It’s one thing to manage a property. It’s another to make it hum. And making it green? That’s what industry pros call ‘the extra mile.’ Which is the goal for Cassidy Turley’s Sustainability Services team. Founded in 2008 in the midst of the economic downturn, Washington, DC-based Cassidy Turley is a commercial real estate services firm with more than 455 million square feet under management and more than 3,700 professionals. The Cassidy Turley Sustainability Services team has certified more than 8.5 million square feet of LEED projects and currently is working on an additional 3 million square feet of projects for clients across the United States. We spoke with Nicole Snarski, sustainability project manager for Cassidy Turley, to learn more about how the company turns green initiatives to smarter savings.
gb&d: Let’s say a client approaches you for sustainability services. What’s the first step you take in determining and launching your sustainability projects?
Nicole Snarski: Sustainability is an incredibly broad topic. Some companies are focusing on energy efficiency, others on water savings, and some on reducing the strain on our landfills. The initial step is to determine what the client wants as an end result of the sustainability initiative. We have some clients that have sustainability woven into the corporate missions, and therefore, they have higher requirements, expectations, and—often—higher budgets. For example, a green roof has many benefits, but not all clients have it in their budget to install a green roof. The same goes for LEED Platinum certification. This can be a higher cost, but worth the investment depending on the client’s overall sustainability goals, mission, and focus. Other clients find more value in more focused projects such as energy savings, and they direct their efforts and resources into reducing the building’s overall energy consumption, rather than the LEED certifications.
gb&d: If a client has a larger budget, and they want to pursue some level of LEED certification, how does Cassidy Turley respond?
Snarski: If a client is looking for a LEED certification, the first thing that we suggest is conducting a feasibility study. This study will yield an overview of where the asset stands with regard to the LEED rating system. It provides an overall roadmap for the project and the steps to move forward. Before launching a project, it is important to know how a building is performing, with regard to sustainability, and where the starting point is.
gb&d: Is there ever a time Cassidy Turley has found when it’s not worth it to make a property more sustainable?
Snarski: There is never a time when it’s “not worth it” to make a property more sustainable. However, there are certain sustainability projects that might not be the best approach for a particular property at a given time. For example, a building requires an Energy Star score of 69 to pursue a LEED-EB certification. If a building has an Energy Star score that is extremely low, the benefits of the LEED certification may not outweigh the cost of the energy improvements. Therefore, it might not be the best strategy for that owner to pursue a LEED certification at that time. However, other sustainability initiatives can be implemented for the building while focusing on bringing energy performance up to the LEED required minimum through upgrades, retrofits, commissioning, tenant education, and so forth.
gb&d: What are some of these alternate sustainability initiatives?
Snarski: There is the Powerful Ideas Campaign: colorful, clever posters display sustainability tips that are easy to implement as an individual or a tenant. In our Green Bucks program, building managers and engineers distribute “coupons” to people they see doing things that save energy (consistently turning off monitors/computers, switching lights off when they leave their offices, etc.). For example, in one building, these coupons can be used as “cash” in the deli within the building. We also can distribute a regular tenant sustainability newsletter with building sustainability updates, reminders, and tips to engage and encourage sustainability throughout tenant offices. There are also ways to incorporate sustainability into tenant events by serving locally grown or manufactured products or raffling off prizes related to sustainability.
gb&d: Can the ‘success’ of a sustainability program be quantified?
Snarski: The success of these programs does not have an explicit performance metric associated; however we strive to touch as many different people as possible. We want to educate our tenants on how to be more sustainable by making them aware of simple ideas that they can incorporate into their day-to-day activities. For example, with our Green Bucks program, we strive to keep energy efficiency and sustainability on the tenants’ minds throughout the day. The Powerful Ideas Campaigns are another way to share ideas with a broad audience. Many of the posters are displayed at parking garage entrances, on display boards outside a building entrance, or in a building lobby.