CBRE Introduces Global Green Initiative

June 8, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — CB Richard Ellis Group has set a goal to render all its client-owned and occupied properties carbon neutral by 2010. It plans to encourage tenants and owners of more than 1.7 billion square feet of building space that it manages to reduce energy use and carbon emissions at their facilities.

CBRE is working with the Natural Resources Defense Council to engage clients in the implementation of energy savings technology and practices at the vast majority of its client-owned and client-operated properties around the world. The company indicated the initiative is a response to the growing demand for green facilities.

President and CEO Brett White said CBRE representatives are providing advice and counsel to owners and occupiers on how to move the buildings towards a greener footprint. 

"Our decision is driven by our desire to do the right thing, but is also a direct result of a rapidly evolving marketplace," White said, in the firm's recent conference call announcing the initiative. "We see a great opportunity to partner with them to improve their operational performance and help protect the climate at the same time."

White said most owners and occupiers are already engaged in dialogue about how they can reduce their environmental footprint in the space they occupy or own. As the largest manager of commercial real estate in the world, he said, CBRE has both the ability and a responsibility to influence the way those properties are managed and, by extension, the way those properties impact the environment.

The company intends to achieve its goal of carbon neutrality through a combination of energy savings, more efficient space utilization, carbon emission reductions and, if necessary, through investments in carbon offsets. 

In the United States alone, White said, CBRE is implementing Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star programs in more than 125 million square feet of space, which includes every U.S. office building measuring more than 100,000 square feet that the firm manages.   

"We set a goal of reducing energy consumption by 10 percent in 2008 at the office buildings we represent, at an average current cost of $2.50 per square foot," White said. "A 10 percent reduction will save property owners and tenants more than $30 million on an office portfolio of 125 million square feet."

Trish Foster, CBRE's director of operations and head of asset services for West Michigan and mid-Michigan, said the company owns or manages four buildings in Grand Rapids that each measure more than 100,000 square feet of space and qualify for the Energy Star program. Foster said she was not at liberty to identify the buildings until the clients were notified.

"We want to see each of the buildings that are under our control go green even if they're less than 100,000 square feet," she said. "Across the globe we have so many properties that fall under 100,000 square feet that the company had to set some kind of benchmark. Just because that's what we want to do for buildings 100,000 square feet and above doesn't mean that if you have less than 100,000 square feet that we're not interested in helping you go green."

At least 100 of CBRE buildings will achieve an Energy Star 75 rating by the end of this year, putting them in the top 25 percentile of their peer group, White added. The cost of greening up its properties, he said, will be offset by energy cost savings over time.

Ashok Gupta, air and energy program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the council's experience shows that energy efficiency in buildings can yield from 10 to 30 percent savings or even higher. According to the council, energy use in buildings accounts for 40 percent of U.S. global warming emissions.

Foster said CBRE has been pushing LEED certification for quite some time and has been helping its building owners who want to achieve that certification. She said all CBRE employees and clients see the importance of the initiative. First, the company intends to apply green principles at all of its offices worldwide, she said, and then move on to help each of its clients become LEED certified and carbon neutral, as well.

Ty Hallock, managing director of CBRE's Grand Rapids office, said the change will take place over time. Locally, CBRE agents are getting up to speed on the subject so they can help spread the message, he said.

What's happening here is that as a global leader in commercial real estate, CB Richard Ellis wants to make sure that it inserts itself in some company initiatives that make sense long term," Hallock explained. "Due to our size and who we are, I think on the national level, it's just imperative that the company takes a stance in one form or fashion."

Hallock said he doesn't think everyone will necessarily jump on board just because CBRE says so, but the company is going to push itself in that direction and at least show the long-term benefits of green buildings.  

"We think, in the long run, everyone will benefit, and we'll have a long-term return on investment in that real estate," Hallock added. "Like any initiative, as long as we continue to repeat our message and show the benefit over time, I think it's something that will become more and more in the forefront of people's awareness when they're thinking about spending money in and around their buildings."

People have one of two choices, he said: They can sit back and do nothing, or they can start an initiative, get involved and make some positive change, and that's the stance CBRE is taking.     

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