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Going Green: LEED Certification a Luxury in NYC Commercial Real Estate?

April 28, 2017 | by Nell Lanman

Does LEED certification equate to a green office?

Turns out, that’s not always such an easy question to answer.

How efficiently the building supplies and consumes energy, the sustainability of the materials used in its construction, the sustainability of the site its located on, the relationship between its design and its impact on the environment, and how energy efficient its occupants are all contribute to a building’s green profile.

Increasingly, the standards used to measure a building’s profile have come into question.

LEED Certification: The Best Green Standard?

While a number of standards exist to help answer this question, one of the most visible is the Leadership in Energy and Efficiency Design (LEED) rating system.

With over 200,000 LEED-certified buildings globally, momentum is growing, as is the pressure for real estate developers and landlords to get on board.

Still, progress is slow.

In New York City, where one might expect an aggressive trend toward green buildings, progress has been gradual, to say the least. Out of roughly 4,000 commercial buildings in Manhattan, 41 have a Core & Shell (like the buildings’ exoskeleton) that is LEED-certified or pending LEED certification. That’s a scant one percent.

View NYC’s LEED Certified/Pending Buildings: in a full-screen map

To some degree, it may be up to tenants to push for higher green standards.

Beyond exploring green standards they can pursue themselves or work out with landlords on, large tenants, in particular, can have a say in the desirability of LEED-certified commercial space.

As more of these green buildings go up, they will start to impact property values, too. Much in the way Walkscore has.

As aggressive development continues in the city, particularly in places like Long Island City and various parts of Brooklyn, the LEED rating system may yet become another way to grant properties prestige.

It’s one thing to occupy a Class A building. It’s another to occupy a Platinum LEED, Class A building. Such a status denotes a pursuit of the all-important  “efficiency” that every company desires. Both in environmental and human workspace terms, green buildings evoke that standard. They also evoke innovation and responsible leadership. All pillars commercial tenants, especially those in tech, want to be aligned with.

It’s important to note that other systems in play like Energy Star enjoy wide adoption throughout real estate. And the rigorous nature of the standards the US Green Buildings Department has laid out in its LEED program can present a challenging cost-benefit analysis to real estate developers who could pursue a different set of green standards at a lighter cost.

Then again, they don’t call it “Leadership” in Energy and Efficiency Design for nothing.

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