Month: May 2015

New Law to Allow Tenants to Showcase Their Energy Efficiency Efforts

By Robert Carr, National Real Estate Investor, 5/15/2015

{ View the original article here. }

Office tenants who became believers in energy conservation
in the heyday of the building sustainability movement about two decades ago only to watch building owners take all the credit have cheered a recent new law that will support, track and promote their efforts at being green.

President Barack Obama signed the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015 on April 30. The bipartisan-sponsored law promises to align the interests of building owners and tenants with regard to investments in cost-effective energy efficiency and water conservation measures, create studies that will examine successful sustainable practices, enact data-tracking systems and provide ways to promote voluntary tenant compliance.

The law, also known as the “Tenant Star” act, includes a new federally-sponsored green building designation that’s similar to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) popular Energy Star system. Energy Star, enacted in 1992, provides an energy-efficient rating system for building products, residential homes and commercial buildings. In a recent report, the EPA said the Energy Star system reduced utility bills for residents and businesses by $34 billion in 2014.

However, tenants, the backbone of energy use in commercial buildings, have neither had a consistent national program to measure efficient energy use, nor a way to tout their specific efforts. Allison Porter, vice president of sustainability services for commercial real estate services firm DTZ, says tenants will now have the same kind of opportunities as Energy Star provides for owners to turn data into a basis for action. The new law will allow space occupiers to take responsibility for their usage and receive recognition for conservation efforts, she says.

“Although whole-building measures like Energy Star are a valuable tool, it’s also crucial to acknowledge that tenants’ use of a space has a huge impact on how a building performs,” Porter says. “By encouraging tenants to design and build energy-efficient spaces, Tenant Star will help align the interests of tenant and landlord. I expect that this alignment will clear a path for a new wave of investment in energy-efficient office space, especially coming at a time when the cost of efficient technologies commonly used in office interiors, such as LED lighting and occupancy sensors, has decreased significantly.”

Porter is joined by many other tenant sustainability supporters in her praise of the new law. Anthony Malkin, chairman, president and CEO of New York City-based Empire State Realty Trust Inc., said in a statement that the new law will align office tenants with their landlords to make smart, cost-effective investments in energy-efficient leased spaces. “Broad adoption will save businesses billions of dollars on energy costs in the coming years,” he said.

Jeffrey DeBoer, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Real Estate Roundtable, which brings together commercial property owners, developers and managers to address national policy issues, called the legislation “a triple win that will spur the economy by creating jobs, enhancing energy security and preserving our environment by cutting greenhouse gases.”


The General Services Administration (GSA), responsible for all federal government leasing in the country, will take responsibility for the first section of the law, also known as the Better Buildings Act of 2015. According to the act, the GSA will create model commercial leasing provisions for energy efficiency by Oct. 31, and may begin enacting these provisions in federal leases. The GSA will also publish these provisions and share them with state, county and municipal governments.

The Secretary of Energy is responsible, under this law, to create a study within one year on the feasibility of significantly improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings through design and construction, by owners and tenants, of spaces that will use energy efficient measures. The study will include, among other requirements, such metrics as return on investment and payback analyses, comparisons of spaces that use these measures and those that don’t, impact on employment and actual case studies and data on the spaces where these measures are implemented. The department will start seeking input on this study after Aug. 1.

In addition, to allow tenants to start touting their green policies, the EPA will create the Tenant Star designation as an offshoot of Energy Star. Not only will tenant data be added into the 23-year-old collection program already in place, the new designation will recognize tenants in commercial buildings who voluntarily achieve high levels of energy efficiency in their leased spaces. The EPA will also create a voluntary program to recognize owners and tenants that use energy efficiency in designing and creating new and retrofit space.

Al Skodowski, director of sustainability with commercial real estate services firm Transwestern, says this new law will help those companies that have been fully engaged in driving green practices for many years.

“The birth of Tenant Star, as another tool to help our tenants understand their use, reduce energy consumption and to save money, is a very exciting opportunity that will help us continue to improve efficiency in the industry,” he says.

