Global stewardship Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2008

With the emergence of new world economies, global interdependency and the increased awareness of thoughtful corporate stewardship, firms worldwide are looking carefully at how corporate growth can best interface with the demands we place on existing resources. In the United States, commercial buildings account for 12 percent of water usage, 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, 65 percent of waste output and 70 percent of electricity consumption.

“It is no coincidence that LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification of new and existing buildings is gaining momentum in Florida and throughout the globe,” says CB Richard Ellis Tampa-based Project Manager Suneeta Singh. “Even in these early stages, if we look closely we’ll find out that greener buildings (those that adopt LEED design practices) not only benefit from a reduction in operating expenses but, as importantly, also offer a better work environment that increases occupant productivity.”

Smart Business asked Singh about the rising interest in LEED.

What is LEED and how is it administered?

The LEED Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the point-based rating system assesses in detail: site planning, water management, energy management, building materials, indoor air quality and innovation and design process. There are currently four levels of certification (platinum, gold, silver and certified) with different criteria for existing buildings, commercial interiors, core and shell and new construction. The system is designed to have a positive impact on environmental, human and economic health.

What are some of the reasons that LEED certification has caught the attention of the commercial real estate industry?

Given the finite resources on our planet and the increased demand created by existing and emerging economies, an immediate and measurable approach to all aspects of the building environment has become increasingly important. Green construction practices are appealing due to the increased focus on sustainable building materials, environmentally safe products and recycling of waste.

Current results are demonstrating that green buildings achieve an average savings rate of 30 to 50 percent in energy consumption, 35 percent in carbon emissions, 30 to 40 percent in water usage and 50 to 70 percent in waste costs. The net result to owners and tenants include energy savings, enhanced occupant productivity, increased property value and verified performance of building systems. Improved efficiency of operations and workplace environment are true competitive advantages for all.

With that said, should we expect all new buildings to be LEED certified?

There are undoubtedly compelling reasons for all new projects to seek certification as we have discussed. In addition to the operational advantages that enhance the workplace environment and bottom-line efficiency, lenders will certainly be looking to see if projects they are considering to fund are certified. This will help to preserve the value of the asset, and we expect it will be an important factor when investors price the property for future sale.

On a more macro level, we believe there is an increased importance on corporate stewardship that will dictate new projects meet these standards. Without question, we believe all new public facilities will seek to adopt LEED design practices.

How can your project management team assist owners and tenants in achieving LEED certification of their buildings and interior construction projects?

As in almost all successful endeavors, it is a combination of the right people equipped with the right experience and resources. CBRE maintains one of the largest networks of professional real estate project managers in the world. Internally, our company has taken a proactive step by recently announcing the corporate goal of achieving a carbon neutral footprint by 2010. Externally in Florida and throughout the country, our project management teams are working with clients to obtain LEED certification not only for new developments but for existing buildings as well as a host of ongoing interior construction projects.

While the LEED rating system gives us a valued and consistent template to work from, each project also has its own individual needs. The most effective approach is to engage the project management team as early on a possible. This ensures we understand the client’s needs and can help lead them through the process of a sustainable approach, and helps to ensure our mutual commitment will bring both near- and long-term value to their projects and their people. Green starts with a conversation.

SUNEETA SINGH is a project manager at CB Richard Ellis in Tampa. Reach her at (813) 383-3729 or suneeta.singh@cbre.com. For more information about CBRE’s project management services, contact Dave Kreinest, Florida managing director, at (904) 596-2953 or david.kreinest@cbre.com.