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Interest in green leases–and technologies to support the trend–is growing. Commercial real estate professionals say tenants want environmentally responsible buildings, especially if sustainability is part of their business plans. But developers and property owners can benefit, too.

By building green, developers can save money, reduce construction costs and creating sustainable buildings. Owners save money by reducing operation and maintenance costs and lowering utility bills. At least that’s the assessment of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which incorporated state-of-the-art technology in its Albany headquarters to minimize the building’s impact on the environment.

Just this month, the California Sustainability Alliance released its Green Leases Toolkit, which it describes as a framework for leased office building owners and tenants “to work together to reduce the environmental footprint of their facilities.” California utility customers, with support from the California Public Utilities Commission, fund the alliance.

“The launch of the Green Leases Toolkit marks a significant shift in the way we think about ‘greening’ leased business space and gives landlords and tenants of existing space the opportunity to experience many of the same ‘green’ benefits found in new construction projects, including operating cost savings, enhanced productivity, a healthier environment, and increased asset values,” the organization states.

Green leasing goes beyond the negotiation and drafting of lease language. The California Sustainability Alliance describes it as the integration of energy and water efficiency, emissions reduction, waste minimization and other sustainability objectives throughout the entire commercial leasing process. “The integration of sustainability objectives throughout the leasing process includes service provider selection, needs analysis and communication, request for proposal (RFP) and letter of intent (LOI) drafting, site due diligence, site selection, and ultimately, the negotiation and drafting of realistic and enforceable lease language,” it notes.

The Green Leases Toolkit is designed to assist tenants and property owners with the greening of leasehold sites by incorporating specific tools and workflow into the leasing process. The toolkit “provides the opportunity for significant, currently untapped savings of energy, water and waste” in California.

B. Alan Whitson, president of the Corporate Realty, Design & Management Institute, a member of BOMA International’s Energy and Environment Committee and the lead presenter for TurningGreen into Gold , notes the term “green leasing” is relatively new.

Whitson says a green lease encourages property owners to compete for tenants by designing, building and managing sustainable buildings without sacrificing comfort or service while maximizing the property owner’s return on investment. It ensures that tenants receive the full use of space in a high-performance building over the lease term at a competitive price.

However, the term green lease is still hard to define because “few people have ever negotiated a green lease. A “green” lease is more than just language to stipulate product requirements and practices. A truly green lease requires rethinking the basic tenets of today’s office lease, ” he adds.

But there is no simple way to design such a “green lease,” experts say. Although the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards is widely used throughout the industry, the group focuses primarily on design and construction. Energy use, water efficiency, chemical use or other vital aspects of green operation are another story, explains Douglas White, an attorney, real estate broker and founder of theGreenAttorney.com.

Industry experts say it’s getting easier to incorporate green elements in building leases. The U.S. Green Building Council is developing a LEED rating system for Commercial Interiors and Renovations that it predicts will be helpful in guiding negotiations and design. Among the issues it addresses:

Indoor Air Quality: A properly designed, sized, installed, and maintained HVAC system is one of the greatest contributors to indoor environmental quality. In leased space, it advises tenants to look for low-emission materials, especially paints, wall coverings, carpets and carpet padding, adhesives, sealants, varnishes, particleboard and furnishings.

Energy Consumption:An organization leasing an entire building may be able to require substantial upgrades, including modifications to the HVAC system, addition of an energy management system, installation of improved T-8 fluorescent lighting and more.

Water Use:During renovations of restrooms, replace fixtures (or valves) with low-flow products; when upgrading faucets and urinals, products can be installed that significantly exceed water conservation standards.

Materials: Include salvage or recycling of materials, including ceiling grid systems, doors and wood flooring, and installation of materials with high recycled content, such as carpet and insulation.

Recycling Programs: Paper waste accounts for the greatest quantity of solid waste in commercial buildings.

Transportation: Consider access to public transportation when selecting a building.

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