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Making commercial real estate more sustainable and energy-efficient was a rising and seemingly unstoppable trend until the capital markets implosion 13 months ago. For many in the industry–including an overwhelming 81% of the respondents to last week’s poll–green buildings will have to take a back seat until lending and fundamentals begin to stabilize. Lesley Lisser, senior asset manager with FirstService Williams, sides with the 19% who agreed that green buildings are more important than ever, and offers a much different view of the value of sustainability. As a case in point, she’s overseeing the green retrofit of the Argonaut Building at the corner of West 57th Street and Broadway in partnership with M1 Real Estate.

“You have to spend more money anyway on TIs right now to attract tenants. Landlords that we’re working with, including ourselves on the Argonaut, are realizing that it’s worth it to take the extra effort to make the space sustainable in terms of lowering operating costs and putting in energy efficient features. Soon, it’s going to be mandated, and we’re all going to do have to do it. But by doing it now, you can take advantage of the incentives that are available, which won’t be available forever. Since you have to spend the extra dollars to attract tenants, you may as well do it smartly and make it part of why a tenant should come to your building.

“We’re also finding that tenants are asking, ‘are you green?’ As we’re talking to tenants for the Argonaut, we’re finding they’re happy that we’re green because they were in a sustainable space at their other location. And if you explain to them that their operating costs will be lower, their electric bills will be reduced, they’re very interested in hearing about that.

“We had a meeting just the other day where the owner didn’t realize that maybe they’ll spend a few more bucks, but they’ll get back these incentives and have an extra marketing edge. And as we all know, the cost of building green is coming down.”

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