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GreenRenter hopes to increase eco-awareness and encourage green development by helping building owners connect with potential tenants. The fledgling website is using technology to capitalize on growing interest in sustainability and the environment. Just recently, it expanded from Portland, OR to the San Francisco Bay area, Seattle, New York City, Chicago and Boston. It’s now accepting property listings everywhere in the US. In the second of a two-part article, GlobeSt.com asked Pam Neild, one of the site’s three founders, about the role of green development.

GlobeSt.com: From a commercial property perspective, how would you assess the importance of being green? Is it a significant factor for prospective tenants? Neild: In the commercial sector, green building will become the new standard. Owners and developers who don’t develop expertise in green building will be left behind. In fact, they already are. According to the 2007 Green Building Survey from National Real Estate Investor and Retail Traffic, 84% of corporate users and 74% of developers surveyed expect to own, lease or manage green properties by 2012. New commercial building permits with LEED registration continue to climb at a staggering rate. Every business day, developers and owners register more than $100 million worth of commercial construction for certification. The USGBC estimates 10% of the new construction market is following their guidelines. As of May 2008, the organization had 15,000 member companies. Green remodeling of commercial property is on the rise as well. Hundreds of property owners in Portland alone have taken advantage of tax credits and cash incentives available for energy efficient green remodeling.

Tenants are already thinking green as well, and corporate tenants in particular have indicated their willingness to pay a premium to lease space in a LEED building. Almost all of the corporate respondents surveyed for the 2007 Green Building Survey said they’d pay more for green space. Nearly 1 in 4 respondents said they’d pay up to 9% more, slightly over one in four would pay 3% to 4% more. And 39% would pay a 1% to 2% premium.

GlobeSt.com: What criteria are you using for including a commercial building on the site? Do you expect to modify that at all in the near future? Neild: GreenRenter takes an inclusive approach to “greenness.” We recognize the difference between a LEED-certified building and one that has only implemented a few green measures. However, we want to encourage owners and developers to improve the sustainability of their buildings by demonstrating the increased demand that results from such investment. So, any building that has completed at least one green measure can be listed on the site. Our survey–the intake form building owners complete in order to list the building on the site–includes almost 100 possible measures in seven categories: energy, water, building materials, operations, building surroundings, certifications and awards and “other innovative green features.” The last is a text box that allows owners to describe new and innovative green features they’ve implemented that don’t appear elsewhere on our form.

New green building technologies are coming to market at an incredibly fast pace. We account for this in two ways. The “other innovative green features” section allows property owners to elaborate on aspects of their project that are not yet standard practice and are thus not included in the survey. We also plan to release regular updates to the survey in order to keep pace with the market. In doing so, we’ll be guided by our users. Once a green feature begins appearing regularly in the “other” category, we’ll add it to the survey.

GlobeSt.com: What are your short and long-term expansion plans for the site? Neild: In the next two months, we’ll make some major changes. We will launch a new rating system called GreenScore, which will allow users to differentiate properties with numerous green features from those with just a few. We want to continue to be inclusive by allowing all owners to showcase their efforts, whether they’re LEED-certified or just starting to implement green measures. But we also need to help users distinguish among the different “shades of green.” GreenScore will do that. In the longer term, we will continue to add features to serve building owners and renters. This may include enhancing the social networking features and resources.

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