In downtown Silver Spring, Brookfield Property Partners are working alongside their tenants to make big strides in sustainability.
According to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, buildings and industrial facilities generate 45 percent of America’s greenhouse gases and about the same percentage of its trash.
Understandably, a green project at home might seem more attractive than one in the workplace. After all, residential projects have fewer stakeholders and moving parts, and can provide more direct and tangible benefits.
But if your green efforts stop at your own front door, you’re only working on part of the equation.
Businesses and property managers are increasingly recognizing this and seeing opportunities in office spaces, upgrading facilities and engaging tenants and one another on a host of sustainability efforts.
Brookfield, a global commercial real estate company that operates three office buildings in Montgomery County (or a total of about 708,000 square feet of rentable area), have led a range of greening efforts, including:
* LED lighting replacements in stairwells, parking garages, lobbies, and restrooms;
* Lighting occupancy sensors throughout the complex;
* Water fixture upgrades;
* New recycling and composting programs;
* Green transit amenities such as a bike room and electric vehicle charging stations; and
* “Green teams” comprising tenants, the janitorial vendor, and property managers.
Though some of these changes are still being implemented, Marissa Thorne, Brookfield’s property manager for the three buildings, said the company expects
annual savings of $107,000 and 219,000 kilowatt hours from the lighting retrofits and 125,000 gallons of water from the plumbing changes.
The facilities also have streamlined their waste streams. Before the changes, the properties were collectively recycling only around 50 of their trash; that number now sits at at 79 percent.
Moreover, the buildings have received LEED Gold certification for existing buildings, and ENERGY STAR® scores have risen substantially, reaching as high as 92, according to Steve Hill, Brookfield’s lead engineer on the projects.
But Brookfield managers are quick to point out that going green is a team sport. That’s why they created the green working groups, a collection of tenant representatives, the janitorial team, and Brookfield professionals that meets quarterly to share ideas and discuss sustainability initiatives.
“I find that participating in the meetings is helpful, as it keeps me informed about the property managers’ green goals and any challenges that may surface in encouraging tenants to take green actions,” said Jennifer Fields, a green team member and communications coordinator with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a Brookfield tenant in Silver Spring.
“I appreciate how we can identify challenges during the meetings and then come up with ways to best address them,” said Fields. “By providing tenants with the opportunity to collaborate with one another, property management, and representatives from the county, it helps drive home the message that even simple actions such as recycling can start with individuals but also then connect communities in helping to make a difference.”
For example, Fields noted that, after tenants expressed confusion over which waste items were eligible for recycling, a representative from the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Solid Waste Services attended a green team meeting to clarify parameters and goals. That, Fields said, helped foster new understanding (and compliance) among tenants.
Of course, this kind of work occurs on multiple fronts. In the beginning, assessing the properties’ trash situation was a pretty messy proposition.
“We had the janitorial team go through the trash every night for a month,” recalled Tiesha Hackley, the buildings’ assistant property manager. “We had a room full of stuff that could have been recycled [instead] going into the general waste stream.”
That hard work on one end of the equation has been balanced with the ongoing tenant communications and incentives. Brookfield managers, for instance, offer a party and “green trophy” for tenants who divert 100 percent of their waste in a given month.
It’s emblematic of the symbiotic relationship between property managers and businesses that is critical to moving sustainability in the workplace—and as a whole—forward.
“I believe that collaboration on this larger greening effort is extremely valuable,” Fields said. “Tenants in the three buildings have a wide range of backgrounds, and it is important to keep in mind that everyone’s understanding of green issues may vary…By involving tenants in green actions, property managers are also inviting us to be a part of our work community, which can lead to a sense of accountability and pride.”
By Scott Harris, Freelance Writer. Read Scott’s other posts on the benefits of environmental peer pressure, birds and climate change, eco-friendly ice rinks, residential solar, and congregational rain gardens.
Interested in learning how to green your workplace? The Green Business Certification Program has checklists of ways for businesses to go green as well as information on certification programs. Show how green you truly are!