WASHINGTON, DC-There are a lot of reasons why the commercial real estate industry is pleased to turn the page on 2008: the trajectory of green building, though, is not one of them. Sustainability, despite the economic woes, has remained a key area of interest. To cite just one data point, the recently released GlobeSt.com and Real Estate Forum’s annual Existing Buildings survey, reported that nearly 87% of respondents said that greening their portfolios is a priority for their business, up from 81.5% last year. Almost 81% said that they have allocated funds for green programs in their companies, an increase from just under 64% in 2007.

This interest–and the recognition that green development is also a cost saver and revenue driver in the form of higher rents–is why many in the building community are closely following the changes US Green Building Council is introducing in its LEED rating system. Called LEED v.3 or LEED 2009, the new rating system, which is set to go into effect shortly, incorporates changes important to the building community. Regional credits will be part of the rating system–extra points that have been identified as priorities within a project’s given environmental zone. LEED has also re-weighted the credits to reflect climate change and energy efficiency as higher priorities, according to comments made by Scott Horst, chairman of the LEED Steering Committee, in various news conferences.

Perhaps of greater significance, LEED v.3 has also shifted to a two-year development cycle. This is important because it will give the industry a clearer idea of which standards under development will be moved into LEED, USGBC officials have explained. USGBC has traditionally used the pilot projects to give the industry a sense of where the standards are moving; going forward, though, this standardization path will be more regimented to allow for a smoother transition for developers.

The GlobeSt.com/Real Estate Forum survey–in which USGBC and BOMA also participated–is by no means an isolated finding. Last month Turner Construction Company’s 2008 Green Building Market Barometer reported similar sentiments, with 75% of it’s the 754 commercial real estate executives queried saying they would not be any less likely to construct green buildings because of the economy. Some 83% of executives said they would be “extremely” or “very likely” to seek LEED within the next three years. Of these, 40% expect to pursue Silver, 26% will seek the certified level, 25% will pursue Gold and 10% Platinum.