Are Green Buildings Really Losing Their Appeal?

Are Green Buildings Really Losing Their Appeal?

For the hard-headed naysayers in the real estate sector who might be pawing through the news for tidbits to confirm that green buildings are 'just a fad', the recent survey of London office seekers by Knight Frank is likely to result in more than a few I-told-you-so's for their softer green brethren.

Let's take a look at the top 10 concerns listed by the Knight Frank respondents and see whether the conclusion of a "waning interest" is justified.

#1 Concern: Rental Costs. Green buildings, because of lower operating costs, have the ability to pass more of their margin on to tenants during down markets thereby making them more competitive. Thus total occupancy costs for green buildings should be less than comparable non-green buildings. (Should be) Growing interest in green: 1, Waning interest in green: 0

#2 Concern: Retention of Key staff. In India, you can't build a high-tech park that's not LEED Gold or Platinum certified. The best people simply won't work there. The 5-Star (in the Australian Green Star system) 500 Collins showed a 27 percent increase in productivity in their legal staff and dramatically increased satisfaction. While it may not be as enticing as a hefty bonus, a great space to work in is definitely an attractive perk. Growing: 1.5, Waning: 0.5

#3 Concern: Lease Flexibility. Even I can't fit this one into the sphere of green influence. Growing: 1.5, Waning: 1.5

#4 Concern: Space Flexibility. Many strategies associated with green indoor environments, such as displacement ventilation and underfloor air are associated with space flexibility, the direct association is week. We'll call it a draw. Growing: 2, Waning: 2

#5 Concern: Higher Quality Environment. Hello! Can you say daylight and indoor air quality? Chalk another one up for green buildings: Growing: 3, Waning: 2

#6 Concern: Occupational flexibility. Nope. Growing: 3, Waning: 3

#7 Concern: Proximity to public transportation. A green building staple & one that is proposed to be much more heavily weighted in the upcoming LEED 2009. Growing: 4, Waning: 3

#8 Concern: Proximity to Clients & Competitors. A stretch & since we're ahead, we'll give it to 'waners.' Growing: 4, Waning: 4

#9 Concern: Higher building profile. Clearly, green certification, whether to LEED or another green standard is newsworthy, but there are plenty of so-called award winning designs that are environmental travesties, so we'll split again. Growing: 4.5, Waning: 4.5

#10 Concern: Energy efficiency. Need we say more? Growing 5.5, Waning 4.5

Ok, not a slam dunk for green, but way better than the 9:1 ratio ascribed by the authors of the survey. While the Knight Frank folks were clearly rooting for green and sustainability to be more important, the fact that they considered only energy efficiency to be related to green shows that many people still fall victim to the 90/10 syndrome, where 90 percent of the time is spent quantifying 10 percent of the benefits of green.

I feel it's sort of like the little girl walking along with her economist grandfather when suddenly she points at the ground exclaiming: "Look Grandpa! A $20 bill!" "Ignore it dear," he replies, "if it were real, someone would have picked it up already."

Rob Watson is the executive editor of, as well as a globally renowned figure in the green building movement.