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Sustainability in CRE: Part 4 – Certification Not the Only Path

In the 4th part of our series of posts on sustainability, we discuss how formal certification programs are not always necessary, and that sustainability initiatives can have an impact larger than just operating costs.

Part 1, Intro/State of Sustainability in Boston

Part 2, LEED Certification

Part 3, WELL Certification (and how it differs from LEED)


Part 5 (Friday) – Sustainability ROI and Leases


Whether it’s because of the documentation requirements, money, or other reasons, in many cases, aiming for full LEED or WELL Certification isn’t something which makes sense for a particular project.

But that doesn’t mean that pursuing some of the strategies and goals which make up these programs may not make sense – both from an employee/tenant engagement strategy and from a bottom-line perspective.

Increasing green projectsAs an initial step, organizations should look at their real estate and identify the basic opportunities which will make the biggest financial impacts in terms of cost savings, implement the solutions, and track all the documentation which would be needed for a formal certification.

Some of the most common “low-hanging fruit,” according to Alex Spilger, a Senior Vice President of Sustainability Services at Cushman & Wakefield, include maximizing water-efficient fixtures at no extra cost, developing wellness policies, and providing access to height-adjustable desks.

Other healthy building features are also expected to scale in use during the next few years, such as air quality measures and biophilic designs – where natural elements are incorporated into the space.

Once those initial steps are done, organizations can evaluate what steps they would still need to take to cross the certification finish line.

Even if companies don’t achieve LEED and the marketing advantages that come with getting the “plaque on the wall,” implementing sustainable programs can still make a positive impact – both in terms of employee engagement and an organization’s bottom line.

Benefits of Green BuildingsStudies have found that the vast majority of consumers choose products they feel are made “responsibly”, and many employees hold similar values when looking at companies they work for. That trends hold even truer for younger employees, studies finding those generations feel the importance companies place on strong corporate social responsibility and environmental values has a strong impact on long-term success. That makes environmentally responsible firms more attractive to work for.

That trend is also being noticed at the ownership level to a very wide degree, as a survey of owners by Dodge Data & Analytics found that 75 percent felt that improved tenant/employee satisfaction, along with healthier and happier occupants, were goals in terms of healthier buildings.

Even if a property doesn’t have an official certification, owners and property managers can still keep promote the issue to tenants through internal newsletters, sustainability-focused activities or groups, and signage or flyers explaining sustainable behaviors and building features. By showcasing the green features a property does have, owners can still make an impact on occupant health and overall satisfaction, generating positive financial returns for both parties in the long run.

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