Sustainable Building Design

By Julie Lundin, LEED AP ID+C,
Principal, Emerald Skyline Corporation

Our project in Boca Raton is being designed to become a LEED certified building. The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green certification system is a tool for evaluating and measuring achievements in sustainable design. LEED consists of a set of perquisites and credits with specific requirements for obtaining points in order for a building to become LEED certified.

Many people are not familiar with the concept of sustainable design and how it relates to building construction and ongoing building operations. The built environment impacts our natural environment, our society and our economy. This concept is often referred to as the 3 P’s, people, planet and pocketbook. Sustainable design attempts to balance the needs of these areas by integrating design solutions.


EPA 2004

The main objectives of sustainable design are to reduce or avoid depletion of natural resources such as energy, water, and raw materials; prevent environmental damage caused by buildings and their infrastructure; and create livable, comfortable and healthy interior environments.

Sustainable design does not just apply to new construction; retrofitting of existing buildings should be an option and can be more cost-effective than building a new facility. With our project, we opted to retrofit as well as reposition an existing building rather than allowing further decay of the property or demolishing it and building new. My future posts will focus on specific details and products that we will utilize in our sustainable design process.

While the definition of sustainable building design continues to evolve, according to the Whole Building Design Group (WBDG) Sustainable Committee there are six fundamental principles that persist. References to some of our sustainable design solutions that will be written in upcoming posts are included below in the fundamental principles.


Optimize Site Potential

Creating sustainable buildings starts with proper site selection, including the reuse or rehabilitation of existing buildings.

  • We chose a contaminated site and remediated the property.
  • The project is an abandoned auto body garage that will be repurposed rather than demolished.

Location, orientation, and landscaping of a building affect ecosystems, transportation methods, and energy use.

  • A south facing orientation will enable us to harness solar energy and utilize the sun for daylighting within the structure.
  • Proximity to major bus and train lines provides alternative transportation.
  • The use of native plants and rainwater collection

Optimize Energy Use

It is essential to find ways to reduce energy load, increase efficiency, and maximize the use of renewable energy resources.

  • Solar energy via solar panels
  • LED lighting
  • Daylight Harvesting
  • Energy efficient windows, appliances, and HVAC

Protect and Conserve Water

Fresh water is an increasingly scarce resource; a sustainable building should use water efficiently, and reuse or recycle water for on-site use.

  • Cistern and water collection
  • Low flow toilets, sinks, and appliances
  • Grey water use where allowed

Optimize Building Space and Material Use

Available resources are stressed to due demands for additional goods and services. A sustainable building is designed and operated to use and reuse materials, environmentally preferable materials have a reduced effect on human health and the environment.

  • Shared uses for small building space
  • Low VOC paints, sealants and adhesives
  • Use of reclaimed wood

Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)

The IEQ of a building has a significant impact on occupant health, comfort, and productivity. A sustainable building maximizes daylighting, has appropriate ventilation, moisture control, optimizes acoustic performance, and avoids the use of materials with high-VOC emissions.

  • Low VOC paints, sealants and adhesives
  • Flush out building before occupancy
  • Thermal Comfort Control
  • Provide quality views

Optimize Operational and Maintenance Practices

Encourage optimal operations and maintenance systems during the design and development phases, specify materials and systems that simplify and reduce maintenance requirements; require less water, energy and toxic chemicals. Include meters to track sustainability initiatives, reductions in energy and water use and waste generation.

  • Energy and water metering
  • Recycling Waste Plan
  • Building Envelope Commissioning


Utilizing a sustainable design philosophy encourages decisions at each phase of the design process that will reduce negative impacts on the environment and the health of the occupants, without compromising the bottom line. It is an integrated, holistic approach that encourages the balance of people, planet and pocketbook. An integrated approach of sustainable design should positively impact all phases of a building, including design, construction and operation.


