Managers of commercial property are finding that upgrades to landscaping and building-environment control systems to reduce water and energy use, costly as they are, can reduce operating expenses and increase property income.Tossing the turf
[caption id="attachment_74541" align="alignleft" width="162"] Carolyn Pistone[/caption]
"Many of the landlords I work with are smaller owners, and we go for the low-hanging fruit -- landscaping," said Carolyn Pistone of Green Key Commercial. She started the Petaluma-based property management company two years ago after managing the disposition of more than 1 million square feet of office and flex space formerly owned by Equity Office Properties in the city.
Working with landscaping firm Cagwin & Dorward, Green Key helped one property owner convert a relatively small amount of turf to low-water landscaping and a walking path for less than $20,000. The project paid for itself in two years from lower spending on water, not counting the maintenance budget and water used for washing sprinkler overspray from windows and sidewalks, according to Ms. Pistone.
[caption id="attachment_74543" align="alignright" width="378"] Airport Business Center is having 40 acres of conventional landscaping removed at the main entrances to the business park and replaced with Bay-Friendly alternatives. (image credit: Marizco Landscape Management)[/caption]
At the Airport Business Center development next to Charles M. Schulz--Sonoma County Airport, a three-year effort to convert 40 acres of turf and other water-intense landscaping to lower-consumption options is ongoing.
Using guidelines developed by Point Richmond-based Bay-Friendly Coalition, turf has been replaced at main entrances to the business park with colorful drought-tolerant foliage that's native to the area, resulting in 62 percent less water use per year, according to Pierre Marizco, chief executive officer of Marizco Landscape Management, which has been doing the work.
"More and more of our clients through education from us are budgeting more money to convert landscaping to something that is more sustainable for the purpose of reducing water bills and maintenance costs," Mr. Marizco said.Higher tech for tech tenants
To attract and keep tenants, Basin Street Properties is modernizing building-environment control systems to adapt to changing ways of doing business and to lower occupancy costs.
"The old days of operating 8 to 5 are gone," Ms. Burlingame said. "A lot of tenants have special needs for heating and cooling and power, because the business is structured to operate around the clock or have employees coming in at odd hours and working in tight quarters."
High-technology, automated environmental and lighting control systems can cost as much as a couple hundred thousand dollars yet allow for a leaner engineering team who can monitor and manage buildings remotely, so Basin Street is implementing as much as is economically feasible. Depending on the building design and mechanical systems, heating and cooling may have to be run for an entire building to accommodate certain tenants with extended hours, but other buildings can be adjusted to focus on where the tenant is.
"When you have tenants that are paying a share of operating costs, you have to fairly distribute those costs," Ms. Burlingame said.
Basin Street is moving its portfolio to meet the U.S. Energy Department's Energy Star standard, and some properties are being evaluated for certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, rating systems.
The costs and benefits of LEED certification have been debated for several years. However, certification can make or break deals with prospective or current tenants that require it as part of policy, such as state and federal government entities, according to Ms. Burlingame.