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They don’t design, build or manage buildings, so why on earth should real estate brokers be green? To better market, lease and coordinate the sale of energy-efficient properties, say the Commercial Brokers Association and the Cascadia Green Building Council, which have launched an online Certified Green Broker education program designed for commercial real estate industry professionals.

“We’re excited,” says Tricia Deering, president and CEO of the Seattle-based CBA. “We do a lot of educational programs for brokers, but this feels like it is so much more important.”

The program arose from a simple query from a member looking for a “green broker,” Deering recalls. “We said, no we don’t, but I do know developers who building sustainable buildings,” Deering says. “We thought this was getting big enough and important enough to pursue.”

The CBA approached Cascadia about creating a course. “It was one of those things that was very fortuitous,” says Jason F. McLennan, CEO of Portland, OR-based Cascadia. Cascadia is one of three original chapters of the US Green Building Council and, as a chapter of the Canada Green Building Council as well, is the only international chapter in North America. “Some of our members are brokers.”

The goal is to prepare brokers to discuss the features and advantages of the buildings they represent. Developing the program took about a year to ensure that the mix of information was appropriate for the audience.

“When talking about an architect or engineer there’s a depth of technical data,” McLennan says. “But [brokers] need to understand how it shows up in the value of a building, its operating costs, because green building touches all of those things. They need to know what LEED is, to know the whys and results.”

The program consists of 10 three-hour seminars presented in an interactive, online format. The course commences with green building basics and continues onto in-depth subject areas such as the development of green leases, the valuation of green buildings land use laws, and specific “green” and toxic materials. Brokers learn the benefits of green leasing to both landlords and tenants including tax incentives, return on investment and reduced energy costs. Each seminar contains instruction and quizzes.

“There were definitely a lot of ‘A-ha!’ moments,” Deering recalls. “The key thing the brokers need to know is that there is a business reason why owners and managers [build green].”

The course is available online 24 hours a day, and offers 30 hours of real estate continuing education credit where applicable.

“In today’s world, people are really busy,” McLennan says. “They can log in 24/7.”

Participants in the program will have unlimited access to the Green Broker reference library, which contains sustainability resource materials. “They can dig as deep as they want,” McLennan says.

The seminars must be completed within 90 days, and the student must then pass–with 75%–a timed final exam for certification. A core group of experts developed the questions for the certification test. Brokers who do not pass the exam the first time out can take it once more. If they fail a second time, they must repeat the course. After two years, brokers must take a refresher class to maintain their certification.

Certified brokers will be included in a national directory and have access to the Green Broker Institute, a web-based depository dedicated to program graduates. The Institute will provide industry and educational updates and a broker feedback forum for the sharing of information and contacts.

The Certified Green Broker course website is http://greenbrokereducation.com/. The course syllabus, overview and a live demonstration are available for public preview. The course is being offered at an introductory rate of $750 per course through May 2009. After June 1, the retail price is $975. Group discounts are available.

The program was tested by a small group prior to launch, allowing the CBA and Cascadia the opportunity to revise the curriculum and procedures as information changes. The two work together to update the course as needed.

The course was launched last week, and 15 people signed up quickly. The CBA hopes to see 300 people taking the course this year, a goal Deering acknowledges is aggressive, but achievable.

In fact, “a couple” of national firms are looking at including the program in their own educational curriculum, Deering reports. “We’ve been asked, ‘Why do we need to do this?’” Deering says. “I can tell you why: It’s a big piece of our business.”

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