Going green – Fifty free or low cost ways for commercial property owners, managers and tenants to begin

PJ PictureBy Paul L. Jones, CPA, LEED Green Associate,
Principal, Emerald Skyline Corporation

Bloomberg CoverCommercial properties consume approximately 20% of the total energy used by the United States. We also know that commercial buildings consume a large portion of water, produce greenhouse gas emissions and generate significant waste. Further, we know that building owners and managers will seek to reduce energy and water consumption as well as greenhouse gas emissions and waste that is taken to a landfill (or the ocean) in order to save on operating expenses and improve the marketability of their property. But, we also know, owners and managers are budget conscious and want to time replacements with the deterioration or functional obsolescence of their systems and equipment.

So, what can an owner, manager or tenant do?

Good news. We have done the research for you and assembled a host of ideas and tips on free or low cost ways to start you on the Path to Sustainable Benefits (Please note that all figures and percentages are approximate and based on published sources; your results may vary):

Reduce, reuse and recycle

  1. Implement a recycling program (be sure to check local recycling and waste reduction guidelines for materials that are eligible to recycle);
  2. Establish a location in the building to recycle used batteries, toner cartridges and miscellaneous hazardous products and partner with a charitable organization to donate used toner cartridges, batteries and other products,
  3. Set up a cell phone recycling drive (contact ReCellular) or partner with a charitable organization to donate used cell phones.
  4. Recycle old or unused furniture whenever
  5. Post signs in production rooms, mail rooms and kitchens as a reminder to reduce, reuse and recycle and the 3 Include information in new tenant welcome packages.
  6. Purchase refurbished or environmentally-friendly new furniture.
  7. Source locally-manufactured/produced products to lower transportation and delivery costs.
  8. Encourage and educate building management personnel and tenants on how they can improve their recycling efforts including:
    • Provide individual paper recycle bins or cardboard boxes at each desk,
    • Provide recycle bins at each copier/printer/fax (more bins than trash cans increases use),
    • Reuse shipping boxes in the mailroom and use shredded waste paper as packing material,
    • Switch to refillable pens and pencils made from recycled materials,
    • Use envelopes a second time with a new address label,
    • Encourage staff who cannot recycle certain items at home to bring these to the office for recycling,
    • Establish a common space for reusable office products,
    • Establish a policy that employees shut down their computers when leaving for the day (“standby” draws power when not in use),
    • Turn off devices besides fax machines that are not in use afterhours before leaving the office,
    • Utilize remanufactured/recycled toner cartridges for printers and fax machines,
    • Save paper with the blank side to b used for scrap/scratch/drafts (reuse) before recycling,
    • Encourage printing on used paper if one side remains clean (use old reports from exiting or outdated hardcopy files to print new data for updated files),
    • Use document scanning and email technology to reduce printing of documents,
    • Encourage employees to read email and files without printing,
    • Set up and use electronic filing rather than a paper filing system,
    • Take the time to redirect undelivered mail with “no longer at this address” written on the envelope,
    • Contact advertisers directly to quit sending unsolicited marketing and catalog products,
    • Notify staff who receive unwanted mail to be removed from mailing lists by contacting Mail Reference Service, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 3861, New York, NY 10163-3861,
    • Use ceramic/glass dishware to reduce wasted paper, plastics and foam cups, and
    • Discontinue the use of individually-bottled water.
    • Use on-demand printing processes rather than push printing that requires bulk ordering of marketing materials (e.g. brochures).

