Some in Commercial Real Estate Are Addressing Carbon Footprint

By Naomi Millán, Associate Editor  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Comprehensive Energy, Climate Legislation Still Has Chance of PassingPt. 2: Climate Change Still Battling Court of Public Opinion in USPt. 3: Comprehensive Reform Will Affect Buildings Beyond Class APt. 4: This Page

Risk Mitigation

As debate continues, many in commercial real estate are not waiting to address their organization's carbon footprint. Many large and international companies are already reporting greenhouse gas emissions."We are seeing it as being increasingly important, especially for building owners trying to attract higher-profile tenants to the building," says Amann.

Factoring in potential legislation and the effects of a changing climate is part of many organizations' risk analysis."Our clients are taking potential legislation seriously because to not do so bears incredible risk," says Bailey."This is not only the risk of costs due to being unprepared, but also the projected up-tick in electricity prices. That's a cost that many of our clients might not have projected in their budgets going forward. But then there's also the cost of missed opportunities, and it just helps to be prepared for where the nation is going."

Indeed there is so much global concern about climate change and confusion about how to approach the greenhouse gas emissions reporting demanded by shareholders that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was spurred to make a statement on disclosure requirements related to climate change. In February of this year, it clarified that under existing regulation, publicly traded companies are required to disclose their exposure to risk from"known trends, events, demands, commitments and uncertainties that are reasonably likely to have a material effect on financial condition or operating performance." The areas where the SEC determined disclosure may be required are: legislation and regulation, including pending legislation; international accords; regulation or business trends; and physical impacts of climate change.

Emissions reporting is also being addressed by BOMA, which is working on a revision of its green lease guide, due out by the fall. BOMA is looking into the issue of documenting and reporting emissions and how that reporting affects leasing and tenants, says Penafiel."Emissions (reductions) are coming and documentation is part of the step towards emissions reductions."

In the end, the most compelling argument for addressing climate change through comprehensive energy policy doesn't have to be just about being"eco" at all."Forget about climate change," says Majersik."Let's imagine that climate change isn't a reality. Then we will have spent all this money on creating jobs, saving energy, and saving building owners and managers money."

Building Star

In the face of the quagmire that is comprehensive climate change legislation, a lot of hope is being placed on other narrowly focused legislation and initiatives. One of these is the Building Star program, the commercial corollary to the Home Star bill, a.k.a."Cash for Caulkers." In the House, Home Star passed 246-161 in early May but still needs Senate approval.

Building Star was introduced in early March by Rep. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and its two-year $6 billion authorization is aimed at job creation through rebates and tax incentives for energy-efficiency retrofits in commercial and multi-family residential buildings.

"Building Star is a good idea," says Cliff Majersik, executive director of the Institute for Market Transformation." Clearly large buildings are a significant source of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. And we need to address them with all cost-effective tools."

Building Star also has the support of many industry groups such as the Real Estate Roundtable and BOMA International, which hopes it will be included in an upcoming jobs bill.

— Naomi Millán

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  posted on 5/28/2010   Article Use Policy

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