Sustainable buildings are better investments, finds CBRE Group study

by Shane Henson — October 28, 2011—Building owners interested in making their facilities more sustainable may find that doing so is as good for business as it is for the environment. According to an ongoing study of a national office portfolio managed by CBRE Group Inc., formerly known as CB Richard Ellis Group Inc., sustainable buildings generate stronger investment returns than traditional managed properties.

This is the third phase of a multiyear study initiated in 2009 by CBRE, the University of San Diego’s Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate and McGraw-Hill Construction. Reportedly the largest and longest-running research project of its kind, the study benchmarks and measures green building benefits and resulting economic outcomes as a framework of investment criteria for retrofit activity. A full update to the study’s 2011 report Do Green Buildings Make Dollars and Sense? is expected to be released later this year.

The study, which surveys approximately 150 CBRE-managed office buildings and more than 2,500 building occupants, shows how green building performance continues to trend higher than the general market, establishing a clear economic case for the value of green in existing buildings, with mid-sized markets leading the trend. In particular, aggregated data over a period of three years on buildings certified under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) shows an average 3.1% improvement in both rental rates and building occupancy in comparison to the general market. The 2011 phase reinforces earlier findings that demonstrate sub-metering of utilities for tenant space reduces energy costs by 21% on average.

While economic uncertainty can be extrapolated as causing downward pressure on an organization’s continuing commitment to sustainability, survey respondents consider green features important when selecting office space, with a healthy indoor environment as the leading factor. This finding supports other results of the study in which 19% of tenant respondents reported increased productivity and 94% of tenant managers registered higher employee satisfaction in green office space. The study also shows a growing awareness of green features in LEED-certified buildings, with corporate responsibility and public perception playing an increasingly important role for building occupants.