Energy efficiency becomes focus for commercial real estate companies

Industrial facilities seek energy-efficient partnerships with investors and utility companies.

As sustainability and energy efficiency standards become a greater part of commercial real estate advertising, a growing number of properties – in particular, the industrial sector – are moving toward LEED certification.

The National Real Estate Investor reported 117 manufacturing assets, combining for a total of 41 million square feet, have earned a LEED certification. However, shifting demands from prospective tenants have led to a number of new retrofitting and construction projects. Not surprisingly, then, an additional 703 industrial projects have registered for LEED certification, according to data from the U.S. Green Building Council.

"Many firms today are adopting these new technologies to meet company-wide goals of saving 15 percent of energy use by 2015, or 20 percent less water runoff," Sean Fuller, vice president of business and development with Norwell, told NREI. "While people are interested in going green, industrial facility managers want to make sure it's going to make things more efficient, they want to save money."

As Fuller notes, for an industrial facility to earn a LEED certification – it is very difficult. However, energy companies provide incentives and rebates that help companies retrieve 30 to 50 percent of their upfront costs for energy-efficiency products.

Pilot program unlocks energy-efficiency potential
The Electrical Construction & Maintenance Magazine recently highlighted a new program that some say could revolutionize the energy efficiencies of commercial buildings the world over. 

The arrangement is between Seattle City Light – an electric utility – and the Bullitt Foundation. Essentially, the program plans to introduce a purchasing program for metered energy-efficiency savings. The program is intended to overcome the challenges of financing adequate systems that would effectively generate 50 percent energy savings. Instead, investors and utility companies with easier access to larger pools of capital would be not only able, but willing, to invest.

"This is one of the most innovative solutions I've seen," said Jorge Carrasco, superintendent of Seattle City Light. "We want to try it because we think the approach could help harvest deep energy efficiency in buildings and do it in a way in which everyone wins. Rate payers get more comfortable buildings, investors see a positive return, and the utility delays new power plants and reduces its carbon emissions."

An energy-efficiency meter be utilized to assess the exact amount of energy savings. The amount saved is then sold to investors based on a 20-year contract allowing longer payback times. 

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