NEW YORK CITY-In Midtown yesterday Senator Charles Schumer called for a national standard to significantly reduce emissions from commercial buildings, according to reports. His proposal will be attached to the Senate’s energy bill, which is expected to be considered next week. An attempt to reach the Senator office for comment was unsuccessful by deadline.

Schumer’s proposal calls for a 30% increase in efficiency by 2012 and a 50% increase by 2022 across the country. Individual states would also be able to establish higher standards, but this would be the minimum requirement. It is estimated that buildings contribute to 40% of the world’s emissions, a total that is almost on par with automobile emissions.

New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg earlier in the year released his PlaNYC which, among other things, calls for a 30% reduction of greenhouse gases by 2030 in order to make the city more environmentally friendly for residents. New York City’s office buildings are said to produce 70% of the area’s emissions; and the city as a whole contributes to 1% of the country’s emissions and 0.25% of the world’s.

And while most new construction is incorporating some degree of environmentally friendly products, the older buildings are the ones that are pricey to upgrade and usually less efficient. Carl Weisbrod, president of Trinity Real Estate, told attendees at British Council for Office’s conference in May, that while greening a building is pricey, it is worth the cost. “Unless the current office space is retrofitted, the mayor’s plan to decrease emissions is not going to be possible,” Weisbrod said, further adding that tenants and owners are looking for environmentally friendly options and are often willing to pay a little bit more for the space.

Last week, CB Richard Ellis announced its plan to have all of its operations carbon neutral by 2010. The firm also plans to act in an advisory role to the more than 1.7 billion sf of properties it manages across the world in the hopes of helping those owners establish green standards. CBRE’s CEO Brett White said at the time, “With leadership comes responsibility. We have the ability, and frankly the responsibly, to impact the way these building are managed.” He expressed the hope that other major real estate services firms will follow suit with an aggressive green plan.

In April CoreNet Global asked its members to reduce its carbon emissions by 50% and energy consumption by 60% over the next five years. “The opportunity is for corporate real estate executives to act,” said CoreNet Global CEO Prentice Knight. “Adoption of measurable, voluntary reductions in carbon emissions by responsible corporations may one day mean fewer government-imposed mandates requiring them.”

Still even with green being the new buzz word, a forecast survey conducted by law firm Bryan Cave found more than one-third of the industry’s professionals will not include green construction in their development pipeline in the next 12 to 18 months. Of those surveyed, only 12% said green construction would be very important, although 48% said it would be somewhat important.

“The fact that the survey reveals such a substantial level of reluctance to embrace green construction is surprising,” said attorney Barry Ross, a partner in Bryan Cave’s Real Estate Group. “Previously viewed as prohibitively expensive by the real estate community, green construction is not universally gaining ground because the true cost-effectiveness of green construction is still a matter of debate.”

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