There are numerous ways to measure the sustainability of a major city these days. Cutting-edge, energy-efficient transportation, renewable energy and recycling/reuse programs are all excellent indicators of a “green” municipal mindset. So is green real estate. Energy-efficient, certified real estate construction has been gaining prominence in recent years, so much so that it is now addressed in bylaws in many cities across North America.
So it’s also no surprise that the real estate group CBRE came up with a list of the top 30 U.S. cities to feature green commercial building construction. What is intriguing is the variation between cities when it comes to what defined that green emphasis.
Cities on this list are ranked according to the total percentage of square footage that is designated to be either LEED or Energy-Star certified real estate (the second numerical column, found on page 4). The top 30 is then broken down further according to a) the total percentage of green buildings in the city, b) the percentage of LEED-certified buildings and c) the percentage of Energy Star-certified buildings. The list also shows the percentage of square footage for LEED- and Energy Star-designated buildings.
The percentage of green buildings in a city can vary dramatically from the percentage of square footage, as the stats for Minneapolis/St. Paul demonstrate. Although the percentage of green buildings for this leading city is just under 30 percent, its designated square footage is 77 percent. According to the report authors, today’s certified buildings are often larger than non-certified buildings, lending a disproportionate view of green market growth. But there’s no question that both certification programs are gaining popularity in America’s largest cities. LEED has gained a good foothold in cities like San Francisco, Seattle and Minneapolis, whereas Energy Star has been the preferred method of certification in Chicago, Houston and Atlanta.
Some highlights include:
- San Francisco comes in second on the list, with 67.2 percent of its commercial square footage designated as green.
- Chicago is third, with 61.2 percent of green real estate.
- Houston beats out Atlanta, Los Angeles, Denver and Seattle, with 54.8 percent of its commercial square footage dedicated to green-certified construction.
- In most cases, the percentage of square footage for Energy Star-efficient commercial space was higher than the square footage of LEED-certified floor space. Seattle is an exception to that, which came in eighth on the list with 46.6 percent total floor space, and a greater percentage of LEED square footage (31.8) than Energy-Star-certified construction (28 percent).
What’s the takeaway message of this new list? In a nutshell, green real estate construction is growing. The percentage of certified commercial office space in the U.S. is now more than six times what it was in 2005 (39.3 in 2013 compared to 5.6 in 2005).
Image credit: CBRE