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Summer 2009

Tightening your belt in tough times: LEED for Existing Buildings

Existing buildings, across all asset classes, represent the single greatest opportunity for the greening of the built environment. The existing building stock provides one of the largest opportunities to make significant carbon reductions in the short term. National energy consumption can be cut drastically by focusing attention on the millions of commercial buildings already in operation by looking for ways to more effectively and efficiently manage these assets. In an effort to upgrade the existing building stock, the USGBC created the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance rating system.

LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (LEED EB: O&M) provides the framework necessary to implement sustainable operations and maintenance practices in new and old buildings. Buildings certified under design and construction rating systems, such as LEED for New Construction, LEED for Core & Shell, LEED for Commercial Interiors and LEED for Schools, are using LEED EB: O&M to maximize their investment by continuing to commit to greening their real estate through efficiently maintaining and operating their assets. Specifically, the LEED EB: O&M rating system addresses site maintenance programs, water and energy use, environmentally preferred products and practices for cleaning, sustainable purchasing policies, waste management and ongoing indoor environmental quality. In the recently launched LEED 2009 suite of rating systems, LEED EB: O&M underwent some structural changes but the credits and performance criteria largely stayed intact. One change is that the number of possible points has been increased to an even 100, with certain credits being weighted more heavily than others to reflect the importance of environmental priorities such as energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions. Regional credits have also been introduced, helping projects focus on the green strategies that mean the most to their local environmental needs. Simply put, the rating system provides a clear entry point for any building that is seeking to reduce operating expenses and pursue a green strategy in tandem. To learn more about how LEED EB: O&M and the other commercial and institutional rating systems have been upgraded under LEED 2009, visit www.usgbc.org/LEED2009.

Something that makes the LEED EB: O&M rating system a particularly attractive option during a turbulent economic environment is its focus on efficiency. Applying green building strategies to existing buildings goes a long way toward cutting operating costs and providing a competitive product to the market. Green operational practices do not necessarily require significant capital investment or cutting-edge technology; they can be simple strategies that include reducing unnecessary weekend operating hours, upgrading waste management policies, purchasing healthier cleaning chemicals, reducing water costs through strategic landscape management, and parking garage ventilation system management. Many measures that can require upfront capital are established industry practices such as utilizing variable speed drives in ventilation systems, lighting retrofits, fixture replacement and retro-commissioning. After all, green operations is about building management fundamentals and utilizing industry best practices to actively manage a real estate asset. In this economic climate, owners and managers are going back to basics, and green operational strategies are a great way to control operating costs, increase cash flow, and improve total return.

USGBC has seen a steady increase in the numbers of projects that are registering under the LEED EB: O&M rating system. Numerous early adopters are also beginning to see their projects achieve certification, and the number of certified buildings is expected to grow quickly. Registrations have increased from 96 registrations in 2006 to 725 registrations in 2007 to the current 2,368 registrations. This is a positive sign that the market has grasped the benefits of green operations and maintenance. The positive experience and financial advantages that organizations gain through their pursuit of LEED EB: O&M will incent further adoption of other green building practices, ultimately leading to more widespread adoption and acceptance of green operational practices.

Greenbuild Program Now Live!

The 2009 Greenbuild International Conference & Expo’s program has been announced. The lineup of master speakers will include Daniel Wildcat, Sylvia Earle, Peter Gleick, Arthur Rubinfeld and Josh Bernstein. These industry leaders will engage in the conference theme of “Main Street Green: Connect to the Conversation.” Greenbuild master speaker sessions will explore topics from corporate social responsibility, indigenous populations and climate change, to the impact our choices have on the environment, each viewed from various perspectives.

See the complete master speakers program »

In addition to the impressive collection of master speakers, Greenbuild 2009, to be held in Phoenix Nov. 11-13, will also feature over 100 educational sessions, LEED workshops, off-site educational sessions, a two-day Residential Summit, and tours of local green building sites throughout the Arizona area.

Register by Sept. 7 and save $100-$200 »


In the first half of 2009, USGBC expanded its webinar educational offerings, addressing key topics and opportunities of interest to the commercial real estate market. Please read below to learn about USGBC’s most recent webinars, most of which are available now in archived format.

LEED for Neighborhood Development – Sustainability Beyond Buildings

Come see what all the excitement is about! Join us for an introduction to LEED for Neighborhood Development, the first national standard for green neighborhoods, created by USGBC in partnership with the Congress for the New Urbanism and the Natural Resources Defense Council. This three-part webinar series will explore the stories of certified pilot projects, both in urban infill locations and suburban locations, give an overview of the challenges overcome by project teams, and introduce best practices in developing green neighborhoods.

Series Information
Session 1: Green Communities: Bringing Smart Growth and New Urbanism into LEED (Available On-Demancd)
Session 2: LEED for Neighborhood Development: Strategies for Urban Infill & Brownfield Redevelopment (July 16)
Session 3: LEED for Neighborhood Development: A Tool to Retrofit the Suburbs (Augustt 6)

Register here »

Dealing in Green: LEED for Brokers – Webinar Series

This three-part webinar series features members of the brokerage and tenant community sharing lessons learned from their experiences in leasing LEED-certified space – and making the business case for LEED in the real estate world.

