Today we are witnessing a movement in which people are sensitive and knowledgeable about how their communities affect their health and the environment. Reducing one’s carbon imprint and implementing sustainable building practices are becoming more critical now for developers, property owners, tenants and related service companies. Current and future residents will associate the important steps being taken for enhancing their surroundings with the caring concern of ownership. As a result, customer service has to become “green” too, and rest assured, environmentally sensitive factors will play a part when purchasing or renting a residential or multi-family housing unit or leasing commercial space.

Consequently, property owners would be remiss to ignore the focus on the green movement, which began in the 1990s. According to the US Green Building Council, in 2007 green buildings accounted for 10 to 15 percent of overall new construction. In the last three years the USGBC has witnessed phenomenal membership growth from 500 to approximately 12,000 members.

The USGBC is creating a blueprint for environmentally responsible and healthy places to live and work and has developed a ratings system for sustainable building practices, referred to as Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design. Based on sustainable building practices criteria, silver, gold and platinum certificates are earned. These are quickly being recognized on a national and global basis.

Ownership has realized the long-term sustainability benefits of what LEED certification and going green is all about. This type of forward thinking and environmentally sensitive practice is leading to improvements in the use of energy, cleaning, maintenance systems and equipment, air quality and much more. LEED certification can positively impact the value of the property and the overall satisfaction derived by the existing clientele.

One basic benefit of going green is demonstrated improvements in indoor air quality. Given that Americans spend 90% of their time indoors, and that the EPA designated air pollution as a top environmental risk to public health, it is easy to understand the immediate impact and importance of this one aspect of LEED certification. Initiatives aimed at the reduction of pollutants, debris and air particles that contain dust and other contaminants result in better working environments for our personnel, residents and tenants.

In this day and age, building service providers must address the most important area of impact for tenants and property owners–their surrounding environment. According to a recent survey conducted by Corporate Express US Inc., 60% of the participants want to live and work in green environments. Companies need to join the green movement in order to provide the best service to their customers and develop environmentally friendly business practices and policies to ensure a clean, safe and healthy environment. Building service providers should consider implementing cleaning systems and introducing green products and programs that deliver designated LEED credits, while also enhancing the overall service delivery in their properties.

In addition, recognizing that obtaining the highly desired LEED certification is an extremely involved and time consuming process, consider devising a service that offers clients the capability to deliver specific credits required to obtain LEED certification, taking the burden off of ownership. These credits include entryway systems, low environmental impact cleaning policies and green site and building exterior management. Companies need to make the commitment and the investment to train senior and mid-level management staff to become LEED accredited.

Green cleaning is another important aspect of a sustainable initiative, and has a direct impact on tenants, service providers and their environments. Green cleaning has been found to reduce the risk of exposure–for both building occupants and maintenance personnel–to potentially hazardous chemical, biological and particle contaminants. Today there is a range of cleaning products that have the EPA’s approval and can replace existing products. Aside from being safe for the environment, these green cleaning products also help to control diseases caused by toxins and corrosive chemicals, as well as allergic reactions and eye, skin or lung damage.

Given today’s economic climate, it seems clear that we should all jump on the green bandwagon. However, some companies may be in a cost cutting phase and are not prepared to invest in training at this time. That said, companies should continue to raise the bar for accountability and professionalism within our industry, and environmentally sensitive initiatives are no different. These solid business practices will help build stronger relationships with those companies who are doing the same in construction, development and real estate ownership. Going green is a win-win for everyone and its time has come.

Robert A. Francis, LEED AP, is president of Parsippany-based Planned Companies. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.

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