How to Really 'Green' a Lease

How to Really 'Green' a Lease

Chances are that if your owner already hasn’t, it will be adding green provisions to your lease.

Recent research shows that some green office buildings are performing significantly below industry norms. That’s a major issue for real estate investors seeking a return on their investment in green buildings. It’s also a big worry for tenants since a lease is a long-term commitment, and typically represents a company’s largest single contractual obligation. Addressing these concerns was the spark behind the Model Green Lease Project, which was initiated by the Chicago chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and Corporate Realty, Design & Management Institute. The procedures and metrics included in the Model Green Lease can cut energy consumption 25 to 50 percent below the average office building, yet are easy to do and make economic sense.

The Model Green Lease was crafted by a national task force of attorneys, commercial real estate brokers, corporate tenants, developers, real estate investors, tenant improvement contractors, building service providers, and green building consultants. Starting with a clean sheet of paper the task force had four goals: First, create a lease document that’s fair to both parties. Second, improve energy efficiency and environmental performance. Third, ensures tenants receive the full benefits of a high performance workplace over their lease term without sacrificing comfort or service. Fourth, maximize the return on investment for those investing in green buildings.

“Some people think you can green a lease by adding some language to require green products and construction practices. While this may give a lease a green tint it’s not enough to make a lease green,” says Alan Whitson RPA, President of Corporate Realty, Design & Management Institute and head of the Model Green Lease Project. “To create a truly green lease, requires rethinking the basic tenants of today’s office leases and overcoming the many myths surrounding how office buildings operate.”

Many things change during the term of a lease – building ownership changes, property management companies replaced, and tenants come and go. The Model Green Lease ensures a building continues to meet or exceed its intended performance goals. It defines the environmental standards and metrics the landlord will use to operate and maintain the building, and how the tenants will build out and operate their premises in a sustainable manner. The result is a building that is environmentally responsible, profitable, and provides a healthy and productive workplace.

A seminar on the Model Green Lease Project will be presented by the Chicago chapter of USGBC and Corporate Realty, Design and Management Institute on April 23. For more information, go to