Tenants Make It Easy Being Green

Jan. 1, 2008
What if the tenants won’t cooperate in your quest to become green?

By Mychele Lord

The single most cited concern I hear from property managers, leasing agents, and owners about greening an existing, multi-tenant building is something like this: “What if the tenants won’t cooperate with us toward becoming green?” I find this an interesting question since market dynamics indicate that it’s tenants who are driving green. Only a small percentage of the myriad ways to green an existing building actually engage the tenants, though the tenants enjoy the majority of the benefits of green buildings and green practices. The burden of implementation is largely taken on by the building staff.

Last winter, I met with Lisa Tatro, CPM®, the property manager for a Class-A CBD high-rise in Milwaukee. I was with Transwestern at the time, and Al Skodowski (Transwestern’s green machine) and I asked Tatro to be one of the first to take an existing, multi-tenant investment property through LEED® for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) certification. Like any good property manager, she had lots of concerns – particularly about the burden or requirements placed on tenants. Somewhat reluctantly, she agreed to give it her best shot.

This institutional-grade asset is now in its performance period, preparing to be submitted for LEED certification. She said she could not have done it without the help of Skodowski and his team. When I asked about the tenant response, Tatro replied, “I was proven wrong, pleasantly.”

Tatro held tenant meetings to introduce the tenants to the idea of LEED-certifying the building. Prior to this, she had utilized periodic communications to share information, but this project called for face-to-face group time with tenants. In these sessions, tenants were provided agendas and discussed the green practices/LEED credits that would impact them. She described the goals and, specifically, what building management would need from the tenants. To her surprise, the meetings were vibrant and the tenants unanimously embraced the idea. A collaborative sense of community was created, and the property staff was acknowledged for being proactive in such a positive way. When I asked about tenant pushback, she indicated that not only was there no pushback, but many tenants actually wanted to do more! Building management staff found themselves helping the tenants locate local green vendors and suppliers to implement green practices within their leased space and operations.

In case you are not moved by this recent example, let’s take a look at some of the green practices that would involve the tenants using the USGBC’s LEED® for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance rating system. First are LEED prerequisites that must be implemented for LEED certification; following are those that can be implemented if it makes sense for the building, the tenancy, and the ownership.

  1. Waste Management (required). Establish a solid-waste-management policy to reduce the amount of waste and toxins hauled to and disposed of in landfills or incineration facilities. Engage the tenants in ensuring the recycling of all mercury-containing lamps and set up a building program for the recycling of at least 80 percent of dry-cell batteries.
  2. Green Cleaning (required). Implement a green-cleaning policy that addresses standard operating procedures (SOPs), sustainable products and equipment, chemical handling and storage, and staff training. Tenant education and cooperation are needed.
  3. Tobacco Smoke (required). Either prohibit smoking in the building and designate exterior smoking areas at least 25 feet from entries and air intakes, or provide negative-pressure smoking rooms.
  4. Occupant Surveys. Conduct occupant surveys (vs. traditional tenant surveys). To measure “comfort” levels, at least a 30-percent representative sample of total occupants is required. Such “comfort” relates to thermal comfort, acoustics, indoor air quality, lighting levels, building cleanliness, etc.
  5. Automobile Commutes. Reduce the environmental impact of automobiles used for commuting. Work with tenants to evaluate the feasibility of: a) facilitating use of public transportation, b) providing bicycle storage and changing/shower rooms, c) providing incentives for alternative fuel vehicles, d) setting up a carpooling program, and e) supporting telecommuting. LEED credits are earned for 10-, 20-, 50-, and 75-percent reductions in conventional commuting trips.
  6. Renewable Energy. While tenants may see a nominal increase in energy cost if the building commits to purchasing 25-, 50-, 75-, or 100-percent renewable energy or renewable energy certificates, it is one of the most environmentally meaningful things we can do. One (1) LEED credit is earned for each level attained.
  7. Energy Efficiency. Educate building occupants on the primary consumption variables – plug load, HVAC, and lighting – and how their choices can save energy.
  8. Reduced Mercury in Lamps. Work with tenants to ensure that 90 percent of bulb purchases contain less than 90 picograms per lumen hour. Two (2) LEED credits are awarded if the bulbs contain less than 70 picograms per lumen hour.
  9. Recycling Consumables. As part of the building’s Waste Management Policy, engage the tenants in implementing a building recycling program. After establishing a baseline, achieve a minimum 50-percent diversion rate through reuse, recycling, or composting (1 point), or 70 percent (2 points).
  10. Recycling E-Waste/Durables. Further expand the recycling program to include e-waste and appliances. Diverting 75 percent of these goods will earn 1 LEED credit.
  11. Pest Management. Integrate a pest-management plan for managing indoor pests in a way that protects human health and the surrounding environment.
  12. Construction Waste. EPA says that 40 percent of all our waste is construction and demolition debris: That’s 2.8 pounds per capita, per day. Identify haulers and processors of recyclable materials, and markets for salvaged materials. Reuse materials and bring on to the jobsite only quantities needed. By measuring and diverting 70 percent of the waste generated, 1 LEED credit can be earned.
  13. Construction IAQ. Implementing an IAQ-management plan that outlines measures to minimize contamination in the building during construction, and procedures to flush the building of contaminants prior to occupancy.
  14. Finish-Out Materials. Implement a Sustainable Purchasing Policy for construction projects. One (1) LEED credit is awarded to projects that achieve 50 percent of total purchases (by cost) that meet one or more of the following criteria: 10-percent post-consumer or 20-percent post-industrial, 70-percent salvaged from outside the organization, 70-percent salvaged from inside the organization, 50-percent rapidly renewable, 50-percent materials extracted and processed within 500 miles of the project, 50-percent FSC-certified wood, low-VOC adhesives and sealants, low-VOC paints and coatings, non-carpet finished flooring that is FloorScore certified, carpet and carpet cushion that meets the requirements of the CRI Green Label Testing Program, or composite panels and agrifiber products that contain no added urea-formaldehyde resins.

No. 14 (finish-out materials) is often the hardest for a multi-tenant building. So, begin by educating tenants and vendors about the green products available to them for your building and in your market. And, as you respond to tenant, owner, and/or local government demand, and begin to implement green practices, my hope is that you will not only be rewarded with personal satisfaction for your contributions, but that your tenants will also recognize your gift to them – and make your job easier.

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