Chicago tops the greenest US cities list for the 3rd year. How does your city rank?

by Brianna Crandall — November 20, 2019 — Chicago’s office market was named the greenest in the United States for the third year in a row as the green building trend continues to expand in the nation’s largest cities, according to the sixth annual Green Building Adoption Index by global commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE, Maastricht University and the University of Guelph. Researchers found green-certified office space across America’s 30 largest office markets has reached 42.2% up from 41.9% the year before, marking a new high.

At the same time, CBRE also released the inaugural Multifamily Green Building Adoption Index, which shows growth in this sector as well, though starting at a lower level than the office sector: 3.3% of multifamily apartment units in top 30 multifamily markets are green-certified.

Office Index

“Green” office buildings in the US are defined as those that hold either an EPA ENERGY STAR label, USGBC LEED certification or both. The 2019 Green Building Adoption Index shows that across the 30 largest US office markets, about 4,879 buildings have now been certified as “green,” the highest total in the index’s history.

Chicago took the top spot for the third straight year, with 71.1% of its space being green certified. This was a slight increase from the previous year, when the Midwestern city recorded 69.8%. Second-place San Francisco made significant ground, increasing from 64% to 67.5 this year, marking the largest percentage gain, along with ninth place Seattle, year-over-year. Atlanta maintained the third spot with more than 59% of all space green certified, while Minneapolis moved up to the number four spot with 57%, passing Los Angeles, which now rounds out the top 5 at 56.6%.

RANKMARKETTOTAL SQ. FT. TOTAL GREEN SQ. FT.% OF MARKET CERTIFIED GREEN
1Chicago235,167,156167,159,63171.1%
2San Francisco123,365,45183,249,02667.5%
3Atlanta135,269,83780,204,19859.3%
4Minneapolis/St. Paul70,147,96040,038,99757.1%
5Los Angeles204,047,455115,487,17156.6%

Spencer Levy, chairman of Americas Research for CBRE and senior economic advisor, remarked:

Green building continues to be a growing trend, as both tenants and owners seek the benefits of being associated with these properties. Long-term, these buildings offer real cost savings, making them appealing to owners and investors alike. These buildings are also more attractive to tenants, as many corporate users seek out these properties for their operational and social benefits. As the market has proven, its popularity only continues to grow.

Inaugural Multifamily Index

The inaugural Multifamily Index from CBRE, Maastricht University and the University of Guelph, in partnership with the National Multifamily Housing Council, found that, while still in the early stages, green certification is gaining momentum in this sector, with 3.3% of all multifamily apartment units in the Top 30 markets now green certified.

Denver took the top spot with 7% of the market’s multifamily apartment units certified as “green,” followed by Washington DC/Suburban Maryland with 6.9% and Seattle at 6.5%.

RANKMARKETTOTAL UNITS TOTAL # GREEN UNITS% OF UNITS CERTIFIED GREEN
1Denver246,67017,2307.0%
2Washington DC/Suburban Maryland295,52820,4696.9%
3Seattle229,61214,9486.5%
4Northern Virginia211,55813,6746.5%
5Chicago331,68719,6455.9%

Dr. Nils Kok, associate professor at Maastricht University, stated:

Tenants and investors are looking for high-quality space to work and live in, or to allocate capital to. Quality has become synonymous with sustainable, green space, offering superior air quality and lighting, in addition to being efficient in its use of energy, water and other resources. These preferences are now a market reality in the office market, and are starting to take hold in the market for multifamily buildings.

Based on a rigorous methodology, the sixth annual Green Building Adoption Index shows the growth of ENERGY STAR- and LEED-certified space for the 30 largest US office markets, both in aggregate and in individual markets, since 2005. The study’s findings are available for free download from the CBRE website.

Based on a rigorous methodology, the inaugural US Multifamily Green Building Adoption Index shows totals for ENERGY STAR-, LEED-, and National Green Building Standard-certified space for the 30 largest US multifamily markets. The study’s findings are available for free download from the CBRE website.