CBRE cited as among the greenest property managers in the nation

December 23, 2009
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As far as U.S. commercial real estate firms go, Newsweek said the CB Richard Ellis Group is the greenest of the green.

The weekly national news magazine recently released its ranking of the nation’s top 500 greenest public companies, and the list put CBRE at 45th overall and third in the financial sector. But more importantly, CBRE was rated first for commercial real estate companies.

“It does feel good,” said Drew Miller, managing director of CBRE in Grand Rapids. “We started this three-plus years ago. We picked the right initiatives and we’re proud to be part of the group.”

As Miller noted, a little over three years ago CBRE became the first commercial realtor to announce it was making a commitment to become carbon neutral in its own operations and to assist owners of properties it manages to become more energy efficient.

“It’s a nice recognition that we’re tracking the right kind of initiatives. One of our major ones is corporate citizenship, and we feel this fits as a part of that. It’s nice to be recognized for the efforts that we’ve made both globally and locally,” said Miller.

“This fits, obviously, with our overall corporate view. But I would say it’s also great in Grand Rapids since we are, at least per capita, the greenest city in the entire country, if I’m not mistaken,” said Michael Martz, a LEED-certified property manager for CRBE.

In addition to the Newsweek ranking, the U.S. Environmental Agency named CBRE an Energy Star Partner of the Year for the past two years, the only commercial real estate services company to attain that recognition.

“We’ve got that plaque proudly displayed at the front desk here in our office,” said Miller.

On top of that, the U.S. Green Building Council awarded the firm its Leadership Award for Organizational Excellence in its industry group earlier this year, and CoreNet recognized CBRE with a special commendation for Sustainable Design and Development.

Key to all those recent recognitions is the company’s commitment to the Energy Star program. On a 10-point list that makes up what CRBE calls its standards of sustainability, a promise to follow the EPA program at all the office buildings it manages is at the top. That involves registering each building with the program and tracking its monthly energy use, and pursuing certification plaques for owners who want one.

“That is what is really driving most of the green initiatives that we’re doing, because energy is the biggest cost and has the actual biggest savings potential,” said Miller.

The Campau Square Plaza Building at 99 Monroe Ave. NW is the most notable energy saver of the buildings CRBE/GR manages. The EPA gave the 13-level, 200,000-square-foot structure an Energy Star designation this year, its second in the past two years.

The building’s owner, Westminster Campau LLC, has saved roughly $200,000 in energy costs for each of those years after making an investment to become greener three years ago.

“We’ve already benchmarked several (other buildings), and we have several that don’t meet the criteria to get rated yet. But that is the first step of figuring out where a building is operating and what we may be able to do in order to get there,” said Martz.

A few other CRBE sustainability standards include using green cleaning products and processes, recycling as much waste as possible, and getting tenants involved in the program.

“From an overall viewpoint, recent studies have shown that about 40 percent of the earth’s greenhouse gases come from buildings,” said Miller.

“We are the largest global manager of properties, as well as locally, and where we see our influence is working with the ownerships to understand how buildings are built, how they source their services, and how they’re occupied,” he added. “That’s where we see we have influence.”

Miller said his firm uses an accountability measurement called the sustainability quotient to help building owners see where energy savings can come from and which programs can make their operations greener. Miller called it the starting point, and Martz said many owners are willing to give it a try.

“A lot of them are, especially when you start showing them the savings, even if they have to put some money into it initially, if they see a payback within three to five years. If they’re going to hang on to that building for at least that period of time, that also makes a building worth more because anything you can do to drive down those expenses affects the bottom line of the property,” said Martz.

In addition to ranking CRBE the greenest commercial real estate firm, Newsweek rated it second in its sector for green policies and performance. The firm finished 32nd in that category in the top 500 ranking of U.S. companies.

“The whole initiative is on conservation,” said Miller. “There are some upfront things that need to be taken care of, but for the long term, a building owner can be well positioned in the market when tenants are looking for those savings. It kind of differentiates you in the market.”

Newsweek collaborated with KLD Research & Analytics, CorporateRegister.com and Trucost to compile the ranking of U.S. publicly traded companies. The magazine also used data provided by the Carbon Disclosure Project, which collects greenhouse-gases data on more than 2,500 companies worldwide. CBRE has participated in the project since 2007.

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