A year ago, the Colliers Turley Martin Tucker’s board of directors decided to create a sustainability leadership team at the board level that represented the different disciplines within the company: property management, facilities management, leasing, investment sales and brokerage. J Glasgow, a senior vice president of the St. Louis-based firm, is on this team and also heads up the company’s engineering facilities and project management services group.

Managing more than 400 million sq. ft. of existing buildings, there are ample possibilities for Glasgow and his firm to implement sustainable practices. And it is in the vast majority of all commercial real estate properties — existing buildings — where Glasgow sees the most opportunities in green building today. NREI recently spoke to the executive about sustainable trends in the industry.

NREI: How does Collier’s new initiative fit into the engineering facilities and project management services group?

Glasgow: This is very applicable to what we do delivering services — everything from how we build out spaces for clients using renewable resources, low VOC paints and carpets, and how we recycle those things, and also how we operate existing buildings. Managing over 400 million sq. ft. of existing buildings, there’s a lot of opportunity to implement sustainable practices in those existing buildings.

A lot of the press is around the new buildings and the glamour of the new buildings, but we really believe that the nuts and bolts are around the existing buildings.

NREI: Do you advocate LEED or Energy Star certification for your clients?

Glasgow: We look at the whole lifecycle cost. We’re an Energy Star partner. We also have internal audit processes. We have teams of several other energy companies to help us purchase energy from the supply side — how we’re buying retail electric. And then we spend a lot of energy on the demand side — how we’re operating our buildings that we manage so we operate them in a more efficient manner.

We look at LEED as the golden ring. Not every owner wants to go through LEED certification, doesn’t need to go through LEED certification, it’s sort of the top rung. But there’s a lot of things you can do in between — operations, upgrades, how you’re building out tenant spaces in a sustainable manner.

NREI: What is the typical motivation of your clients to become more sustainable? Marketing, energy savings, cost savings?

Glasgow: It’s a combination of all of those. You’re seeing more and more corporate clients with social responsibility statements and sustainability is part of that. But basically what’s driving it is that it’s good business. They’re making these decisions because they’re good business decisions.

NREI: Have you seen any preparation in advance of cap and trade legislation?

Glasgow: Absolutely. Companies are looking at it because it’s a good business decision but they’re also trying to get out ahead of any legislation that’s doing to be coming down. The last thing they want to do is to have the government come and tell them what they need to do — then it’s a huge deal. It becomes more the norm as opposed to something you have to react to quickly.

NREI: Do you think it matters whether John McCain or Barack Obama wins the election?

Glasgow: I don’t think it matters. I think it’s already here. It’s not going to turn on or off depending on whether the Republicans or Democrats are in charge. We’re looking at it as a company that the debate is over — if there’s global warning or not, these make good business decisions, let’s do them.

NREI: How is Colliers’ sustainability program different from its competition?

Glasgow: I would say we’re probably a little more low key. We’re not going to go out there and make blanket statements that we’re going to green our portfolio by “X” year. Our clients drive a lot of that. We want to be an advisor to our clients and we want to work collaboratively with our clients to deliver what they need. I think that’s what sets us apart, our flexibility.

NREI: What trends have you noticed on the corporate front in particular?

Embracing sustainability efforts. We’re seeing a trend where corporations are using it as a tool not only to hire employees but to retain employees. There’s data out there that a younger workforce are more committed to sustainable practices. We’re seeing companies expand this not only what they’re doing in the United States but globally.

We’re in a global market now. We work with companies that are doing LEED certification in foreign countries for their buildings, making a commitment that all their all their new buildings will have some type of LEED certification, be it basic LEED certification all the way up to platinum. We’re seeing a lot more companies hiring directors of sustainability. Social responsibility groups have more impact on the c-suite. We’re seeing a lot more companies trying to get in the DOW Jones Sustainability Index. Last time I looked, those companies that are on the DOW Jones Sustainability Index were outperforming the market.