A long-term view Featured

8:00pm EDT July 26, 2009

The increasingly discussed but seldom understood movement to environmental stewardship is still in its infancy. We see evidence of it almost every day, but that doesn’t make it any easier to fully comprehend how it is, and will continue, to affect both our personal and professional lives.

So, how will we not only accept this change, but also embrace it in a way that truly benefits our way of life at home and at work?

“Change seldom comes easy,” say Bob Abberger, the senior managing director for Trammell Crow Company’s Florida Business Unit, a division of CB Richard Ellis Commercial Real Estate Services. “We get in our comfort zone based on our past successes, and too often resist new ideas for fear that change brings a degree of risk. Accepting and managing that risk will determine success moving forward.”

Smart Business spoke with Abberger on how the initial stages of environmental stewardship are being addressed in today’s commercial real estate market.

Why are environmental issues and concerns often misunderstood?

Unfortunately, history tells us that as a society we rarely address an issue until it becomes a problem. As the world’s population continues to grow and emerging economies place accelerating demand on resources, it has become painfully apparent that we have serious challenges ahead as it relates to global stewardship. Fortunately, once we have that realization and the commitment to understand long-term consequences, we can begin to develop some true insight and understanding.

We are now seeing real momentum to employ the resources that eventually help us develop sound solutions. While solutions are typically a continual work in progress, as this is, the evidence of progress is unquestionable.

Who is leading in addressing the stewardship issues?

We see increased awareness at almost every level today, from corporate America to our youth. In a global economy, nations have become more interdependent and subsequently we become more aware of common challenges and the need for mutual responsibility. Certainly a key in this leadership is the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which developed the internationally recognized green building certification system (LEED). The system provides verification of metrics relating to energy savings, water efficiencies, emission reductions, improved indoor environmental quality and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. The system applies to residential as well as commercial properties, and, perhaps more importantly, the benefits go beyond the property footprint into the neighborhood it serves. On a local level, Tampa has taken key steps to embrace the importance of this movement and develop the leadership to position our city as an example to others.

How has this affected the commercial real estate industry?

When you consider the time we spend at work, the importance of creating a comprehensive, integrated solution to facilities that are attentive to the environment and the health of the occupants is increasingly important on a number of levels. First, employers are becoming increasingly committed to providing a safe and healthy workplace. This translates to better productivity and overall well-being, and it is a proven employee retention and attraction tool. Second, government at every level is increasing its commitment to sustainable guidelines and practices. In many communities, all new construction must be LEED certified. Finally, investors realize that LEED certification has value that is either built into a new facility or must be modified in existing buildings to keep pace in the market place. Looking ahead, it’s increasingly clear that any new commercial building not aggressively attuned to environmental sensitivities will quickly be obsolesced by those that are.

Has the current economic downturn hampered sustainability efforts?

Certainly the current economy has challenged our industry on many fronts. However, it has also been the catalyst for advancing sustainability advances. With an uncertain near term revenue picture, the emphasis at home, work and in our community has been on efficiencies that help reduce operating expenses. In commercial projects, energy efficiencies in lighting, utilizing roofing and paving materials with high solar reflectance index, and recycling and using sourced construction materials are among the areas addressed. Making these decisions is not only important in today’s economy but also will pay ever-greater dividends as we move into better times. Also, there are many examples of new state-of-the art facilities being delivered around the country that will set a new standard in commercial development. It truly is an investment in the future.

Bob Abberger is the senior managing director for Trammell Crow Company’s Florida Business Unit, a division of CB Richard Ellis Commercial Real Estate Services. He also serves as the chair of Trammell Crow Company’s National Sustainability Initiative, and is a LEED Accredited Professional. Reach him at (813) 383-3708 or rabberger@trammellcrow.com.