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Developers who are waiting for a federal mandate before implementing a green building initiative would do better to take advantage of state and local programs already in place, according to a new report prepared for the NAIOP Research Foundation of the National Association of Industrial & Office Parks. Completed by Yudelson Associates, a Tucson-based environmental consulting firm, Green Building Incentives that Work: A Look at How Local Governments are Incentivizing Green Development found more than a hundred local and state governments offering green building incentives to private developers.

“This study brings together all of those incentives in one place and shows local governments who want to offer green building incentive programs examples of leaders,” Yudelson principal Jerry Yudelson tells GlobeSt.com. The consultant says previous studies have demonstrated that green buildings offer the most cost-effective way to carry out environmental public policy goals. “The remaining question,” he continues, “is how these programs should be structured. My study points the way for government action that works together with the private sector to achieve mutually beneficial goals.”

Available by free download from the NAIOP web site, the study is intended as an effective manual for developers who want to work with local governments on green building incentives. “Most developers prefer the carrot to the stick,” says Yudelson, “and I wanted to show them how to sell green building programs to local governments.”

The report assesses what optimal mix of economic and procedural incentives may further green building goals. It contains an appendix of local government programs, policies and incentives, organized by state and city and type of program. According to the study, the most popular incentives local and state government can offer real estate developers are faster permit processing and limited property tax abatements, followed by density bonuses and faster plan review.

John Schinter, director of global energy services for Chicago-based Jones Lang, agrees existing state and local programs provide sufficient economic justification for developers to introduce environmentally friendly measures into construction plans. “You don’t need to wait for federal programs to come into place,” he says. “Right now, one in seven cities throughout the US has green programs and enhancements available, and next year it’s going to go to one in five cities.”

The Jones Lang exec points to the example of Oregon, which has issued some 13,000 tax credits for various eco-friendly installations from solar heating and more efficient lighting to drought-resistant landscaping and water re-use. He says state incentives cover about 35% of costs of environmental measures in the form of the tax relief in the year of implementation. He cites his company’s home town as another good example, noting it will pay landlords $5,000 to install a green roof on their buildings and expedite construction or renovation permits for energy efficiency improvements.

To take advantage of the programs, Schinter recommends developers and landlords have someone on staff with responsibility for tracking programs in each one of the cities in which they have facilities. He advocates “routinely and rigorously” applying for available incentives.

“Greening your real estate portfolio is extremely important,” says Schinter. “There’s a lot of benefits, certainly in the public arena, as well as really reducing your operating expenses.” He advises taking quick action rather than waiting to see if better programs become available. “Don’t wait,” he states. “There’s a number of these kinds of programs that are available, which you should take advantage of today, because tomorrow they may not exist and the federal legislation may rapidly change to influence what those credits are,”

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