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Corporate real estate executives are convinced that sustainability is a critical factor in their decisions, but really aren’t willing to pay much more for it, according to the results of a survey by Jones Lang LaSalle and CoreNet Global.

But that actually might be a positive sign, as it shows that going green has become mainstream, says John Schinter, president of Energy and Sustainability Services of JLL, Chicago. The survey was first conducted last year by Jones Lang LaSalle–a real estate management and services firm–and CoreNet–the Atlanta-based professional association for corporate real estate and workplace executives. “Clearly, we’re seeing a large emphasis on the service side that results in reduced costs,” Schinter says.

More than 400 corporate real estate executives from around the world responded to this year’s survey, which was conducted in September and October. About three-quarters of the respondents were based in the Americas, though the majority had multinational portfolios.

Perhaps the most astonishing result was the nearly unanimous agreement on the importance of sustainability, Schinter said. Only 4% of the respondents said that sustainability would “never” be a critical business issue, while 69% said it already is critical and 18% said it would be in one to two years. The remainder gave a longer time frame, more than three years, for the concern to become critical. “That’s nearly 100%,” Schinter points out. “That’s amazing.”

It also is a dramatic increase over last year’s survey, in which 47% said sustainability was a critical issue. This is more than just lip service, according to the results, with 40% of the respondents saying that energy and sustainability are a major factor in their organizations location decisions and another 36% saying it’s a tiebreaker. More than 1 in 4 (26%) always consider Green Building ratings in administering their portfolio, with an additional 54% consider the ratings to some degree.

But that doesn’t mean that these executives are willing to pay extra for the privilege: 43% of the respondents said they would not pay more for a sustainable space, and 28% said they would only pay 1% to 5% more. Last year, 77% said they were willing to pay extra for green space. Several factors may play into the shift, Schinter says.

“Clearly, we’re seeing a large emphasis on the service side that results in reduced costs,” Schinter says. “You probably have the economy playing a role, the real estate executives themselves playing a role,” and a larger emphasis on recycling–the top action implemented, mentioned by 80% of respondents–energy efficiency and workplace strategies to achieve those goals.

In fact, 54% of respondents are reducing energy costs by reducing occupancy, allowing telecommuting–cited by 47%–and office sharing that reduces needed office space and saves on gas usage. Daylighting was cited by 36%, in a move that helps both the environment and its employees.

“Approximately 80% of respondents said energy costs were very important, with 65% saying their employees’ health and productivity were very important,” Schinter says. “More are realizing that healthier space is better for employees.”

And the employee attitudes may be the biggest shift, he added, creating another focus for real estate executives. “We’re now getting to expectations by occupants,” Schinter says. “Everybody always is concerned about operating costs. Now there is so much participation and so much interest. Occupiers of space are asking for this.”

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