Opportunities and Risks in Green Buildings -- Be careful not to overstate certifications and other environmental achievements

Adopting green business practices in a challenging economy may seem like a luxury, but some tactics, such as reducing a commercial building’s energy usage, actually can save money and make a business more competitive. Problems, however, can arise when the building’s green attributes are oversold. Caution is advised when touting a green certification or using terms like “green building” or “sustainable” because mismatches between expectations and outcomes can lead to protracted disputes.

Commercial buildings account for more than a third of our energy consumption, so reducing energy usage through strategies such as changing lighting is a simple step that can reap greater benefits. Right now, 73 buildings in Washington state are competing with nearly 3,000 other buildings around the country in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Battle of the Buildings” to see which can achieve the greatest reductions in energy use intensity. The result of these efforts is sure to reduce costs, but adopting a host of other green practices, together with third-party certification, also can make an otherwise traditional building more marketable at higher rents.

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