UBC Graduate Research

Green commercial real estate : office assets Taylor, H. J. Geoffrey

Abstract

With the current state of the Canadian commercial office asset portfolio lagging behind its international competitors there is a significant opportunity for building owners to assume a leadership role in increasing the green building stock, thereby differentiating them from the balance of the industry. This benchmarking analysis of sustainable best-practices in the office space sector of the commercial real estate industry assessed current and future building retrofit projects for the most common, the most innovative, and the most advantageous opportunities available to building owners interested in pursuing a more strategic approach to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). There are multiple drivers in the commercial real estate sector for pursuing comprehensive CSR strategies. Building owners are realizing that they are afforded many advantages in assuming a sustainable approach to building management and operations. Over-and-above the operational cost savings that accompany retrofitting existing building assets, owners are recognizing that CSR programs create considerable market differentiation by appealing to tenants who are similarly differentiating from their own competitors based on environmental stewardship. To achieve this, building owners are subscribing to standards set forth by certifying bodies such as The United States’ LEED program and the United Kingdom’s BREEAM program. These organizations facilitate the communication of environmental technologies and initiatives in the building sector to the general public. Building owners are focusing on several key areas when considering potential opportunities for cost-saving initiatives and market differentiation through building retrofits. The cost-saving efficiencies that come from addressing energy consumption are the most common means for building owners to driving down their operating costs. The upgrading and/or automating of these systems, such as lighting and HVAC, are improving energy efficiency within buildings by removing the variability brought about by human intervention in the system’s normal operation. Water conservation is a common and practical means for building owners to minimize their variable costs. By addressing external and internal water consumption patterns building owners are realizing the previously lost opportunities for minimizing costs associated with water use. Automating external systems, whether by incorporating soil moisture sensors into landscape irrigation designs, or internal systems, by using automated water faucets, aerators, and low/dual-flush toilets, are some strategies. These technologies are being supplemented by aggressive water recycling and rainfall collection programs that rehabilitate and reuse water, thereby minimizing the amount of water drawn from municipal sources. Building owners are also achieving great successes by catering to the needs of tenants and employees. By assisting in the ongoing health and well-being of building occupants, building owners have increased the value of their office space to clients, whether it is through office design and increased natural lighting, or through enabling alternative transportation by locating office space near to mass transit or the provision of bicycle lockers and shower facilities. These programs and decisions increase the desirability of office space to both tenants and employees alike. The practice of benchmarking these projects reveals interesting and replicable trends and strategies in the greening of an office asset portfolio. Involving stakeholders from design through implementation will expedite the process and maximize the return on a building owner’s investment. Further, a CSR program must be methodical and strategic in its implementation to be truly effective; a haphazard approach to project implementation will diminish the return on investments. A CSR program for office assets must also be comprehensive, not merely focusing on energy efficiency and water conservation but also on tenant and employee engagement. These stakeholders realize the greatest impact of the CSR program and have a tremendous role in the success of the projects. Most importantly, market differentiation can only be accomplished through the communication of successes in sustainable building retrofits.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada

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