ATLANTA-An overwhelming 79% of corporate real estate professionals consider sustainability an important issue today or believe it will be within the next one to two years, according to research unveiled during the CoreNet Global Summit here. Called “Sustainability Perceptions and Trends in the Real Estate Industry,” it was conducted by CoreNet Global and Jones Lang LaSalle and based on a survey of 414 industry professionals at CoreNet Global Summits in London, Melbourne, Denver and Singapore.

While there are similarities among respondents’ views worldwide, interest is highest in Europe where 90% of survey participants there consider sustainability important or very important. Energy utilization is the most important driver of interest, said Ben Breslau, VP and director of occupier research at JLL. That is followed by a corporate responsibility to operate an environmentally friendly business. “The CEO focus and the employee focus are moving up the ladder,” he said, adding, “and higher in Europe than in the US.”

More than three quarters, 77% of those surveyed are willing to pay a premium for sustainability, “but there is a gap between what it actually costs and what those surveyed believe it costs,” Breslau said. He pointed to studies indicating that building to LEED standards costs between 1% and 5% more than conventional construction, and the incremental cost is falling.

Yet, 52% of those surveyed believe the premium is 5% or more, and 22% believe green buildings cost 10% more to build than conventional ones. Just 8% of all those surveyed believe the cost is the same, and a mere 1% worldwide think sustainable building costs less than conventional construction.

The rising interest in sustainability is a recent and “dramatic shift,” said Eric Bowles, VP and director of research for CoreNet Global. In his association’s talks with senior executives of large US corporations nine months ago, he said, “sustainability was barely on the radar screen. Now, among the same group, it has risen to ‘important’. The world is ready to support sustainability,” he concluded.

While the corporate world may be ready, most markets are not. Despite companies’ desire for sustainable real estate and their willingness to pay for it, they have few options. Just 17% of those surveyed said there is good, or widely available sustainable real estate solutions in markets where their companies need to locate.

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