Green Building Adoption Index Shows More “Green” in Cities with Benchmarking Laws

After placing fifth last year, Atlanta has claimed the No. 3 spot on the fourth annual Green Building Adoption Index study by CBRE and Maastricht University. Fifty-five percent of Atlanta’s office space is green certified, and the market’s buildings performed especially well in Energy Star, with 24.4 percent of all buildings labeled, the second highest market total in the study, behind only Manhattan and nearly double the national average.

 

Chicago claimed the top spot this year, after placing second last year, and boasts 66 percent of green certified space. San Francisco slipped to second, while Atlanta, Houston and Minneapolis again claimed spots in the top five in the 2017 report. “Green” office buildings in the U.S. are defined as those that hold either an EPA ENERGY STAR label, USGBC LEED certification or both.

The study found that institutional owners of office buildings continued to pursue green building certifications in the 30 largest U.S. markets. 10.3 percent of all buildings surveyed are Energy Star labeled, while 4.7 percent are LEED certified, both slightly ahead of last year’s totals, although the total percentage of certified space fell slightly due to expiration of some certifications.

Three of the four largest transactions in Atlanta in 2016 all took place in LEED certified buildings. One notable new deal signed within a LEED building was a 293,035-sq.-ft. renewal at One Georgia Center by the Georgia Department of Transportation. Before originally moving into the 375,000-sq.-ft., 40-year-old office tower in 2008, the Georgia Department of Transportation worked with property management on an extensive build out. Part of this build out involved the recycled use of many of the building’s original materials. This conservation effort helped One Georgia Center achieve its LEED Gold Certification, a designation that it has maintained over time.

“We have seen first-hand the kind of impact an Energy Star Certified building with top amenities can have on its tenants,” said Marie Kastens, Managing Director, Asset Services, CBRE. “Notably, because of the community impact, energy management systems, energy efficiency procedures and other high-quality amenities, The Corners office park in Norcross has been honored with an international TOBY Award through the Building Owners and Managers Association.”

In terms of sales activity, Atlanta performed well, with 28 LEED certified buildings trading in 2016. One significant sale was for LEED Silver certified 191 Peachtree, a Class A, 1.2 million sq. ft. office tower located in Downtown Atlanta. A Banyan Street Capital and Oaktree Capital Management partnership bought the 50-story building from Cousins Properties in October 2016. Another notable sale was for One Atlantic Center, purchased by Starwood Capital from Hines in September of 2016. The building is a LEED Gold Certified, 1.1 million sq. ft. office tower located in Midtown Atlanta. Finally, a large portfolio sale of LEED Silver certified Atlanta Financial Center occurred in December of 2016. The three-building portfolio located in Buckhead was bought by Sumitomo Corp from Hines.

This year’s study also examined the potential impact of municipal energy disclosure regulations on green building adoption rates. Atlanta’s Energy Star improvement was likely aided by the fact that it adopted a building performance ordinance in 2015 that requires commercial buildings (including multifamily residential) 25,000 sq. ft. and above to annually measure and publish their energy and water use, as well as perform an energy and water audit every ten years. An estimated 402 million sq. ft. is covered by this policy. Nine of the top 10 cities have implemented benchmarking ordinances, and several of those have experienced measurable increases in green certifications. Cities with benchmarking ordinances have 9 percent more Energy Star and LEED certified buildings, and 21 percent higher Energy Star and LEED certified square footage.

“While it is still too early to make a definitive correlation between benchmarking ordinances and the rate of growth in ‘green’ buildings, this year’s findings do begin to establish a link that will be studied closely in the future,” said David Pogue, CBRE’s Global Director of Corporate Responsibility.

“Even though the current federal legislative agenda has shifted the focus away from energy efficiency and sustainability, the momentum in the commercial real estate industry toward improving building operating performance and enhancing building quality is hard to derail,” said Dr. Nils Kok, associate professor at Maastricht University.

A feature again this year is a geographic mapping platform that highlights the name, location and details of the specific green certification for each building in all 30 markets.

Again executed in close collaboration with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and CBRE Research, this year the report also included research and commentary from the Institute for Market Transformation. This is the fourth release of the annual Green Building Adoption Index. Based on a rigorous methodology, the Index shows the growth of ENERGY STAR- and LEED-certified space for the 30 largest U.S. office markets, both in aggregate and in individual markets, over the previous 10 years. View the study’s findings HERE.