Many consider commercial buildings to be one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions and Clear Blue Commercial’s Carolyn Pistone discussed how buildings can be environmentally sound and profitable in this EXCLUSIVE.

Pistone established an advisory board to expand Clear Blue’s sustainability consulting business.

PETALUMA, CAClear Blue Commercials president and managing director Carolyn

Pistone is an ecobroker and certified green building professional who has successfully built a collaborative consultancy that enables landlord clients, vendors, team members and the planet to thrive. Clear Blue provides property owners with sustainable, profitable and environmentally conscious solutions for facilities.

After many years of implementing green upgrades to the properties it manages, Pistone recently established an advisory board to help expand its sustainability consulting and project management services for all types of commercial real estate properties. Considering commercial buildings are a large contributor to carbon emissions, Pistone discussed how they can be both sustainable and profitable in this exclusive. Many businesses and building owners would like to make green upgrades, but isn’t it more expensive?

Pistone: This is a common misconception, especially when the upgrades are not viewed holistically. All investors and business owners know that smart resource usage is good business. Increased carbon emissions are not just bad for the planet, they are also bad for landlords’ and tenants’ bottom line. Renewable energy sources, lighting conversions and water-saving initiatives not only save costs today, but can be a hedge against inflation tomorrow.

One of the ways we have worked to mitigate the upfront costs of many improvements for our clients is to take a comprehensive approach to the property. We review and price every possible upgrade, calculate all the energy and water savings, and then review all the possible grants, rebates, financing options and tax incentives. We then calculate the time to ROI (in many cases less than three years) and show the client how much it is costing them every month they wait. Many utility companies offer programs for no-interest on-bill financing where people can pay for these projects on monthly utility bills through energy savings.

In this way, we were recently able to complete a large LED conversion in an office building with no out-of-pocket cost to the landlord and no increase in operating expenses. The EV charging stations installed in the same building recouped 50% of the costs through a grant from our local air quality management district, and, even with the additional electrical draw from the charging stations, the utility bills still dropped due to the LED conversion. These valuable amenities allowed rents to stay competitive, helped our client attract tenants and helped our tenants attract employees without increasing costs to either one. How do sustainable upgrades affect property values?

Pistone: The short answer: they increase it. Although there is not yet comprehensive data that valuation professionals have adopted, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence out there. One example is the building we mentioned earlier. Our client purchased the building in late 2011 for just under $3 million and sold it in mid-2017 for just over $8 million. Even if the sustainable upgrades only accounted for 10% of the profit, the increased value is still significant. Aside from the quantifiers, which support an investment in sustainability upgrades, how can commercial real estate be a leader in combating climate change?

Pistone: Our commercial buildings are the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the world: greater than all of our cars, jet planes and super-tankers, and where the greatest opportunities are for positive environmental impact. We need to include sustainability in our definition of ‘highest and best use’ of every property. Although current building innovations and standards are allowing us to build new structures with net zero environmental impact, we know that the greenest buildings are the ones that are already built. How do your brokerage services fit in with your sustainability mission and related project management services?

Pistone: We strive to meet every client and property where they are, and, through the course of each transaction, project or consulting assignment, move them forward on the sustainability continuum. Obviously, the broader our reach, the greater positive impact we can have on our planet and in our communities. What additional capabilities does your advisory board bring to your current service offerings?

Pistone: Our new board members boast extensive expertise in law, project management, customer relations, sustainability, business consultation and entrepreneurship, providing strategic guidance as well as operational and industry counseling. The board intends to work with us to market and scale our business throughout our region and beyond, maximize opportunities for our sustainability-driven mission, and create a support structure for our clients, agents and project managers.