As a long-time LEED Accredited Professional and volunteer leader within the Society of Office and Industrial Realtors (SIOR), I have participated in many recent discussions with my SIOR peers pertaining to just where the commercial real estate industry is in terms of “green” or sustainability. While there are a variety of valid viewpoints and perspectives, there is somewhat of a general consensus that’s emerged of late. Green seems to be at, near or past its tipping point.
In conjunction with all of the positive opportunities that these now-proven best practices in sustainability might provide, SIOR has been evaluating ways in which it may want to engage as an organization. There are several opportunities for large CRE industry associations like SIOR to address sustainability. Some opportunities are internal and operational in nature, while other opportunities may be member-focused in terms of education, content and advocacy. Once these myriad opportunities have been addressed, some further consideration may be given to securing well-regarded credentials (i.e. Energy Star , Green Globes or LEED-CI etc.), as well as to an ongoing awareness campaign.
When internal operations are considered, sustainability initiatives are likely to be derived from the occupant’s energy consumption or demand, energy procurement or supply, environmental sensitivity, policies and protocols and employee engagement. To best manage demand, some initial benchmarking can be done and then reasonable reduction goals can be set. This might be achieved through lighting retrofit and daylight harvesting, the retro-commissioning of HVAC systems, the outsourcing of an in-house data center or server room and aggressive plug load management, amongst other initiatives.
As a separate but important complement to energy demand efforts, especially in deregulated markets, energy procurement strategies should be employed to reduce what an entity pays to consume its energy and to mitigate risk through thoughtful hedging and by aligning energy purchasing with real estate occupancy strategies.
Environmental sensitivity efforts might include the thoughtful selection of construction materials used to build out or renovate space, the utilization of eco-friendly cleaning supplies and vendors, recycling programs, alternative transportation programs (such as car-pooling or biking to work), preferred parking for electric vehicles and the establishment of a self-reported carbon footprint.
When addressing the needs of an organization’s members, the focus should remain on enhancing the overall value proposition and on leveraging the organization’s resources and relationships to deliver such value. As SIOR endeavors to service its members in the relevant facets of green, the association will utilize a combination of internal and external resources including SIOR staff, members, sponsors and exhibitors; partner organizations and vetted vendors, etc.
Ultimately, SIOR will strive to deliver relevant sustainability education at its two annual conferences and provide other sustainability content in forums such as SIOR’s Professional Report (quarterly publication and mobile app) and across SIOR’s Global Media Platform, which unifies its communications in a coordinated series of campaigns (with supporting analytics) across its newly revamped Web site, SIOR Pulse blog and social media channels. Additionally, SIOR will partner with other commercial real estate industry groups and organizations to support the advocacy of sustainable initiatives when and as appropriate.
To achieve optimal success with such sustainability initiatives, any organization will need to deploy a combination of strategies and tactics, including:
· Unwavering leadership from the highest levels of the organization;
· Use of benchmarks, metrics and supporting analytics;
· Realistic goal-setting and timelines;
· Creation and implementation of supporting policies, procedures and protocols (i.e. the establishment and enforcement of green guidelines and/or modifying an Office Policy Manual or employment contracts, etc.);
· Creative engagement of its employees and members (and extended community) with necessary education, thoughtful events and friendly competitions.
Through such coordinated activities and initiatives, organizations such as SIOR can encourage and generate the on-going behavior that will ramp up the sustainability success over an extended period of time. Together with a coordinated multimedia awareness campaign, such organizations can reasonably establish their own “green persona” and become stewards of sustainability in the near term and for generations to come.
Geoffrey Kasselman, SIOR, LEED AP is the digital media and communications committee chair for the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors and president and industrial specialist for Op2mize, a Chicago-based commercial real estate brokerage and advisory company promoting traditional real estate fundamentals together with a platform of ROI-driven intelligent building and sustainability concepts. Geoff is also a member of NREI's Sustainability Board of Advisors.