By Brenna S. Walraven
Energy Efficiency, Climate Change
Top Agenda for Congress, Industry
THROUGHOUT 2007, CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS
began to deliver on their promise to enact far-reaching
energy efficiency and global climate change legislation.
With the newly empowered, Democratic-controlled
Congress, the outlook was bright for the passage of policy
reform focusing on every major greenhouse gas emitter,
including power plants, automobiles, industrial users and
commercial and residential buildings.
As part of the first “100 hours” agenda, the House of
Representatives passed H.R. 6, broad legislation dealing
with a wide array of energy issues. The Senate followed
with its own bill as part of a procedural move to send it to
conference. Shortly after, the House passed another energy bill, H.R. 3221. The result was three completely different bills to resolve and at press time, it remained unclear
how exactly this will proceed. Contentious provisions
include national renewable electricity standards for utilities
and raising corporate average fuel economy standards.
On a separate track but with overlapping pieces, climate
change legislation is also beginning to see action. Though
about a dozen different bills have been introduced covering
a wide range of global warming issues, the one that has
captured the most attention in Congress is S. 2191,
America’s Climate Security Act. Introduced by Senator Joe
Lieberman (D-CT), the bill would cap carbon dioxide emissions from covered sources to 1990 levels by 2015 and
would require them to be 65% below 1990 levels by 2050.
Real estate groups have been actively meeting with key
senators, representatives and committee staff to express
concern about energy requirements for commercial buildings included in both H.R. 3221 and S. 2191. The language
mandates extremely aggressive and arbitrary energy-effi-ciency targets for new commercial buildings in state building codes, distorting the model building code process. The
industry is advocating instead for policies that promote efficiency through voluntary measures such as the Energy-Efficient Commercial Buildings tax deduction.
Voluntary measures are working and there is no better or
faster way to get higher-performing real estate than to offer
property professionals effective tools and information, benefiting both the environment and the bottom line. Currently,
there are proven no- and low-cost efficiency measures that
enhance building operations. The benefits are measurable
with lower operating costs and higher asset values. Tenant
and employee satisfaction yields higher lease retention
rates, cleaner and healthier indoor environments reduce risk
and corporate branding of high-performance sustainable
buildings enhances market creditability.
Many companies are finding that partnership is often
the smartest and quickest path to better energy performance. Groups like the Clinton Climate Initiative, the EPA’s
Energy Star program, the US Green Building Council and
the Green Building Initiative are helping organizations
boost their energy and environment programs by providing them with an industry-tested platform of tools and
Voluntary efforts are being boosted by new resources.
In the first quarter of 2008, BOMA will debut a “green
lease” to provide an industry standard for how landlords
and tenants can both benefit from sustainability efforts and
effectively eliminate the lease “split incentives” that have
There is no better or faster way to get
higher-performing real estate than to offer
effective tools and information.
served as a major barrier to greater improvements in environmental performance. The lease will outline the tenant
and landlord responsibilities for such areas as recycling,
energy management, contractor regulations, hours of
operation and compliance with smoking prohibitions.
Commercial real estate is at a crossroads on energy
and the environment. We can build more alliances and
continue to grow the voluntary success stories that have
been shown to work, or we can wait for Congress to dictate costly and arbitrary mandates. The industry and the
environment are better served following a path of our own
The views expressed in this article are those of the
author and not Real Estate Media or its publications.
Brenna S. Walraven is chairman and chief elected officer of
BOMA International and executive managing director of national
property management for USAA Real Estate Co. She may be
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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