Designing, constructing, managing, and maintaining a commercial facility using sustainability principles has a positive impact on the environment (and on utility bills). With all the recent attention being paid to green buildings, the focus is now shifting to the people working inside these green buildings. If U.S. commercial office building owners
and tenants reduced energy use by 30%, it could translate to more than $6 billion in savings every year, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
As part of the Better Buildings Act (S. 1191) proposal, the Tenant Star designation program would promote a voluntary method of aligning building owners and managers more closely with tenants to reduce energy consumption. Today, tenants consume at least half of the energy used by commercial buildings, according to the Real Estate Roundtable; the Tenant Star designation would recognize smart design and operations choices made by tenants within leased spaces.
Once a tenant moves into a space, it’s hard to control what happens within those walls. But if tenants were encouraged and rewarded for designing open-plan spaces, reducing plug load, selecting environmentally responsible interior products and finishes, and evaluating lighting and HVAC usage, their goals could be more closely aligned with those of the building owner and manager.
As real estate firm Transwestern learned when working with a client on LEED-CI Gold certification, if tenants don’t see incentives for saving energy, they most likely won’t make it a priority. After analyzing the tenant’s space, Transwestern found 15-year-old lighting systems with 34-watt lamps instead of more efficient 25-watt lamps. The reason why the systems hadn’t been upgraded? Because the tenant wasn’t responsible for paying their electricity bill, and didn’t see the point of installing newer, energy-efficient lighting when it wouldn’t affect their bottom line. With Tenant Star, the hope is that tenants could achieve additional savings by reducing energy use; the savings would be passed down by the building owner in one form or another.
Would you pass savings on to tenants if they were recognized by the Tenant Star program? Why or why not?