Life After Acquisition for ECD

Life After Acquisition for ECD

Jiri Skopek is the CEO for ECD Energy and Environment Canada. Earlier this month, ECD was acquired by Jones Lang LaSalle, the commercial real estate services giant based in Chicago. The ECD chief executive outlines what the deal means to the firms involved — and to the builders and others who use the Green Globes ratings and assessment systems. They were developed by ECD and are licensed and overseen by independent nonprofits in the U.S. and Canada.

Leslie Guevarra: Mr. Skopek, thank you very much for joining me today.

Jiri Skopek: Well, thank you for having an interest in Green Globes and what we're trying to do with Jones Lang LaSalle.

LG: Would you quickly recap for us the development that brought ECD Energy and Environment Canada to Jones Lang LaSalle earlier this month?

JS: Jones Lang has been looking for methodology they could offer to their clients on benchmarking, particularly the building portfolios. They've been trying to develop a system, and they came across the Green Globes' assessment and concluded that Green Globes was doing lots of things they were trying to achieve. So, I think, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, they contacted us and they essentially invited us to the table to discuss us joining their team.

LG: The new relationship became official on July 9th. Would you tell us what this means to Green Globes and Go Green Plus in the US and Canada?

JS: Actually, it means very much business as usual. Certainly, Jones Lang is very interested already in the kind of relationship which had been established. Simply having a neutral organization — a not-for-profit organization such as BOMA Canada and such as the GBI, having them involved ensures that Green Globes is not something which is now being held close to the JLL chest, but it's a recognized third-party, accepted protocol. It has lots of advantages.

And, as you know, Jones Lang has been really building up their sustainability capability in a very open-ended format, and they've been putting lots of energy into setting up a sustainability university. They've been doing lots of similar sorts of actions around the globe, in England and in Australia, to really build up a global sustainability capability. Having two organizations involved, which ensures the independence of Green Globes, is very much a part of their mandate.

LG: If for both customers and prospective customers, the face of Green Globes doesn't change, does the relationship among all of you morph a little bit?

JS: Well, you know it's still very much early days. I think potentially there might be some good opportunities, particularly across the border in Canada, harmonizing the approach, the matrixes and so on, which would probably benefit a number of the clients as well, or a number of the users. So I think there's certainly potential. As you mentioned, this is such a new development that we are all kind of sort of scrambling to get our feet on the ground at this point in time.

LG: In announcing the acquisition, Jones Lang LaSalle has acknowledged that Green Globes has value as a standard, but it also thus far has emphasized Green Globes’ importance and significance as a tool in the movement to green buildings. Could you share your thoughts about that?

JS: Absolutely. I think the value, which is beginning to be recognized, is that Green Globes is very much process oriented. What we emphasize is addressing the different stages of the project delivery: Trying to take people by the hand or give them support right at the beginning of the project conception and (help them) define the goals, then guiding them through the strategies … then in doing the actual final design assessment at the construction document stage, seeing what has been built, and then really setting up the cycle of continuous improvement throughout the building's lifecycle.

It is very much a lifecycle approach to not only design and operation of the building, but a combination of the two because, again, the main objective here is to ensure that the predicted performance of the building in the design stage is actually being realized later on when the building is operated. So it's the continuity of the process, which I think has been always in the forefront of the Green Globes approach.

LG: What is it that differentiates that process from perhaps others that might be available?

JS: What we are trying to do is make the system accessible to everyone with relatively minimum amount of training. What we recognized very early is that property managers come from all sorts of walks of life. They might not have the kind of specialized training, which, say, an architect might have. Many property managers or building operators have been truck drivers, or they've been building supervisors or something like that. They might not necessarily have the kind of full energy environmental training, which is now almost required to be up to speed in some of these issues.

What Green Globes is trying to do is to say, “Look, you know, this is not rocket science. These are the basic building impacts, and if you answer some of these questions, you might be able to get a handle on this and learn through the process.”

It's learning by doing: You might not necessarily answer all these questions correctly, or you might not have all these processes in place. Just say what you're doing. And if you're not doing it, Green Globes gives you recommendations as to how you can improve and it gives you the access to the information you need to improve the performance. I think of it as helping people to really affect the change and do the best thing — and give them the power to do that in their hands.

LG: That accessibility that you talked about, certainly it has been praised in the industry. Sometimes it has also been the cause of criticism as well. How do you respond to that?

JS: Well, you know there's always, always criticism that something is not scientifically based. We still actually have people doubting global warming. So, you always kind of face criticism one way or another.

