Jennifer Gunby

Green building in commercial office space continues to grow, according to CBRE's most recent study.

Every year, a National Green Building Adoption Index is published by CBRE, in partnership with Maastricht University, to measure the growth and uptake of energy efficiency and sustainability in buildings. Other collaborators include USGBC, CBRE Research and the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT).

In 2017, the index shows that the percentage of commercial office space that has been certified as “green” or “efficient” by LEED or Energy Star certification now stands at 38 percent across 30 office markets in the United States. That has risen from less than 5 percent in 2005. According to the report, this long-term growth in certified buildings shows continued interest in energy efficiency and sustainability in the built environment. 

Other noteworthy findings:

  • The Energy Star program expanded slightly in 2016, with 10.3 percent of all commercial office buildings in the largest markets now certified, up from 9.9 percent. This represents 31.7 percent of total commercial office space, up from 29.9 percent.
  • At the end of 2016, LEED certifications represented 4.7 percent of the total number of commercial office buildings across the 30 largest U.S. office markets, up from 4.6 percent the year before.
  • Large geographic variation in the adoption of LEED and Energy Star certification remains. Counting both LEED and Energy Star certification, the top three markets for green building adoption by percentage of square footage are 1) Chicago, 2) San Francisco and 3) Atlanta, with Chicago taking the top position for the first time.

Over the past 10 years, 22 cities, the District of Columbia, two counties and two states have passed laws requiring privately owned buildings to annually benchmark their energy consumption, as well as to publish the resulting metric. The CBRE study states the evidence "suggests that these benchmarking and transparency laws may contribute to increased adoption of environmental building certification." Digging a little deeper into these policies, 20 of these policies had not reached their full phase-in of reporting by January 2016. In other words, the vast majority of polices saw new buildings reporting for the first time in 2016 or later.

The report shares that a city that enacts a benchmarking ordinance is correlated with a 9 percent increase in Energy Star and LEED-certified buildings, and a 21 percent increase in such square footage. Several cities experienced an increase in the adoption of environmental building certification after the passage of benchmarking and transparency laws.

See the interactive map of green building adoption.

Read the full report