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DENVER-The recent decision of ProLogis to seek LEED certification from the US Green Building Council for all its new developments in this country moves the industrial property sector a major step forward toward going green. As the nation’s and world’s largest developer and owner of distribution buildings, the company will ultimately force its competitors to consider a similar move.

But as significant as the decision is, ProLogis is neither the first industrial real estate company to introduce sustainable practices into its development program nor the first to commit itself whole-heartedly to environmentally conscious development. Several rival firms had made comparable shifts as much as a year before the Denver-based REIT made its mid January announcement.

One of the earliest, if not the earliest, to make a full commitment to sustainable practices was Liberty Property Trust of Malvern, PA. In 2006 the company began construction of the nation’s largest green warehouse and distribution center, a $22 million build-to-suit in Sturtevant, WI for cleaning products manufacturer and supplier JohnsonDiversey Inc.

The project, which encompasses 550,000 sf on a 38-acre site in Renaissance Business Park, a 390-acre business park being developed by the Village of Sturtevant and Milwaukee-based MLG Development, was last year’s winner of the “Green Development Award” in the build-to-suit category awarded by the National Association of Industrial & Office Parks.

But Liberty’s commitment to green development goes well beyond the one project, says Liberty senior vice president John DiVall, head of the REIT’s Phoenix office. According to DiVall, every project in Liberty’s $1 billion pipeline for ’07 was designed to meet LEED standards. The pipeline included the Phoenix market’s first LEED-certified industrial building and office building. It also included the nation’s tallest LEED certified building, a 60-story Philadelphia skyscraper being built for Comcast.

The commitment has continued into the new year. In December Liberty purchased a 225-acre parcel in Minooka, IL for development of a 3.5 million-sf industrial park with all the buildings designed to achieve LEED certification. Unlike the Sturtevant project, the park is being undertaken on a speculative basis.

This past summer Watson Land Co. of Carson, CA launched a sustainable building program for all its industrial developments, beginning with the 1.3 million-sf Watson Commerce Center-Chino in Chino, CA. The program incorporates building design, construction materials and practices as well as operational elements that will reduce environmental impacts, enhance energy efficiency and improve the work environment for its customers. Watson has begun construction of the first two of its LEED-compliant buildings at the site and in two months will break ground on another 500,000-sf project in Redlands, CA.

Lance Ryan, Watson’s vice president of marketing and leasing, tells GlobeSt.com that customer demand is driving the move to sustainability. “What we’re finding is these Fortune 500 companies have added LEED certification to their RFPs,” he says. “They’re asking questions in advance about what we’re going to do to address environmental issues.”

Ryan believes the ProLogis decision sends a clear signal that green building is quickly going mainstream. “I think you’ll see significant momentum in 2008, particularly with ProLogis on board. Developers that don’t operate this way will soon be the exception, not the rule.”

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