of their properties.

But that's only half the picture. Within commercial office buildings, tenant spaces often account for more than half of a commercial office building's total energy use. That means half of the opportunity for improvement is in tenants' hands. But to date, that space often remains largely unaddressed when it comes to making efficiency improvements.

That's in part because while whole buildings have access to a range of tools and systems that enable them to effectively measure and benchmark their energy performance, such as EPA Energy Star for buildings and a range of Building Energy Management Systems, the corresponding market for usable and useful data on commercial office tenant energy performance is not as robust. So how do commercial tenants know how efficient their spaces are compared to their peers? In many cases, they don't, which can make it challenging to optimize energy performance and energy savings.

CBRE Real Green logoThat's a vexing challenge in the commercial real estate sector that we are excited to be able to help address. Thanks to an award from the new Real Green Research Challenge from CBRE, the world's largest commercial real estate services firm, NRDC's Center for Market Innovation was one of five projects selected by CBRE for the challenge.

Along with university partner New York University's Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP), NRDC is launching a comprehensive initiative to collect and analyze information on tenants' energy usage and provide valuable feedback to commercial office tenants within CBRE's portfolio on how their energy performance compares against that of their peers. Through that process we'll also recognize the nation's top energy performers. We'll do that by developing a rating system for comparative tenant energy use that provides a quantitative foundation for identifying and promoting energy-efficient practices.

We believe this feedback on how well tenants are performing in terms of energy use will empower them to make changes that will increase their efficiency and improve their bottom line. We already have seen in our work with tenants that they have the potential to save significant money and energy through practical, cost-effective measures.

A recent case study of ours shows that the first tenant to work with us to undertake this approach -- Empire State Building tenant and global consumer goods company Li & Fung USA -- is projected to reduce energy use in its office space by nearly 30 percent compared to a standard space, saving an estimated $1.8 million over the course of the 15-year lease and paying off the investment in 3.5 years.

It also will benefit building owners by helping them to partner with tenants to improve the energy profile of their office spaces, thus improving the energy performance of the entire building. Spurring this deeper collaboration between building owners and tenants can help them achieve results that benefit them both.

We are excited to partner with both CBRE and NYU on this project. Working with CBRE provides a tremendous opportunity to engage the firm's tenants to better understand office tenant energy use patterns. CBRE's technical and market expertise will be invaluable in the success of this initiative. Led by Dave Pogue, CBRE global director of corporate responsibility, CBRE will bring deep expertise in real estate services and sustainability, access to information and a world-class platform for engaging the real estate industry on sustainability.

Building image by iroomm Stock via Shutterstock.

Next page: How the Tenant Recognition Initiative works