December 11, 2008

CBA ready to mint a new breed of green brokers

  • The Commercial Brokers Association and Cascadia Green Building Council this month are debuting the Certified Green Broker education program.
    Special to the Journal


    About a year ago Tricia Deering, president of Seattle-based Commercial Brokers Association, was approached by the city of Kirkland with an unusual query: “We have a client looking to lease office space, but they only want to work with a green broker. Can you recommend anyone?”

    She was stumped.

    “That was a first,” Deering said. “I knew right then that sustainability and green practices in the commercial real estate world is an economic reality, not just a politically correct trend. I could certainly recommend LEED-certified entities, but not an actual green broker.”

    Shortly thereafter, CBA entered into a partnership with the Cascadia Green Building Council to co-develop an education program to train commercial real estate brokers to adequately counsel clients on sustainability business practices.

    Image courtesy of CBA
    CBA has developed this logo for its Certified Green Broker program.

    Tenant and owner demand for “green knowledge” has made it mandatory for brokers to be trained and informed on the ever-changing complexities of “going green.” More brokers are finding they are better at serving these clients armed with sustainability intelligence, both fundamental and complex.

    “Sustainability issues are certainly on the radar screen of Cushman & Wakefield brokers,” said Eleni Reed, the firm’s director of sustainability services. “The commercial real estate market is evolving with the uptick of green buildings and with growing tenant demand for green space. The notion that tenant and landlord environmental objectives should be discussed during the leasing process is also gaining considerable traction. As a result, Cushman & Wakefield brokers have been requesting information and training to provide the highest quality service to their clients.”

    The Certified Green Broker education program, debuting this month, consists of 10 comprehensive three-hour seminars presented in an interactive on-line format. The program offers 30 hours of real estate continuing education credit and, upon completion, grants the broker status as a Certified Green Broker. Larger firms are expressing interest in including the program in their internal education centers and can buy the course in bulk for their brokers.

    “In today’s economic climate, being able to properly distinguish a green building with lower operating and maintenance costs from more conventional structures is a significant competitive advantage,” said Jason McLennan, CEO of Cascadia. “Brokers that understand and can convey the emerging language and technology of green building will see their own position in the market similarly rise.”

    Certified Green Broker commences with green building basics and continues onto in-depth subject areas such as the development of green leases, the valuation of green buildings and land-use laws. Brokers learn the benefits of green leasing to both landlords and tenants, including tax incentives, return on investment and reduced energy costs.

    Tenants are becoming much more mindful in their search for sustainable commercial space. They are cognizant of the impact a building’s health has on their bottom line, as well their workers’ psychological and physical well-being. The quality of the workplace — air quality, temperature, lighting, even waste disposal — all correlate directly to employee productivity.

    As operational costs and issues are often passed onto the tenant, a broker would be at an advantage to have an educated answer to the question: “How is a dual-flush toilet going to decrease employee absenteeism, save the planet and, most importantly, affect my rent?”

    This is not a future generation movement. Developers with foresight are building green now. Buyers are starting to demand green now. And tenants are increasingly expecting green now. According to DLA Piper, a global law firm with the largest real estate practice in the U.S., 59 percent of senior commercial real estate executives surveyed reported that tenants are “now showing a preference for leases in green-certified buildings. After receiving much fanfare over the years, the ‘green’ movement has begun to take hold of tenants in the U.S. commercial real estate market.”

    Green is a compelling and critical marketing requisite for commercial real estate brokers as the environmental movement forges ahead in our new economy. It is fast becoming the price of entry to do business. But for the value and benefits to tenants and buyers to be quantifiable as well as qualified, brokers must be prepared. When a client asks, “What’s the storm water management policy with this building?” it would behoove the agent to have an informed answer instead of a blank stare.

    “What was once the right thing to do is well on its way to being the only thing to do,” said Deering. “Brokers need to be ready for what will be the standard, not the exception.”

    Barbara Travers is a consultant to Northwest commercial real estate companies.

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