“Older buildings get a bad rap.” So says Sara Neff, senior vice
president of sustainability for Kilroy Realty in Los Angeles. She’s
referring to the assumption that high performance in commercial real
estate is a game only newer buildings can play.
“When it comes to the subject of energy efficiency,” she continues,
“we tend to decry these older buildings,” on the assumption that
systems therein are too old to match current standards. “Then you
look at the data, and some older assets, especially in places like
Philadelphia or New York City, are actually better performers.”
Oddly, this surprising performance can in many instances be attributed to the very systems and designs it seems so easy to doubt.
For instance, she says, “Less glazing means reduced cooling needs.
So let’s not knock the older buildings.” (Neff will speak at the 2017
BOMA International Annual Conference & Expo in downtown
Nashville, June 24-27. Her panel discussions are entitled, The
Tracking Trifecta: The Benefits of Adding Waste to Energy
and Water Benchmarking and Hacking Your Own Company:
Make Your Company Walk the Sustainability Talk.)
TWICE THE CHALLENGE
Needless to say, working with the blank slate of new construction
is always easier than trying to pour new environmental wines into
old wineskins. Dave Pogue, CBRE’s global director of corporate
responsibility in San Jose, sees a double-barreled stumbling block
in both hardware and mindset: “Owners of some middle-aged buildings may have a harder time justifying major renovations and system
upgrades.” This, obviously, is due to rates of return. On the mindset
side, “It’s also difficult to transition an occupied building into a different style of management.” This is often true in the presence of an
in-place, legacy tenancy.
But it’s not impossible, as Pogue points out. In fact, he says much of
the issue of overlooked assets has to do with how we certify. As we
reported previously in “You Can’t Have High Performance Without
Health and Wellness,” a CBRE survey of tenants examining 18 sustainable building characteristics determined that tenants most valued
improved indoor air quality, access to natural light and the efficient use
“In a market that uses LEED certification as a standard of high performance,” he says, “a lot of building owners are left out, knowing
they offer characteristics that occupants want but don’t have a way
to express that.” Overall performance might be masked by a low
ENERGY STAR score or older systems that simply cannot be LEED
certified. Ironically, he notes that many LEED-certified buildings may
actually lack or have fewer of those same characteristics.
Nevertheless, there are a lot of buildings that have those desired
occupant features. “If owners could express them in the marketplace, the assets would appeal to those tenants who have told us
these are the services and amenities they value,” he says. (Pogue will
also be in attendance in Nashville. His session: Improve Property
Performance and Satisfy ENERGY STAR Using
“You look at the data,
and some older assets,
especially in places like
Philadelphia or New
York City, are actually
Sara Neff, VP, Sustainability, Kilroy Realty Corp.,
Can High Performance Work in
There are challenges, our experts tell us, but it can be done.
It’s as much a matter of mindset as systems applications.