Greenwashing or Green Fraud?

I knew something was wrong the moment I walked in the door.

I had just stopped in to check on a job recently for a new client, when a burning chemical smell assaulted my senses. After checking on our technicians to make sure they were OK, it didn’t take me long to trace the source of the harsh fumes. Not far from our team, a worker from another company was stripping and waxing our client’s floor.

My first thought was there must be a mistake. Our client prioritized using environmentally friendly alternatives at their facility and the service truck in the parking lot was from an “Eco” branded company. So I checked out the chemicals this “green” company was using and I quickly found the answer: greenwashing. Read More…

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Why Going Green Can Enhance Real Estate’s ‘Sex Appeal’

Human beings have an innate attraction to nature.

It’s a biological bond where exposure to nature can affect your blood pressure, heart rate, hormones and other vital functions – think the first time you met your spouse or significant other for a sense of how powerful this attraction can be. This deep connection is central to the concept of Biophilia, which was popularized by biologist Edward O. Wilson.

“Biophilia is the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms,” Wilson said “Life around us exceeds in complexity and beauty anything else humanity is ever likely to encounter.”

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LEED Under Siege

In his 2011 article, “Defending LEED,” Jason F. McLennan said the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program was “absolutely not” perfect.

“No system is perfect,” said the founder of the Living Building Challenge, an alternative green building standard. “And yes, some criticism is deserved – and needed – to keep improving what has become the most dominant green building program in the world.”


McLennan went on to say that criticism intended not to make LEED stronger, but rather to tear down a program that helped legitimize green building, create standards and a coherent language for what it means to be green while also stimulating the green building industry is destructive and self-serving for its detractors.


That was a year ago, when the USGBC faced a high-profile lawsuit challenging the effectiveness of LEED filed by Henry Gifford who claims that LEED certified buildings were less efficient than non-certified buildings. That lawsuit was one of the most substantial challenges to LEED that I had seen since the program was established 12 years ago despite the persistent backdrop of criticism in the commercial real estate industry that LEED certification is too expensive, too complex and provides too little return for the investment. But that lawsuit, which was later dismissed, pales in comparison to the array of challenges facing LEED today from a variety of sources. Read More…

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How Much Carbon Does a Laker Girl Emit?

The answer is considerably less than 736 metric tons of carbon dioxide. That’s the total estimated carbon emissions generated by the more than 1,800 attendees of April’s Professional Retail Store Maintenance (PRSM) conference in Anaheim. Organizers of the event, which included a performance by the Laker Girls, offer sponsors the opportunity to pick up the $10,000 tab to offset the event’s carbon emissions. That money will go to a Chinese hydro power generation project to replace a fossil fuel powered plant, according to Jeff Bond, PRSM’s director of vendor relations. Read More…

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A Business Case for Understanding Climate Change

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain

The average age of a commercial building in the U.S. is 50 years. But the average hold period for a commercial real estate investment ranges from a low of three years for opportunistic investments to a high of 12 years for core properties.

Investor return expectations, loan terms and lease terms all serve to drive the spread between hold periods and the functional life of real estate assets.  In today’s turbulent marketplace, investors have a hard enough time projecting performance for the next 12 months, much less the next 600 months, so it comes as no surprise that anticipating the effects of climate change on business scarcely registers as a blip on the radar screen for the average commercial real estate owner. And, speaking from hard-earned experience, changing the dominant investing and operating paradigm of an industry isn’t easy. Read More…

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Searching for the Holy Grail of Green Real Estate

Lost in the debate over the value created by going green is what some have dubbed the “Holy Grail” of sustainable real estate.
Much of the analysis on greening real estate assets focuses on relatively easy-to-quantify metrics, such as the OPEX (operating expense) improvements to NOI by cutting water and energy use versus the CAPEX (capital expenditures) and who ultimately benefits from those investments. But that debate focuses on a small piece of the 5 percent to 7 percent of business OPEX tied up in real estate and ignores the largest expense of operating a business: the workforce. To some, the Holy Grail of sustainable real estate is discovering the true net-zero commercial building, but to me it is uncovering absolute proof of the productivity gains for those blessed to work in a green building. Read More…

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Did the Greenest Type of Development Just Become an Endangered Species?

You’ve sourced locally, used recycled materials extensively and incorporated the most advanced building operating systems available with an eye on earning a Platinum certification from US Green Building Council and premium pricing from tenants and investors for your latest development project.

You may think your new building is as green as economically and physically possible but it could have been much greener.

Last month, Preservation Green Lab, a Seattle-based think tank, released a study that concluded that “building reuse almost always offers environmental savings over demolition and new construction.”

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Dr. Green Laws or: How You Should Stop Worrying and Love Sustainability Regulations

War is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought,” – Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper, “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”

I can’t speak for General Ripper’s “precious bodily fluids” but the 1951 policy to fluoridate the U.S. public drinking water supply is widely considered an economic boon. The 18 percent to 40 percent reduction in childhood cavities saves far more money in dental costs than the 95 cents per person it costs on average to add fluoride to our water. And based on my last trip to the dentist, he doesn’t seem to be hurting for business. Read More…

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Real Estate Investment Beyond(?) the Global Credit Crisis

Check out this presentation by Jim Valente, Director of IPD North America, on global investment returns in Commercial Real Estate portfolios and outlook for 2012. Included in this presentation are CRE investment comparisions of cites, countries, and regions throughout the globe and predictions for how the global credit crisis might impact investment returns in the near term. Read More…

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Five Myths of Green Real Estate

The end of the holidays also brings an end to the many holiday related countdowns – The number of shopping days after Thanksgiving; The 12 days of Christmas; The eight nights of Hanukkah – you get the picture. Now that the clock in Times Square ticking off the final seconds of 2011 has hit zero and the partying, shopping and celebrating is done, I’m adding one more to the list: Five myths of green real estate.

After spending the past year working in the real estate sustainability field, I’ve come to see the same misperceptions and misunderstandings repeated over and over again in the discussions and decision-making process surrounding going green. As 2012 gets underway in earnest, now is a good time to point out the most pervasive green myths circulating in the marketplace to give you a little context for your real estate business decisions in the coming year. Read More…

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