Leasing Green

Retail tenants and their landlords have been slow to think about going green. Retail leasing has been about square footage and location, not sustainable design or building operation. But that’s about to change, thanks to the new Green Retail Guide, developed jointly by the USGBC and Portland, Oregon-based Green Building Services (GBS).

I talked recently to Nina Tallering, Manager of Verification Program Development at GBS, who has overseen the development of the Guide.

Why have retailers gotten interested in sustainability?
Tallering: For some retailers, it goes with their mission of being good stewards. Then they see the benefit of energy or water savings—there have been amazing results. Other retailers feel they’ll be more competitive by doing it. Even though retail has been slower to pick up than commercial, office, or public buildings, once retailers decide to do something, they do it quickly.

How will the Guide help retailers?
Tallering: We recognized for the Guide to be useful, it couldn’t just be about leasing, but about the whole leasing process—the site/lease/building/operations process. There are LEED elements throughout the whole process. It’s a useful tool and provides awareness about the LEED requirements and integrating the sustainable goals of the retailer.

There’s a wide range of retail lease types and situations. Malls, lifestyle, power centers, with triple net, gross, land leases. There are a wide number of variables. This is applicable to all of them.

We hoped to target any retail tenant from the big boxes to the small mom-and-pops. There’s a difference in restaurants and apparel—they have different energy uses. We tried to make it applicable to any tenant.

How is green leasing different from conventional leasing?
Tallering: This is an opportunity for landlords and tenants to develop a different kind of relationship and work toward sustainable goals. It starts to foster better communication. It’s like integrated design—it’s easier to meet your goals. It’s the same in the landlord/tenant relationship. When goals are discussed, before the lease is signed, those conversations are going to foster a willingness to get LEED information into the lease and even to integrate more sustainability into operating practices.

It’s new territory for both sides. With landlords and real estate developers, in looking at tenant requirements that have to do with LEED, tenants aren’t sure how much is okay to ask for and what can make or break a deal. In retail, it’s been about location, location, location. We’re hoping that with more education, both retailer and landlord will recognize that even though location is crucial, other things can be appealing.

Are there other benefits of green leasing?
Tallering: When people see that green isn’t weird or crunchy, that the stores look the same, it goes a long way. When retailers talk to consumers, they educate them. And there’s brand loyalty born of sustainability. Green products or green buildings provide so much potential. When retailers spend time on stores, it makes financial sense.

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