The words on everybody’s tongue in the commercial real estate industry are “sustainable” and “green”. After experiencing fits and starts over three decades, the concepts of energy and water efficiency really took hold about five years ago and are here and have finally gone mainstream. Every major corporate boardroom put in place initiatives to make environmental stewardship a part of their “brand” and corporate culture. If you have corporate clients, have you noticed the blurb at the bottom of their emails asking you to lighten your carbon footprint and “think twice before printing this email”?
Green, however has always been a double edged blade: it lightens our impact on the environment and non-renewable resources, but it costs money (also green!) When the economy hit the proverbial iceberg in 2008, environmental initiatives were one of the first to be thrown overboard. But unlike times past, these ideas have absorbed deeper into the cellular structure of these corporations, and as the market returned to health, so did their sustainability initiatives.
Now that corporate America — indeed, corporate Earth — is tuned into these concepts, green building features are seen as necessary to meeting a new environmental standard. Here are a few that demonstrate relatively short term ROI (return on investment):
• Waterless urinals – Go ahead ladies, hold your noses. These devices go against every notion about cleanliness we have ever been taught. You have to wash urine away! Not so. Just gravity does the job perfectly. There is a device in waterless fixtures that puts a light film of oil over the urine in the trap, in effect putting a lid on the odors. The fixtures themselves are a bit more expensive than a traditional urinal, but the elimination of the plumbing during initial construction and the water savings more than offset that.
• Fluorescent lighting – the relative efficiency of the modern iterations of fluorescent tube technology — T-8 and T-5 — are well documented (the lower the number, the more energy efficient). The energy cost savings are significant and, with rebates offered by most electrical utilities today, pay back in about three years. This pay back can be shortened by using motion detectors which let lights turn off in unoccupied areas. For the past seven years, I have worked with a Fortune 100 company who recently changed their warehouse lighting specification throughout the U. S. to T-5 fixtures with motion detectors. If you have been in the property management business for a while (or manage very old industrial properties), you will recall how fluorescent lighting was the standard until high output fixtures like high-pressure sodium and metal halide took over. What was old is new again…
• Xeriscaping – I put this one down just because it is such a cool word! But seriously, this is all about being sensible when it comes to landscaping your property. Using materials that are indigenous to your region and eliminating thirsty turf grass will seriously lower irrigation water and monthly maintenance bills (mowing grass is the most labor-intensive task in landscaping). It can also be striking in appearance. Hook up with a local landscape architect who is on board with sustainable landscaping and you might be amazed!
Being able to feature even these few ideas will give your building the status of being dialed in to today’s new sustainability standards and will make it stand out in a competitive leasing market… and has the leasing market ever been more competitive?
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