Three Tips on Good Green Reading

Three Tips on Good Green Reading

As a recently-minted author, I now understand that you can never receive enough publicity for your new book. And having experienced first-hand how much work goes into creating and marketing a new volume, I've resolved to do my part to promote other new books on the sustainable real estate front. Here, then, are some recommendations for insightful green reading.

One of the best green real estate books to have crossed my desk recently is "Value Beyond Cost Savings: How to Value Sustainable Properties," newly issued by the Green Building Finance Consortium (GBFC). (Disclosure: I am a member of GFBC's Advisory Board.) Several years in the making, "Value Beyond Cost Savings" is the product of a massive research effort undertaken by Scott Muldavin, his GBFC team, and a roster of outside collaborators.

The book is a definitive work on how to model the financial outcomes of sustainable building features, offering a framework to guide green building valuation and underwriting. The key strength of this text is its establishment of a framework that links sustainable design processes and bricks and mortar green features to eventual building performance, market performance and, ultimately, financial performance.

The financial performance discussion is framed in the context of discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis, the modeling approach typically employed by appraisers, property owners, developers, lenders and investors. What Muldavin and his team have provided is a step-by-step guide that allows commercial real estate and finance professionals to translate green building features into a financial model. The text is bolstered by an impressive set of appendices, which offer detailed source materials, checklists for practitioners, and alternative underwriting and valuation methodologies, including links.

A nice surprise is that "Value Beyond Cost Savings" is not just for number crunchers: The book offers an excellent overview of approaches to developing green buildings and supporting resources, as well as summaries of key research on the green buildings front. You can download Value Beyond Cost Savings from GBFC's website free of charge, either in standard (pdf) or -- for those who want additional detail -- expanded form. For those who like to do their reading in hard copy, a print version becomes available this month.

The "Green Office Guide: Integrating LEED Into Your Leasing Process," recently published by the U.S. Green Building Council, is another worthwhile addition to your sustainable library. Authored by a team led by Mychele Lord, the Green Office Guide provides overviews of LEED 2009, sustainable leasing practices, and terms that can be incorporated to green the standard tenant lease.

Especially helpful to commercial real estate practitioners are appendices containing tools to guide the office greening process, including the LEED for Commercial Interiors scorecard; a property level environmental impact questionnaire; sample criteria for selecting a variety of green property professionals; sample green building RFP guidelines; a questionnaire for tenants seeking green premises; sample green lease terms; and a sample green purchasing policy for office buildings. Easy to read and to the point, this book offers a useful overview of the steps needed to develop, lease and manage a green office building. Equally important, the book can be used by tenants as well as by property owners and developers.

On the residential front, my favorite new book is "Prefabulous + Sustainable: Building and Customizing an Affordable, Energy-Efficient Home." Authored by Sheri Koones, Prefabulous + Sustainable profiles 25 prefabricated, sustainable homes.

The book is notable in that it demonstrates that prefab can indeed be greener, while delivering levels of luxury typically associated with conventional, custom-built construction (the photos will leave you drooling). Floorplans and plentiful sidebars will leave you with ideas aplenty for your dream green dwelling. Another notable feature of Prefabulus + Sustainable: Actor and environmental advocate Robert Redford authored the foreword.

Leanne Tobias is founder and managing principal of Malachite LLC, an advisory firm that specializes in the development, leasing, management, financing and certification of sustainable or green real estate on a global basis. Write to Leanne about your thoughts on trends for 2010 or ways to jumpstart the economy at [email protected]. She'll share the best ideas in future posts.

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