Tenant impacts on green buildings are massive
What does an Office Tenant need to do in order to do its part in a Green Office Building? Good question. The answer…. A lot. For an office building to be as green as it can be, it takes buy in and participation from everyone in the building. Sustainable Business Oregon produced a great blog last week that outlines the responsibilities of the tenants in green buildings. The blog was called Tenant impacts on green buildings are massive, and the text is below.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification introduced the business world to bicycle commuter changing rooms, natural ventilation, expanded comfort ranges and recycling stations.
These features are no longer inconveniences, but amenities required by an increasingly demanding consumer. This consumer, or more accurately, tenant, is pushing the design and construction industry toward much higher performance standards.
But a critical component in this story is that high-performance green buildings require more from tenants than traditional buildings to operate at their full potential. If occupants don’t take an active role daily, the initial investment that was made will likely not be recaptured, and certainly won’t provide a net return on investment.
One result of the increased attention around high-performing green buildings is the Living Building Challenge. In order to fulfill the Living Building Challenge obligations, buildings must be net-zero energy, net-zero water and net-zero waste, and meet a comprehensive list of imperatives that speak to energy, agriculture, equity and beauty.
Despite their long-term economic feasibility, these buildings come at a price. Not only is the initial investment higher, but the Living Building Challenge requires verification of actual performance, not merely promises. Tenants must behave in a way that makes use of the building’s highly sustainable features.
Much has been written about training the individual, but what does a business need to do to prepare to occupy a “deep green” building?
The first issue a business may face is the likelihood of initial higher-than-market-rate lease rates, offset somewhat by reduced energy-related operating expenses.
Only one Living Building Challenge office building is close to breaking ground in Portland and it is seen as a mutual investment in a grand experiment intended to yield market transformation and economic benefits for the city and state.
In this difficult economy, many companies are flocking to inexpensive space, but some are contemplating spending more for less space in order to become early adopters. If a company’s mission — or employees — push it to consider the possibility of becoming a tenant of such a building, the company’s budget should account for increased rents that could be as much as 15 to 20 percent above Class A costs, according to the Oregon Sustainability Center Feasibility Study published last summer. Benefits of early adoption, however, include insulation from future energy price volatility and carbon taxes, along with less tangible, but no less important, improvements to corporate branding.
One way to address the added lease cost is to re-evaluate how a business uses its current space. Are private offices just status symbols, or are they vital to the function of the organization? Are multiple print stations required, or merely convenient? Is digital document creation, distribution and storage possible in your industry? If a business can be conducted in an open, interactive space with shared amenities and efficiencies, it can expect to find at least 20 percent of its current space that’s not being used to its fullest potential.
Another way to save space and power is to explore lower energy IT solutions such as network-based computing. It is likely that every employee doesn’t need a tower under the desk with its heavy energy use and heat output. Ubiquitous high-speed Internet has made storing and retrieving data very quick and reliable. With appropriate security measures in place, it is also available anywhere there is an Internet connection. Technology also creates opportunities for telecommuting. Companies that allow employees to work from home or have modified work hours can optimize energy and space use.
Monitoring, tracking and decreasing a company’s energy use, may also reduce lease rates. Politely asking tenants to do their part will soon be replaced by precise energy budgets that provide data for incentives and penalties. Consider a flow-down incentive structure using point-of-use monitors and share the risk and reward with the entire company.
Lastly, retain good legal counsel familiar with the challenges of adapting to a green culture. There may be constraints with a relaxed dress code, accessibility issues with limited vertical transportation, and your company’s liability in obtaining the Living Building Challenge certification after the first year of occupancy. Will your business be financially impacted by the energy consumption habits of your neighbor? Can a building owner discriminate against leasing to you based on your past energy performance?
The rewards of being a tenant in a Living Building are great, but be sure to begin the journey with eyes wide open. Above all, it is important to be flexible. You’re not the only one learning how to operate in a Living Building — so is your landlord.