Again, our basic approach was to recognize the magnitude of the problem. I think we all agree that the problem is huge: the problem of the environmental degradation, the problem of how the buildings actually influence the environment is just absolutely enormous. We probably need different ways of how we can address this. And you know one way of eating a lesson is do it in bits and pieces. Certainly, Green Globes is not claiming that it is the be-all and end of it all. We're just essentially trying to do our little bit, eating the lesson by little bits. You probably won't satisfy everybody, but we're trying to do our best.

Now how having said that, the new Green Globes standard, which is in the making (and) which is undergoing the ANSI process, has certainly undergone a very, very rigorous process. It went through a committee that had major building construction and building industry representatives, (it) had a representative for all the levels of government — EPA, ANSI, ASHRAE — various organizations, producers, users, different architects, university people and so on.

I believe what you will see in the actual Green Globes standard will be a very thorough, technically competent document. If anything, I'm sort of almost worried it's going to be too technical and pendulum swings from being too accessible. I'm kind of concerned that it might sort of err on the other end and it might get a little bit more difficult. But, again, the task will be for us to really break it down into component parts, so we bring that simplicity of the process back into it and we'll make it user friendly.

LG: In an industry where organizations are about as passionate about their ratings, standards and certifications products as some fans are about their sport teams, how do builders, owners, those facility managers we talked about -- the people on the ground -- how do they sort out what's what and which ways they should go?

JS: Well, again, there are different horses for different courses. And I think first of all what they need to do is identify what is their prime objective in greening the building? If it is a process, then maybe the Green Globes may be a practical way for them to do that. We certainly, recognize that LEED does have the market recognition.

So, if your main objective is to get a market building which does have recognition in the marketplace, you know then maybe LEED is the best way. But certainly at this point in time having two systems at least is both very useful for development of these standards, because we are still in (the) very early processes of the greening.

We're obviously trying to, for example, improve the productivity in a workplace, But we still don't have a firm set of matrixes, absolute matrixes of what's the right way and what's the wrong way? I think having the dialogue between two different systems is certainly very conductive to improvement of the both systems. So, you know, I think it's not a bad thing.

If anything, I think the fact that Green Globes was on the scene was probably very helpful for LEED development as well. LEED is now looking at the ANSI process. They are looking at certification of the assessors. They opened the LEED process to participation of industry groups. They are looking at integration of the LCA. — All the things which the Green Globes effectively put in place already. What we have in Canada, the Canadian Building Council is talking about the LEED complete, which is again, something we've been promoting for the last two years.

You know I think there has been a number of benefits to LEED development as well by having Green Globes around. If the users group can bear with us 'til these things further develop, I think it's to the benefit of everybody. I really think that having more systems, rather than kind of a monopolistic situation, is very healthy.

LG: Now let's talk about those users a little bit. What do you think are the most important things for them to know?

JS: You know, I think there's certainly a big growing up process in the whole greening industry. Really, bottom line is the building industry is still very much cost-oriented. One of the elements of the costs has been certainly the increasing cost of the energy. So that has been one of the big drivers.

The other big driver has been the whole movement towards social responsibility. And in some ways, these rating systems have been almost like a mediator between the cost aspects of the greening and between the social responsibility or the best aspects of the greening of the building. Depending on what the main drivers are for the builders or for the architects or anybody who is trying to green their buildings, they might use these rating systems in meeting those objectives — whether it's the social responsibility objective or the cost objective.

I think this is what they want to know: How do we reach our objectives? I think the rating system provides for them a platform (for) how they can address those various objectives

LG: So it's a matter of making choices and selections, depending on what their objectives are and what their needs are -- and also what their resources are.

JS: I think so -- that's what I think.

LG: If you can share this with us, what's next for ECD? What are some of the things that could develop that might have been far beyond the horizon before, but maybe now are nearer to hand?

JS: Well, you know we're certainly very excited about the whole opportunity. JLL, being a global company, can help us to see what's been happening elsewhere in the world. I've already mentioned some of the other acquisitions of JLL. In Australia and in U.K. for example, there's a firm called Upstream, which has been doing benchmarking of the buildings in the U.K.

You know having those kind of linkages to other parts of the world will be providing for us a very good dialogue. But the most important thing is really to affect the change and get some real results. What are our objectives as a society? That is to reduce that environmental impact of building. That means reduce the energy consumption of the buildings.

I think having a number of the buildings being assessed -- or the opportunity of assessing a larger amount of buildings -- will start generating the data, will start generating the experience of seeing whether we can actually achieve the results of reducing energy consumption in a repeatable and meaningful way.

I think we're very excited with having that kind of an opportunity. Before we had a very probably limited market, that market now expanded greatly. I think we will be actually getting some good comparative results on a much larger size of the market.

LG: Thank you, Mr. Skopek. Thank you so much for your time today.

JS: Thanks a lot for the opportunity.