Series Information:
Session 1: LEED 101: Certification & Market Overview for Brokers
Session 2: Meeting Tenant Demands with LEED-Certified Space
Session 3: Case Study: Challenges and Opportunities in Green Transactions

Access the archived versions here »

LEED for Retail – Webinar Series

Interested in obtaining best practices, business reasoning and tools currently being utilized to increase sustainable design and building practices in retail real estate? Join us as experts across the industry detail the currently in pilot LEED for Retail rating systems and share best practices for achieving success in using both LEED for Retail and volume certification.

Series Information:
Session 1: An Introduction to LEED for Retail 2009
Session 2: LEED for Retail in Action: C ase Studies from Early Adopters
Session 3: Volume Certification for Retailers

Access the archived webinars here »

Other Online Education

Elements of Green Leases
LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance
Green Building Basics and LEED

From the Desk of Tommy Linstroth, Melaver Director of Sustainability

Negotiating build-outs and leases with tenants is challenging for any development, but it certainly becomes more so in a LEED-certified project. Retail seems to have even more snags than an office build-out – issues like specialty lighting, product placements, franchise standards, and process loads all contribute to the complexity in getting a development done on time and on budget. The good news is that doing a LEED-certified retail project does not have to be any more difficult or costly than a standard project – in fact, it can even expedite the process of getting a signed lease! We’ve taken our lumps and learned our lessons in developing the country’s first LEED-certified shopping center, Abercorn Common, in Savannah, Ga., a few years ago. Fortunately, we’ve been able to translate those experiences into more signed leases in our next LEED retail spaces - whether in mixed-use buildings or standalone retail centers.

Certainly the times have changed since 2004, with a growing environmental consciousness among both retailers and consumers, and the ever-growing awareness of LEED certification and its benefits. In fact, some retailers today require LEED certification for new leases, and many national retailers are participating in USGBC’s LEED for Retail pilot program. (Learn more about LEED for Retail, including how USGBC member organizations can vote in the current member ballot »)

In 2004, we quickly learned that telling everyone it’s a green shopping center made people raise their eyebrows and wonder what we were talking about. All tenants cared about were location and rental rate. But today we are seeing tenants – nationals and local independents alike – specifically attracted to our spaces due to the LEED certification and environmental attributes of the developments. While this is still a minority of our tenants, it has rapidly become more prominent in the past two years.

As mentioned, there are certainly hurdles to developing green retail, but nothing that cannot be overcome with a bit of forethought and work with the tenants. As the developer at Abercorn Common, we controlled many of the LEED aspects of the development right from the start – site, stormwater, heat island, irrigation, construction waste, where the materials were coming from, and a host of others. We were able to get a range of sustainable design strategies in from the get-go, which had no noticeable effect on the tenants or their lease structure. Sure it was beneficial to tell them that since we were capturing all the rainwater off the roof for irrigation they would have no site water bill, but in the end many of the site features we incorporated weren’t items of interest at the leasing table. What mattered to the tenants were any cost or schedule implications, and how much would it differ from what they were accustomed to. The good news is that cost and schedule has pretty much become a moot point – LEED doesn’t cost more and doesn’t slow you down. However, changing the perceptions of what retailers were used to proved a bit more challenging.

One particular retailer came in with their mind set on a specific lighting package they had used in the Southeast in the past. Of course, the proposal for a range of incandescent lights and the sheer number of them was not something that would have helped the energy performance of the space and in fact would have required additional cooling capacity to keep the space comfortable. After a few discussions, it turned out that the retailer had a prototype package just for stores in California, where they were required to meet the Title 24 energy code – which rules out the incandescent fixtures. Problem solved! No matter where you are in the country, if you are dealing with a national retailer, odds are they have a program that was implemented in a state (such as California) with a much more stringent energy code than may be required locally – and thus already has a solution that fits neatly into your LEED project. There are many other green features we have been successfully able to get into all our leases. We include language on toilet and urinal flush rates, sink aerators and VOCs, and we have yet to have anyone complain or not comply. Most folks certainly aren’t against green features; they just can’t afford the time to figure out complex requirements. Making it easy by simply saying, “Here’s the exact fixture to use,” can expedite the process and make your life and the store’s much easier while maintaining the sustainable strategies for the overall development.

In the end, each development – retail, residential or commercial – is unique and will require individual solutions. There is no one-size-fits-all answer that will work in every situation. The good news is that retail seems ripe for sustainability, and the traditional triple net leases involved accrue the operational savings to the retailer’s bottom line. So while a LEED retail project might have different challenges for each tenant space, there are also a host of cost-effective and practical solutions that can be implemented that won’t jeopardize your chance for LEED certification and all the benefits that come with it.

Tommy Linstroth is Director of Sustainability for Melaver, Inc, a green development and consulting company based in Savannah, Ga. Visit www.melaver.com or melaverconsulting.com for more information.

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