TSL on the Scene: Inside a Green Lease

Monday, July 02, 2012

This past Tuesday, the BBA hosted program that provided engineering tips on greening an office and legal tips greening a lease. This sounded like a great opportunity to sit in on one of the BBA’s many brownbag lunches and hear from resident experts like Mark Walsh-Cooke (ARUP), Vernon Woodworth (AKF Group) and moderator Julie Taylor (Noble & Wickersham). If you have been reading TSL, you know that this has been a topic we have touched on before, but with all the new info we learned, we are eager to show it off.
 
Though many of the questions and conversations were at a very high level, TSL is going to do its best to break down what we learned into simple categories. Here goes:
 
Green leases are necessary.

Some basic facts (garnered from the 2012 Green Lease Workgroup of the Environmental Law and Real Estate Section of the BBA) about buildings in the United States:
 Buildings account for over 50% of U.S energy use (in urban areas, it is closer to 75%)
 U.S. Buildings emit more greenhouses gases than the transportation sector
 Buildings in the U.S. use more than 38 billion gallons of water every day
 
Based on these state alone, it’s obvious that limiting the energy use and emissions of buildings is an extremely important sustainability initiative. But doesn’t that sounds really, really hard? Well, that brings us to our next point.

Green leases are not “heavy lifting”.
 
One of the biggest misconceptions about a green lease is the amount of work involved and how complicated that work is. While it is true that not just anyone can (or should) write up a green lease, that does not mean the process is overly taxing. There are a few important things everyone considering a green lease needs to know:
 
1) Writing a green lease does not mean you need to write or approve an entirely new lease. All it means is including or editing your current lease to incorporate new sustainable processes.
 
2) A green lease, or green clause, need not be lengthy. Experts at the meeting mentioned that the most simple clauses ones are only a paragraph or two while more complicated ones may go on for *gasp* two whole pages!

The last (and maybe best) part about green leases? Most of the work is already done for you.
 
1) The most complicated part of the arrangement, landlord tenant concerns, have also been addressed.  Here’s the problem: the landlord doesn’t want to offer the initial payout to remodel, buy new lighting fixtures and the like unless they see the benefits on their bottom line. The tenant, because they are leasing the building doesn’t want to be held accountable for the initial payout but wants to reap the benefits when it comes to energy bills. The solution? Experts in their fields have developed model clauses that bridge the gap between tenant and landlord’s when it comes to green leases. This model lease holds both parties offering a portion towards the initial payout and both receiving benefits of the reduction in energy costs.
 
2) Many green organizations, government agencies and other associations wanted to make creating or editing a green lease as easy as possible, so the provide countless guides, green leases clauses, policies and procedures and the like. The BBA is no different — keep an eye out for the BBA’s Green Lease Workgroup’s Green Lease Guide, set to be released this fall. In the meantime, here are a few sources you can check out:
 
There you have it. Greening your lease is necessary, does not take up countless hours of billable time, and there is a bevy of available resources online to at your disposal to make the process as simple and easy as possible.
 
So…what are you waiting for?

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