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Property Managers Carry the Sustainability Banner

May 21, 2019 | John Salustri

“Over the years, the concept of sustainability has endured a number of transformations,” IREM President Don Wilkerson, CPM, writes in his latest column for NREI. “In its infancy, it was all about the building envelope. We watched it grow through the green movement—which largely focused on products and procedures to save the planet—to encompass both global and personal concerns, such as wellness and fitness.”

Wilkerson points out that today, investors, owners and asset and property managers realize not only the need for sustainability from an environmental standpoint, but equally from the standpoint of cost-effectiveness and differentiation:

“Done wisely, investing in a building or portfolio’s sustainability strategy can not only reduce downstream costs—such as in operations and maintenance—but there is also strong evidence that it can serve as a corporate differentiator.”

As proof of concept, he points to a recent Gallup article profiling the efforts of Ray Anderson, founder and chairman of Interface, a maker of commercial carpet tile, an industry heavily dependent on the petrochemical business, “not exactly the go-to industry for green guidance,” he says. Nevertheless:

“Between 1996 and 2008, Interface cut its net greenhouse gas emissions by 71 percent... while increasing sales by 66% and doubling its earnings,” said the article, which was tellingly titled, “Making Green While Going Green”.

“It stands to reason that, if such strides are possible in a waste-heavy climate such as manufacturing, building management’s path to reduced carbon footprints must be infinitely smoother,” the IREM president observes. “Which is good news since A) a growing number of institutional investors expect an active green strategy on the part of companies and assets in which they place their bets, and B) despite comparisons with manufacturing, real estate is still a major contributor to pollution.

This is based on U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) data indicating that multi-occupant properties of all stripes, including schools, offices and grocery stores, spew nearly 40 percent of carbon emissions today.

But, as Wilkerson indicates, “Building managers are on the front lines of building a sustainable strategy. Your operations are elbows deep in the performance of these assets with the knowledge and (we would hope) the commitment to increase that performance at all levels.”

As for IREM itself, for the third year in a row, it’s been named ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year, and this year received its highest honor, the Sustained Excellence Award for energy efficiency programs that feature ENERGY STAR tools and resources. Some of IREM’s AMO Firms are also ENERGY STAR award recipients, including CBRE and Cushman & Wakefield.

“In addition,” Don writes, “our Certified Sustainable Property (CSP) program has expanded to include medical office and senior housing portfolios. The CSP volume program, which assists property owners and managers that want to certify portfolios of 10 assets or more, also is growing, attracting more companies across all property types.”

But here comes a strange disconnect, because as the column points out, there is evidence that occupants don’t relate our industry with healthy environments. “This disturbing fact was brought out by a recent public opinion survey sponsored by the USGBC,” says Wilkerson, “which revealed that, ‘People want to live in a healthy environment, but don’t typically associate green buildings with being part of the solution. When asked which terms most strongly relate to the environment and being green, only 11 percent said green buildings.

 “‘When considering the connection between green buildings and personal health,’ the survey revealed, ‘almost a third (32 percent) indicated they have direct, personal experience with bad health associated with poor environments or living situations. In addition, when ranking how healthy their local environment is on a scale of 1 to 10, 65 percent gave it less than an eight.’

“If ever there was one,” he concludes, “this a call to action for building managers, but not building managers alone. It is a clarion call for the industry, from designers and developers to building and asset managers. Quite literally, our future depends on it.”

About the Author
John Salustri is editor-in-chief of Salustri Content Solutions, Inc., a consultancy focused on enhancing the web and print content of clients around the nation. He is a regular contributor to JPM Magazine and a frequent blogger for IREM. Prior to launching SCS, John was founding editor of GlobeSt.com.

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