Nils Kok, professor at the University of California-Berkeley, joined REIT.com for a video interview at REITWorld 2012: NAREIT's Annual Convention for All Things REIT at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego.
Kok is the founder of the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB). Kok discussed the most surprising results of the 2012 GRESB Survey. Participation increased dramatically from 2011, up from 340 to 450 companies and funds this year.
"The most surprising result was that the U.S. is now, by assets under management in the benchmark, the largest respondent," Kok said.
Kok offered his insights into the differences between the United States and other countries.
"It's interesting to see that when we started three years ago, the U.S. was lagging behind a little bit in terms of reporting on energy efficiency and reporting and measuring and energy-efficiency implementation in buildings," Kok said. "What we see now is that the U.S. is also catching up in terms of performance. The leaders in the U.S. actually aren't far behind the leaders in other regions, if they're not the same or better. The average performance in the U.S. is similar to Europe and Asia. Australia is still leading the pack."
Kok also provided an analysis of the response from the investment community.
"It's interesting to see that also the investment community is taking up energy efficiency more and more in either its investment decisions or in its engagement. For example, Cohen & Steers is still using GRESB and the GRESB data in their investment decisions," Kok noted. "You see that the larger REIT investors are starting to look at energy efficiency as well."
Kok discussed GRESB's involvement with the NAREIT Leader in the Light program. He noted that contestants had been separated out by sector this year. Kok said the new approach enabled the judges to analyze performance and best practices by sector.
"What's very important is that we had 35 contestants for the Leader in the Light program, which is a substantial increase as compared to last year," Kok said. "What's very important is that more and more REITs start to implement not only energy-efficiency measures, but also water efficiency. Start thinking about carbon emissions. Start thinking about waste and waste recycling."