Greenrealestate: Greening the commercial sector

Green Real Estate Mar 18, 2009


The past few months have been stuffed full of change. In the United States, a new president with a strikingly different image and mandate has taken office, and is tackling a swath of issues while trumpeting change as his theme. North of the border, Canadians still watch as complicated politics produced a budget full of surprises, including incentives to homeowners to renovate and improve their properties.
 
The idea of change and new development is in the air, and provides an opportunity for businesses to position themselves in a way to address those changes. With so much flux comes uncertainty, and the more real estate professionals are able to educate themselves and assure their clients that they are knowledgeable and competently prepared to address this uncertainty, the more of an edge they will have in an unstable market.
 
Economic and environmental concerns both weigh heavily on the contemporary mindset. Unfortunately, these are sometimes presented as being in conflict with one another, as if the only way to benefit one were to trade-off the other. The educated real estate professional knows that this is not the case. The industry has been assiduous about developing new standards. Guidelines have been put in place by associations like the Green Building Council, with its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system,  and the Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada (BOMA), with Building Environmental Standards. Using the information that these standards provide allows agents and brokers to assess the cost feasibility and environmental impact of buildings new and old, and teaches them what options prospective buyers and sellers have in terms of adapting or improving a given property’s ongoing costs and energy efficiency.
 
This spring, the National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB) will roll out new seminars for commercial, industrial, and retail real estate professionals to complement its current offerings for residential practitioners. “The commercial clients are more knowledgeable than they were before, so agents really need to keep up,” says course designer Audrey Friedlin. “If you’ve got money in your pocket to buy and sell buildings, then you know what LEED is, you know about energy costs. And likely you want to reduce your environmental footprint. Realtors should know what that means and how to accommodate you.”
 
The courses will be available as seminars and online for those in more geographically remote regions who still want to upgrade their skills. The development of these seminars is sponsored by Natural Resources Canada, through the EcoAction and EcoEnergy initiatives. “The reaction from the government has been nothing but positive,” says Friedlin. “Not only are they helping us with funding, but they’ve really endorsed NAGAB’s initiative. It shows that we’re doing the right thing and going in the right direction.”
 
Jennifer Sikic, another NAGAB course designer involved in the online component of the new seminars, says: “These courses are intended for those commercial Realtors who want to differentiate themselves and want to be proactive in terms of energy conservation in commercial spaces, to up their knowledge of green issues in the market. Realtors who want to help their clients can find areas of energy efficiency in current spaces, in terms of potential renovations in current buildings, and highlight areas where they could be saving a lot of money.
 
“Beyond the environmental aspect, it’s a fiscally responsible policy for commercial real estate to be in the most efficient buildings possible. It’s really suited to people looking to be fiscally conservative in this climate,” Sikic says.
 
In any period of market volatility, the ability to reassure clients in terms of fiscal and environmental responsibility is valuable. And in the current climate, professionals with NAGAB certification have an extremely marketable distinction that identifies them with positive change. For more information, visit www.nagab.org
 
Elden Freeman B.A., M.E.S, Broker is the founder and executive director of the non-profit National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB). Freeman says he believes that Realtors across Canada can play an important role in educating their clients on increasing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (416) 536-7325; elden@nagab.org