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Property management today has always been about more than just turning on the lights–but now, managers increasingly are helping building owners with sustainability issues.Major managers are helping their clients go green, preaching to owners what managers themselves have been practicing at their own offices. Houston-based management companies Hines Interests and Transwestern are debuting programs to help their clients achieve more sustainable buildings.

“The larger corporate tenants are certainly asking for it,” says Al Skodowski, senior vice president and director of LEED® and sustainability for Houston-based Transwestern. “More often now, the owners are coming to us.”

A six-time Energy Star award winner, Transwestern is educating and assisting owners about sustainability at its 595 properties across the country. On Earth Day, it introduced “Ready…Set…GREEN,” a year-round program dedicated to educating building tenants and its own staff on ways to reduce their environmental footprint. But this effort is just one of several programs and services to assist its tenants with sustainability.

When the firm takes on a new management property, the building must be Energy Star benchmarked within 90 days. The results can be surprising. Skodowski noted that he had recently audited five new buildings, and two achieved just 3 points and 9 points, respectively on the EPA Energy Star’s 100-point scale–the others scored 94 points, 95 points and 96 points.

“This ownership hires multiple management companies, so that’s pretty typical,” Skodowski says. “We force the implementation of the correct policies and procedures, such as green cleaning. We’ll recommend what credits to work on and in some cases connect [the owner] with a contractor.”

The service can extend even to coordinating a building’s LEED application. “We ask [owners] to send data back to us. We’ll do the calculations,” Skodowski says. “We’ll do the upload to the USGBC. It’s a one-stop shop.” By standardizing and handling the process for multiple properties, Transwestern can reduce the cost of applying for LEED certification, now typically between $60,000 and $70,000, to perhaps as little as $15,000.

“Our goal is to get everyone in our company exposed to LEED,” Skodowski says. In this vein, the firm plans to launch a new program, called “LEEDer,” to help its managed properties earn certification points in stages.

The HinesGO (Hines Green Office) program, launched internally in December 2008, is now available to the company’s 4,300 office tenants worldwide. “Over 60% of our offices are green worldwide,” says Alan Cranfill, Hines’ manager of corporate services. “We wanted to make sure we were doing it for [our]selves before rolling it out.” Hines manages more than 120 million square feet in over 100 cities in the United States, Mexico, Canada, Panama, Brazil, China and Russia.

Initiatives range from the sophisticated–motion sensors to turn off lights–to the relatively simple–double-sided printing. The offices are scored on a scale of 100 after being evaluated in seven categories: energy efficiency; people and atmosphere; travel & commuting; reduce, reuse & recycle; cleaning; remodeling and construction; and LEED. Participating tenants earn “Leaf Credits” by implementing specific strategies. If an office achieves 70 Leaf Credits, it is then designated as a “Green Office”.

Tenants were asking for the service, Cranfill noted, requesting help for everything from recycling to energy efficiency. “We predict this will be one of the most successful programs Hines has ever launched,” Cranfill says.

Overall tenant guides with support material have been sent to Hines’ property managers, allowing them to customize the program to each tenant, allowing the elimination of items that the tenants cannot influence, such as pest control. “But there is still an opportunity for tenants to get involved with light bulbs,” for example, Cranfill says.

Perhaps surprisingly, one goal behind the Hines program is not to serve as a competitive advantage, to attract new business. “We do realize it may be a side benefit,” Cranfill says. “We are expecting a great response, though it may not come as quickly as our internal program.”

These programs should increase communication with building owners. But can they also open a possibly combative dialogue as managers and tenants debate who’s in charge of what green initiative? Hines’ Cranfill says no. The company has long been a leader in sustainability, working with the US Green Building Council and Energy Star, and has been very transparent about its efforts.

“We’ve been green for a long time,” Cranfill says. “We’re not opening a can of worms. But for our competitors, it might.”

Demand for such assistance is likely to increase. “Landlords are saying, ‘Tenants are coming up for renewal and I need to be LEED Gold,’” Skodowski says. “Three years ago, if I told an owner about storm water use and recapture, they’d laugh. Now they get excited.”

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