How to Capture Green Opportunities in Commercial Office Space

How to Capture Green Opportunities in Commercial Office Space

With the economic slowdown and as a result, the need to be more efficient with both resources and costs, tenants are increasingly focused on the operating costs of buildings -- whether they are looking to relocate or remain in their current space.

Tenants are also making efforts to operate within their offices more efficiently.

Going green therefore provides them a way that they can save money and the environment.

To that end, executives from the real estate, legal and energy services industries recently joined together for "The Green Symposium; Capturing Efficiencies in the Commercial Office." The event was hosted by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and panelists from Howard Ecker + Company, DLA Piper, NELSON and BlueStar Energy headed up a focused discussion on green opportunities in the commercial real estate market.

As one of the panelists, the following is my take on the key takeaways from the discussion:

•    Tenants are already sharply focused on operating costs -- regardless of whether they plan to move or stay put -- and this is increasingly the case in tough economic times. More and more tenants are looking to operate with less space and more efficiency.

•    Tenant expectations for environmentally friendly office space also are on the rise. This is because it is better understood that building and operating green is also about reducing costs and therefore profitability.

•    Many projects are achieving LEED within their budgets -- and in the same cost range as non-LEED projects. LEED buildings reduce operating costs, enhance asset value and profits, improve employee productivity and satisfaction, and optimize lifecycle economic performance.

•    Green is an opportunity in the real estate market that has a tangible ROI. In addition, green design is a positive influence on the performance and psychology of employees.

•    A green lease is a way for landlords and tenants to hold the other accountable for desired green outcomes. Green leases contain provisions on green practices, and can cover energy efficiency, water conservation, recycling, the use of green products, as well as indoor environmental quality.

•    In soft markets like this one, there is no better time to negotiate green provisions into a lease. This will deliver to the tenant not only immediate green outcomes, but also longer-term benefits and as a result future-proof a lease.

•    Locating in a green building is one thing, but it is also how you operate within that box that is important, too. Moreover, design provides the place, but operations defines the shade of green that you wish to maintain.

•    Top tips for greening office operations are monitor and measure, form a team, make a plan, focus and prioritize, and celebrate successes.

•    Greening office operations will work best if guided by the principles of small steps and continuous improvement.

Claire Woolley is a vice president of commercial tenant representation firm Howard Ecker + Company, where she heads up Ecker Green, the business unit of the firm that focuses on providing green office services to commercial office tenants.

Chicago high-rises — Images CC licensed by David Paul Ohmer