A new ULI program that helps office tenants design and manage their spaces to reduce energy consumption could help the real estate industry reduce emissions that are driving climate change. But at the program’s rollout at ULI’s 2016 Fall Meeting in Dallas, panelists said that the new ULI Tenant Energy Optimization Program is likely to have a more far-reaching impact than that of many previous environmental initiatives because it offers a compelling, well-documented business case that energy efficiency can generate a lucrative return on investment.
“We don’t even need to talk about global warming,” said Anthony Malkin, chairman and chief executive officer of the Empire State Realty Trust, who spearheaded the program’s development and has provided it to ULI to distribute for free to commercial office building owners and real estate professionals worldwide. “It’s a side benefit.”
While the program could help curb carbon emissions by reducing energy demand and the need to burn fossil fuels to satisfy it, it also offers tangible economic benefits, which Malkin and a team of energy experts have documented in ten detailed case studies of tenants from the Empire State Building and other structures. The program materials are available at a new website, tenantenergy.uli.org.
Tenants participating in the step-by-step design and construction process and the post-construction monitoring phase could see energy savings of 30 to 50 percent, and an average internal rate of return of 25 percent on their investment. Spaces fitted out for energy efficiency could achieve a payback of the initial outlay in three to five years, according to program materials.
Some pilot participants in the program have achieved even better numbers. Todd Schwartz, Americas president of account management in Cushman & Wakefield’s Global Occupier Services Group, said that after using the process on a 6,000-square-foot (557 sq m) space in One World Trade Center in New York City, they achieved a 47 percent reduction in energy use, with payback projected to occur in just two years.
According to the program’s website, Cushman & Wakefield will save $90,000 over the course of its ten-year lease from following the process. The real estate firm is so pleased with the pilot results that it is using the process on a much larger scale at its new headquarters offices in Chicago, Schwartz said.
The program may spread quickly throughout the real estate industry because some major players already plan to adopt it, seeing it as a competitive advantage. Ray Quartararo, head of planning, design, and construction for global real estate at JPMorgan Chase, said that his firm plans to use the optimization process at a corporate campus it is building in Plano, Texas, near Dallas.
“It’s almost an issue of, ‘Why wouldn’t you do this?’” said Quartararo, who worked with Malkin as an executive at the business services firm JLL. “It’s become in our mind more and more synonymous with sound design practices.”
Eric Schlenker, an investment manager within the real estate unit of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), said that the program also creates value for institutional investors, because controlling energy costs means that tenants may stay in buildings longer, which reduces market volatility and risk.
“We believe knowledge sharing [about energy optimization] will benefit all of us,” said Schlenker, who works for an institution with $27 billion in real estate investments.
Quartararo said that tenants using the energy optimization process may also see additional economic benefits because it helps build their brand reputation as being environmentally responsible—an important selling point both for recruiting talent and retaining it. “This has become a priority for our people,” he explained. “We look at it as part of our high-performance workplace.”
Quartararo said that optimizing tenant spaces for energy efficiency is crucial because those spaces account for up to 65 percent of a building’s total energy consumption.
Malkin said that in order for the program to work effectively, building owners had to be committed as well, and make energy-saving improvements such as a robust building energy management system and submetering. Without the latter, tenants would not be able to track and fine-tune their energy consumption, and the cost-saving benefits would not be evident.
ULI Global Chief Executive Officer Patrick L. Phillips said that the program is in keeping with the Institute’s focus on best practices that are grounded in a business case. “We demonstrate profitability and competitive advantage through the practices we espouse,” he said. “This program shares all those characteristics. It’s a perfect fit.”