Can Commercial Building Leases and Legislation Drive Climate Change? RICS-Americas Panel in NYC Says Yes They Can.

Climate change can be positively impacted one commercial building at a time. But how can the government, the business community and commercial real estate professionals work together to make that happen? Are policy makers educated enough in commercial real estate leasing and contracts to really understand how to legislate and encourage that much-needed change?

These questions and other climate change issues were debated at a panel discussion at the New York Athletic Club titled “How Much Value Does Green Add to a Deal” on Tuesday, November 17. Hosted by RICS Americas (The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors – Americas, a current client), the discussion brought together commercial real estate experts and economists to explore the cost and value that green or sustainable clauses add to commercial real estate deals in the United States.

The panelists included John Quigley, Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley; Ursula Hartenberger, RICS Global Head of Sustainability Policy; Rick Recny, Director of Asset Management, Time Equities; and Paul King, MRICS, a leading sustainability expert.

The panel addressed topics such as trends in lease negotiation, characteristics of sustainable real estate that closes deals, how sustainability fits into the future of buildings and leases, among others. But the message that stood out the most for me? The United States is one of the most important real estate markets in the world; the U.S. will need to incorporate sustainable measures into building development and design if we are to make a positive impact.

As you probably know, the government is working on a climate change bill, though recent announcements from Senate Democrats indicate that it likely won’t get attention until spring 2010, at the earliest.

Still, government legislation for climate change was a hot topic on the panel. Not just because it is necessary, but more so because, according to the panelists, government and lay people (non-commercial real estate experts) don’t truly understand the issues and conditions that are important to a building. And if they don’t understand the issues, how can they create legislation that will be meaningful not only to the environment, but to the industry as well?

The good news, I discovered, is that industry experts, including the panelists, are at the forefront of this topic, and are committed to educating professionals ensuring that the industry is addressing the climate change issue in a practical way.

RICS took a stance on this at the event by announcing its Climate Change Strategy. Among its key priorities? Providing standards, guidance and information to enable qualified professionals to understand how climate change and real estate are intertwined, and to promote best practices for the industry. Because in the end, shared standards and education will help position the United States as a sustainable country with a small carbon footprint.

How is your office building reducing its carbon footprint?

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