Green Buildings Are Only As Good As Its Management

Environmental Law


Sustainability is a buzz word being thrown around recently to signify a project is “green” or “environmentally friendly.” But sustainability goes beyond simply placing solar panels on a rooftop or building with recycled materials or installing a more efficient HVAC system. Currently “sustainability” is being used as a marketing term, but it really needs to be embraced as a true concept in order for there to be real success. In reality, success isn’t gauged by how many tons of CO2 emissions are reduced. It’s quantified by the economics. The biggest motivators for sustainable building practices are improving the rent roll and reducing operating expenses which in turn increase the property value. Economics is the ultimate driver of sustainability. And as we have begun to see, with the help of New York City code amendments, sustainability in building development has become economically viable.

In order for property owners to see return on the investment of sustainable practices, they must vertically engage their agents and employees who are active with the building, from property manager to leasing agent to tenant. Recently I attended a seminar on sustainability in New York City building development, where major landlords, like Vornado, spoke on the principals of operating a sustainable commercial/residential building. The core take away was that a green building is only as efficient and productive as those who manage and operate the building. It is only step one to build or renovate a building using “green” techniques, but in educating tenants and building managers in the proper way of using the building to its greatest potential is the key. A commercial property built in ways to increase energy efficiency, but run inefficiently, does no good.

The concepts of green buildings and sustainability are moving much more into the mainstream; Banks are now requesting LEED, Energy Star, and energy efficiency documents during refinancing. And New York City is amending its local laws in order to promote sustainable practices. This past March, New York City passed amendments to the building code that exempted large solar thermal and photovoltaic equipment from height and story restrictions in the building code (Local Law 20 of 2011). In addition, amendments to Local Law 21 require roofs when altered or replaced shall be colored white or have solar reflectance minimums in accordance with the code.

Sustainability will become much more pervasive in this industry as developers, property managers, landlords and tenants realize the multiple layers of benefits to these practices. Saving the environment, reducing air pollution, increasing energy efficiency, marketing strategy are all important and admirable objects, but fundamentally sustainable building practices will succeed because they decrease operating costs and increase the rent roll.

For more information on green buildings, sustainable development and commercial/residential real estate issues, please contact Miriam Villani or Jason Kaplan.

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