Save green by going green Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2008

The demand for green buildings is rapidly increasing in the corporate world. The reasons are numerous.

Sustainable buildings have efficient operating systems that ultimately result in cost savings through lower consumption of utilities. Another economic benefit is improved employee productivity. Data suggest that occupants of green buildings are healthier and happier than occupants of traditional buildings, which correlates to reduced sick time and diminished turnover. Finally, there are the environmental advantages such as resource conservation and improved water and air quality.

To make a sustainable real estate strategy work, it is crucial to have buy-in and consistent support from the top of the organization.

“It is much easier for sustainability to trickle down through an organization if management at the highest level is committed to it,” says J Glasgow, senior vice president, principal, Colliers Turley Martin Tucker.

Smart Business learned more from Glasgow about sustainability, the financial benefits that can be achieved from occupying a green building and how a company should go about developing a sustainable real estate strategy.

Why are more and more companies embracing sustainability?

Over the last 18 months, sustainability has gained enormous popularity across not only the real estate industry, but also society as a whole.

In the commercial real estate industry, companies are embracing sustainability because it makes good business sense, it’s been proven sustainable buildings operate more efficiently, and employees who occupy those buildings are more happy and productive. It’s a healthier environment with less chemicals, volatile organic compounds and out-gassing of carpet and new building materials. Ultimately, sustainable buildings have proven to be a good business decision.

What specific characteristics make a building sustainable or green?

It’s more than just being green; it’s the whole approach to a sustainable building, taking in everything from the ecological value to proximity to public transportation to simple things like having bike racks. The health and wellness of employees and occupants of a building need to be considered. And, of course, green buildings should be built with sustainable materials, utilize renewable resources and champion recycling.

What types of financial benefits can be realized from using a green building?

The biggest benefit is that the building will operate more efficiently so ultimately costs will be reduced. By having high-efficiency HVAC systems and high-efficiency lighting, energy costs will be reduced for both the owner and occupant. Secondarily, it has been proven that productivity rises in employees that occupy green buildings.

How do the costs of a green building compare to that of a traditional building?

With green buildings we are seeing a two to 15 percent increase in upfront costs, depending on the scope of the project. As expected, a building with LEED platinum certification will have increased upfront costs. It is important, however, to look at the whole life cycle costs of the building rather than just upfront costs. For example, we have a client with a 550,000-square-foot building in Indianapolis, and by going in and looking at the operations they saved 20 cents a foot on electrical costs alone. That equates to $110,000 in savings just from becoming more energy efficient.

How should a company go about formulating a sustainable real estate strategy?

Regardless if you’re going to develop a green building from the ground up or take an existing building through the LEED certification process, it is important to get your team involved at the beginning. The team, which includes a LEED expert, architect, engineer and general contractor, should be assembled at the front end so upfront costs can be reduced and a long-term strategy can be developed for the building. It takes time and money to make a sustainable real estate strategy work. Organizations need to be committed, and have dedicated resources.

How do you believe the marketplace for sustainable buildings will evolve over the next several years?

We’ve seen dramatic changes over the past 18 months. On the East and West coasts, there has been a surge in sustainable buildings and sustainable practices. The Midwest has been slower to embrace this movement, but in the future, I believe that sustainable buildings will become the norm rather than the exception.

J GLASGOW is a senior vice president and principal for Colliers Turley Martin Tucker. Reach him at (314) 574-7062 or jglasgow@ctmt.com.

J Glasgow

Senior vice president, principal Colliers Turley Martin Tucker