Green building initiatives provide a key influence when tenants decide to sign a commercial real estate lease, according to a survey by GE Capital Real Estate. The survey, conducted over the past year, included more than 2,220 office tenants in the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, the UK, Spain and Japan.

Among the findings:

Energy efficiency remains the No. 1 priority for tenants in most countries, followed by waste reduction programs.
An average of 50% of those surveyed say green building initiatives are a high priority.

Japan, Canada and Sweden placed the greatest importance on green building practices. However only 40% of U.S. tenants surveyed rated green certification “valuable.” In Sweden, 51% of respondents, and in the United Kingdom 46% said green rating certifications like LEED and BREEAM serve as valuable factors in their building choice.

Green building practices include energy efficiency measures, from lighting upgrades to energy audits, recycling and waste reduction programs. Other approaches include water conservation practices, tax credits and utility credits, and indoor environmental quality controls, such as efficient building ventilation.

“We’ve seen distinct and increasing interest in sustainability across our global tenant base,” says Michael Rowan, president, Global Asset Management at GE Capital Real Estate.

“We are actively exploring programs that leverage technology to drive tenant satisfaction and retention. We have pilot programs underway, including the installation of electric vehicle chargers in our InterPark garages and deployment of the Millennial Net Energy Management System (EMS) in select assets,” notes Lisa Coca, the company’s global sustainability leader.

Millennial Net provides a wireless sensor program to manage HVAC systems, giving tenants more transparency and control over their energy consumption to reduce costs, she adds.

To date, one Millennial Net installation has yielded, on average, projected annual energy savings of 33%, says Coca. Another asset, a 46,000 sq. ft. office building, is projected to save 50% annually, in energy costs for the tenant.

“We’re making progress in other ways as well,” she noted. In Canada, for example, GE is developing 15 industrial solar photovoltaic projects, and in the U.S., it has launched a program to improve the efficiency of building operations using advanced software tools.