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Canadian office tenants survey shows demand for green buildings

By: Sonja Persram, BSc., MBA, LEED AP - Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Source: Sustainable Alternatives Consulting, Inc.

Building owners and developers take note: a survey released in September shows that Canadian office tenants want green buildings. Colliers International's 2007 Canadian Office Tenant Survey, conducted in July by Pollara, demonstrates a high market demand for green leased space.[1]

Survey results show:

  • 91 percent of tenants prefer green buildings
  • 90 percent of respondents agree on the importance of landlords and developers greening their portfolios (49 percent state this is very important)
  • 65 percent of tenants would pay a premium for greener leased space
  • 62 percent would be prepared to pay net rent premiums given their utility consumption was lowered by 30 percent

Tenants are not only aware of green building benefits (70 percent) and LEED® (52 percent are familiar), their responses show markets can expect tenants to target green buildings to facilitate staff retention and for business reasons.  According to 94 percent of tenants, sustainability is an important future aspect of good business practices.

Drivers that tenants rank as most important for staff attraction and retention include:

  • Proximity to public transportation (8.7 out of 10)
  • Excellent indoor environmental air quality and thermal comfort (8.7)
  • High level of natural light (8.0)

82 percent of tenants note that sick leave, productivity, turnover and low morale affect their companies; and 31 percent observe high impacts of these factors.

Tenants also ranked drivers for choosing new office space (on a scale of 1-10; 1 being 'no influence' and 10 being 'a deciding factor'). These drivers include:

  • Health and well-being of staff (8.5)
  • Corporate image (7.7)
  • Corporate social responsibility (7.6)
  • Triple bottom line accounting – people, planet, profit (7.4)
  • Attracting and retaining young staff (7.4)
  • Environmental sustainability (7.3)

Nancy Searchfield, Colliers International green building specialist, LEED® AP, and CaGBC Vice Chair, observes "some tenants report reductions in absenteeism and health complaints. When you combine these potential productivity benefits with the opportunity to reduce utility costs by 20-30 percent or more, the question, really, is not whether we can afford to go green, but whether we can afford not to."

The key now for marketers in green practitioner firms would be to take this valuable information and match it with research such as known impacts of green measures on building, occupant and corporate performance; other market expectations of corporations toward greening; and information on true costs of green building measures - for a full marketing package to developers and owners. However, not all companies have these marketing resources available to them.

When practitioners lack access to marketing materials that persuade their target segments in favour of sustainability, this gap lengthens the sales cycle.  Further, small- and medium-sized industry organizations may require additional time to be spent on education by the firm's most experienced green practitioners – delaying development and elevating the cost.

Given the urgency of greening buildings due to their GHG emissions and other environmental, social and economic impacts, removing barriers to rapid market transformation is necessary – for instance, particularly in the new paradigm of
LEED® Canada.  Low- or no-cost marketing materials are a significant enabling tool to accelerate green building uptake. Associations that provide these materials facilitate collective marketing via their members who act as distribution channels. The information is delivered with client focus, a common voice and repeated by members which helps clients to remember the messages.

To this end, material from two reports will be posted by year's end to the CaGBC’s website. These reports are: Marketing Green Buildings to Owners of Leased Properties and Marketing Green Buildings to Tenants of Leased Properties, co-authored by Mark Lucuik, P.Eng, LEED® AP (
Morrison Hershfield), Nils Larsson, MRAIC, (Executive Director, International Initiative for a Sustainable Built Environment) and myself (lead author).  Putting marketing materials online enables continuous updates as new research and rationales arise, and provides a one-stop shop for members who don’t have to conduct the process individually.

Green Syndicated Columnist Sonja Persram is author of: Green Buildings: A Strategic Analysis of North American Markets for Frost & Sullivan (published Aug 06) addressing Energy, Water and Facilities Management; and the U.S. portion of International Sustainable Building Policy Initiatives, a study for Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation whose project lead was Nils Larsson, iiSBE Executive Director. She was a member of the City of Toronto’s Green Development Standards Working Group. Contact: Sustainable Alternatives Consulting Inc:

[1] Colliers International 2007 Canadian Office Tenant Survey, conducted by Pollara, surveyed 181 office tenants between July 24 and July 31, 2007. Each tenant leased over 10,000 sf of office space.

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