Real estate firms JLL, Tishman Speyer and Simon Property Group are reporting positive returns from an energy management program that matches graduate students with companies looking to have more energy efficient facilities.
The initiative, called the Climate Corps program, is a summer-long residency operated by environmental advocacy Environmental Defense Fund. The program has so far involved 350 companies, resulting in about $1.5 billion in energy savings.
In 2015, the program’s eighth year, the initiative found ways to save $90 million dollars, 134 million kilowatt-hour and 130,000 metric tons of carbon emissions.
This means that the program erased the equivalent annual emission of 27,000 cars.
JLL, which implemented the program for its 77 West Wacker office tower in Chicago, got tenants involved in reducing the building’s energy construction.
To help tenants understand the financial and environmental implications of energy-efficient designs, the company and its EDF fellow developed guidelines for renovation and construction projects.
The company reported that the documentation can reduce the building’s energy consumption by nine percent.
“It’s been a wonderful experience participating in this program. The fellows have become an extension of our teams and have helped us accomplish so much,” said Myrna Coronado-Brookover, JLL’s senior vice president and general manager.
Currently, the firm is looking to host a fellow in New York City, as it aims to replicate the results from Chicago.
“Our ownership is looking into hosting a fellow at a sister building in New York City in hopes of achieving similar results,” Coronado-Overbrook said. “It’s definitely our intent to share all of this great information we’re gathering.”
Liz Delaney, the program director of EDF Climate Corps, lauded JLL’s focus on tenant spaces, saying that it is an under-utilized area in terms of energy reduction.
“From a commercial real estate perspective, we’re looking at a couple of different things. First, the starting point for any company that hasn’t done a lot in energy efficiency, we’re looking at what we call the low hanging fruit, which is lighting upgrades, ventilation upgrades and upgrades in tenant spaces and common spaces like lobbies and stairwells… A lot of real estate companies stop there. Once they found energy savings in lobbies and stairwells. They think their job is done,” Delaney said.
“These guys are barrelling past that landmark. They’re getting in tenant spaces. This is a huge opportunity that has also been a significant challenge for a lot of people in commercial real estate for a long time.”
Another company that signed up for the EDF program is commercial real estate firm Tishman Speyer.
The company, which owns Rockefeller Center and the Chrysler Center, received recommendations for emergency lighting and a roadmap for sustainability reporting.
The recommendations, which involved a model to aggregate total energy consumption, estimated energy savings of 620,000 kilowatt-hours and 320 metric tons of carbon emission reductions.
Meanwhile, EDF provided assistance to Simon Property Group in finding ways to improve operational efficiency.
The fellow assigned to Simon, who started work as the firm was working on its sustainability report, benchmarked the company’s retail real estate sustainability programs and helped evaluate renewable solutions.
With New York City real estate firms, Delaney attributed their appetite for energy management solutions to disclosure rules such as Local Law 84 and the de Blasio administration’s “retrofit accelerator” project, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in private buildings by 80 percent over the next 34 years.
“We think that the time is right for people to really step up their energy management game,” she said.
“There’s definitely policy movement to say, ‘Hey, we need to do more.’ Basically, in buildings of a certain size, people have to disclose the energy data and that makes it public. It kind of puts pressure on the people who are operating the building to manage their building progressively.”
This year’s fellows recommended over $60 million in clean energy technologies. These are expected to generate 30 megawatts, which is equivalent to the power produced by rooftop solar arrays in 6,000 homes.