Conserve Energy

  1. Benchmark energy and water consumption through ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager.
  2. Perform regular energy audits to identify opportunities for cost-effective energy reduction. Remember to perform midnight evaluations to make sure lighting and HVAC are not running when the building is unoccupied.
  3. Make sure a/c vents, heaters and radiators are unobstructed by office furniture.
  4. Understand your energy bills and consult your energy supplier(s) to understand the billing rates and any peak-time charges and how they be reduced or avoided.
  5. Adjust the thermostat to be one degree higher during the cooling season and one degree lower during the heating season;
    • Reduce the thermostat in unoccupied rooms or in busy concourse spaces and corridors where people move quickly through anyway
  6. Set thermostats to energy-efficient heating/cooling levels during weekends and evenings,
  7. Inspect all thermostats semi-annually to ensure that they are working properly,
  8. Adopt on-demand HVAC,
  9. Ensure switches are labeled so tenants and staff are aware of switches that are relevant for use and won’t be switching on too many appliances or too much lighting.
  10. Leaving the lighting in vacant spaces off except during use and encourage tenants to turn off lights when departing a conference room or unused space (Better yet: install occupancy sensors (timers are another option) which ensures that even occupied spaces are lit when there is a person the room and off when vacant, further reducing energy consumption;
  11. Install solar shades to block heat.
  12. Switch to day cleaning so lights can be turned off at night rather than at 2:00 am when the cleaning crew is done.
  13. Establish a pro-active HVAC systems and building envelope maintenance programs. Something as simple as replacing worn door seals can cost around $100 per doo, but lead to thousands of dollars in annual savings;
  14. As lightbulbs are replaced, use LED bulbs to help reduce energy consumption;
  15. Install VFD (Variable Frequency Drive) on pumps and water features which minimizes energy use during low demand times;
  16. Vending machines carrying non-perishable items can be set on a timer or switched off during non-work hours (nights and weekends) when the building is closed.
  17. Power flushing your central heating system can reduce fuel wastage by a third as it can remove undesirable corrosion residues, replace aggressive water, quickly restoring circulation, efficiency, and increase the lifespan of your system.
  18. Institute a tenant energy awareness program – use your company newsletter and/or building announcements to keep tenants and their employees informed about energy management goals and how they can help.
    • Provide tenants with energy saving tips
    • Recommend that tenants keep the blinds in the office closed (or almost closed) during peak sun hours and especially on weekends,
    • Recommend that building occupants avoid placing lamps near the thermostats in your space (heat generated by the light causes the HVAC to turn on when not needed to cool the entire office),

Conserve Water

27. Install aerators on faucets (especially in older buildings) to reduce the demand for hot water;

28. Put water heaters on a timer that shuts them off at night and on weekends and add water heater blankets,

29. Insure all hot water piping, including water return piping, is insulated which reduces the amount of time the user waits for hot water and ensures warmer water will be returned to the water plant.

30. Place cistern displacement devices in toilets to reduce flush volume.

31. Use dyes to check and fix toilet cistern leaks.

32. Use native or drought-tolerant plants and landscaping;

33. Use reclaimed water (through the use of rainwater harvesting tanks), irrigation sensors, timers and green products for landscaping, common area amenities and pest control.

34. Add a rain sensor designed to identify when precipitation is present and lock-out a controller so it does not run its program and irrigate when watering is unnecessary. After the rain event, the sensor automatically resets, allowing the controller to resume its schedule without losing any program information.

Indoor Environmental Quality

35. Use sustainable cleaning products and building materials for any tenant improvements or repairs;

36. Have cleaning crews use mircrofiber towels for cleaning rather than wasteful paper towels.

37. Replace bathroom paper products with recycled or post-consumer content paper.

38. Use high-efficiency HVAC filters and change them often.

39. When repainting an area, require the use of low VOC paint or paint that meets Green Seal 11 standards.

40. Paint work areas in lighter colors and use brighter surface design materials to maximize the effect of natural lighting.

41. Ensure remodeled include environmentally-friendly or recycled carpet.

42. Use a plant service to promote clean air and natural cooling.

43. Encourage tenants to position desks closer to natural light to reduce the onset of seasonal depression (aka SAD).


44. Provide incentives, such as free or preferred parking, for building occupants who carpool.

45. Create a message board (either digital or physical) where building occupants can sign-up and find carpool mates.

46. Provide preferred parking for building occupants who drive low emission, fuel-efficient vehicles.

47. Encourage the use of public transportation

48. Provide bicycle storage to encourage building occupants to ride their bikes to work.

49. Hold long-distance meetings via NetMeeting, Live-meeting or other services.

50. Install electronic vehicle chargers