‘Green’ Buildings a Mixed Bag as Budgets Contract

by | Aug 3, 2009

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greenskyscraper1While green renovations at high-profile office buildings are fetching higher occupancy and rental rates, green building projects at public utility agencies are being forced to scale back plans due to budget constraints. Both types of projects are still driving the need for accredited professionals with expertise in green building practices.

Skyscrapers across the country — some national icons — are catching up to new energy-efficiency structures, as property owners and managers become convinced that a greener building makes financial sense, reports Richmond Times-Dispatch. Two high-profile examples include the Empire State Building and the Sears Tower.

There are other significant renovation projects underway across the country. As an example, the building owners of the Christman Building in Lansing, Mich., an 81-year-old Elizabethan Revival office, spent $8.5 million to add water-efficient plumbing and a “cool” roof as well as to increase the amount of natural light, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Allan Skodowski with Transwestern management group, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that many high-profile tenants won’t even consider moving into a property without the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

A CoStar study, which included about 3,000 green-certified offices, found that buildings with LEED certification enjoyed higher occupancy rates (90.3 percent) than their peers (84.7 percent) in the first three months of 2009, and earned higher lease rates at an average of $38.86 per square foot in the first quarter of 2009, compared with $29.80 per square foot for their peers, according to the article.

However, for public utility projects, such as the San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission’s 12-floor office building, the green renovation has been scaled back due to budget constraints, reports the San Francisco Examiner.

PUC spokesman Tyrone Jue said in the article that the $190-million PUC building will still be one of nation’s greenest buildings — qualifying for the LEED Platinum environmental designation, although project managers have cut back on some of its most expensive and least effective green design features. He said the building will still have waterless urinals, a wastewater recycling system, a solar roof and wind turbines.

Funding will come from a variety of sources including federal stimulus dollars, sale of surplus PUC property, the agency’s own capital funds, which are paid for by ratepayers, and sales of “Certificates of Participation,” a bond-like financing tool, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

To meet the needs of growing green building projects, financial and professional services firm specializing in real estate are beefing up their professional certifications. As an example Jones Lang LaSalle announced it has 544 employees in 14 countries who have attained the status of LEED Accredited Professional (AP) or equivalent designation.

The company ended 2008 with 333 sustainability accredited professionals and added another 200-plus APs to its ranks in the first six months of 2009.

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