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EPA Touts Commercial Real Estate's Progress in Sustainability

04/08/2013 | By Carisa Chappell

Cindy Jacobs, senior advisor for Energy Star with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), joined REIT.com for a video interview at NAREIT’s 2013 Leader in the Light Working Forum in La Quinta, Calif.

Jacobs discussed the progress that some REITs have made in regards to sustainability and best practices in energy efficiency.

“I think there has really been a sea change in the way that commercial real estate companies view energy use. When we first started talking to companies about energy management, there really wasn’t a good understanding of what’s entailed in energy management and the fact that energy use and costs are controllable,” she said. “But, as more and more companies began to take stock of their energy use, I think that realization started to dawn.”

She added that REITs were among the first to have a good understanding of energy use and the value of energy management

“In 1999 EPA rolled out its first 1-to-100 energy office score for office buildings, and REITs were among the first adopters of that score. So, they are both understanding it and bringing value to investments through managing their energy,” said Jacobs.

Energy Star recently celebrated in its 20th anniversary. Jacobs discussed the impact that the program has had on building owners and tenants. She said that it has been “transformational” in the commercial buildings market.

The numbers speak for themselves, according to Jacobs. At the end of 2012, more than 300,000commercial buildings across the United States had used the Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool. Additionally, Jacobs said the EPA has certified more than 20,000 buildings that meet the stricter criteria for Energy Star designation.

“These buildings, on average, use 35 percent less energy and omit 35 percent less greenhouse gas than their peers,” she said. 

When it comes to applying sustainability features to existing buildings, Jacobs said it’s important to understand that existing buildings contribute about 40 percent of the energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

“So we really have to look at the energy use and sustainability in existing buildings,” she said.