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A Site Selection Web Exclusive, March 2017
WEB Exclusive story

What Gets Measured

CBRE'S Smart Building Client Experience Center outside Milwaukee is one of just six buildings in the world that have earned a Triple LEED Platinum rating.
Photo courtesy of CBRE

Four snapshots demonstrate what can happen when data, energy and square footage meet.


The age-old corporate real estate struggle to get a true grip on a company's full property portfolio is today nearly always paired with the effort to assess that portfolio's energy and sustainability profile. And both goals are yoked to the huge increase in available data. Several recent items crossing the transom here at Site Selection offer guideposts for these parallel journeys.

Last month in San Diego, sustainability software leader Measurabl, led by former CBRE sustainability leader Matt Ellis, announced a new collaborative effort with the Urban Land Institute Greenprint Center for Building Performance that will improve sustainability and building performance tracking for more than 20,000 commercial buildings covering 3.7 billion sq. ft. (nearly 344 million sq. m.). That very large footprint constitutes the collective portfolio of Greenprint consortium members (real estate owners, investors and strategic partners) and Measurabl subscribers, who together represent the world’s largest database of sustainability-focused commercial real estate owners and investors.

In the past six years, Greenprint members have decreased energy consumption by 13.7 percent, greenhouse gas emissions by 16.5 percent, and water use by 10.9 percent, saving $42 million in utility costs in this past year alone.

"The industry’s data requirements continue to evolve; to that end, we are pleased to partner with a software provider that can innovate to meet the industry’s needs,' said Greenprint Executive Director Helen Gurfel.

According to a release, Greenprint members include industry leaders such as PGIM Real Estate, ProLogis, LaSalle Investment Management, and CalPERS, one of the world’s largest pension funds. These members add over 1.5 billion square feet to the more than 2 billion pre-existing Measurabl users, including CBRE Global Investors, Boston Properties, and USAA Real Estate Company.

“It’s a testament not only to the quality of our platform but our shared mission of empowering organizations with investment-grade data and sustainability solutions," said Matt Ellis, Measurabl’s founder and CEO. The Greenprint-Measurabl collaboration was established in part to reduce the complexity of sustainability data collection, management, and reporting. The partners said the new tie-up will ensure that Greenprint members, who collectively manage over $1 trillion in assets, have the most advanced data collection and reporting tools available.

Retrofit to Remember

Partners including JLL, ComEd, Zeller Realty and Cypress Envirosystems gathered in Chicago in late February to show off what they called "The Smartest Energy Efficiency Retrofit in Chicago" at 311 South Wacker, a 65-story building originally completed in 1990.

Bob Best of JLL described Zeller's goal of making the 1.4-million-sq.-ft. tower a model. First step: Replaced the thermostats with 944 wireless pneumatic thermostats through Cypress. Then apply JLL's IntelliCommand smart building system, now operating in more than 120 buildings around the world. Next, stir in the largest energy incentive check for a commercial building in history: $402,318.50, presented by ComEd in 2015. Among the results:

  1. A reduction of the energy utilized for HVAC in excess of 30% per year,
  2. A payback achieved in less than 1.8 years,
  3. Implementation accomplished via cloud-based optimization.

Getting Smarter All the Time

Oddly enough, one of the major tenants at 311 South Wacker used to be CBRE, which moved some 300 employees from there to River North in 2014. CBRE Group in March announced the opening of a 34,000-sq.-ft. Smart Building Client Experience Center (CEC) outside Milwaukee in the Gateway West Commerce Center, in order to showcase CBRE|ESI, the company’s smart building solutions business.

ComEd check pres group shot 6-25-15
The energy efficiency retrofit at 311 South Wacker in Chicago earned the largest energy incentive check for a commercial building in history: $402,318.50, presented by ComEd in 2015.
Photo courtesy of Cypress Envirosystems

The CEC is one of just six buildings in the world that have earned a triple LEED Platinum rating. Capabilities include the ability to track an occupant from arrival on site to departure, with real-time capability to adjust air quality, temperature, light, audio, and visual capabilities based on movement throughout the environment. CBRE|ESI uses an advanced integration and analytics platform to securely gather and analyze data from sensors, various building systems, meters, and other devices. Best practices for network security and internet-of-things (IoT) design are showcased throughout the facility.

If that sounds familiar, it's because it's similar to a Milwaukee facility operated by Johnson Controls' facility solutions business, which in 2015 was acquired by CBRE.

"CBRE|ESI’s CEC also demonstrates the tangible results of cost reduction and environmental stewardship clients can achieve," says the company. "The center itself performed 41 percent more efficiently than design models had projected. It also eliminated 223 tons of CO2 (equivalent of consuming 25,000 gallons of gasoline) in the building’s first year of occupancy.

“The smart building process, expertise, and technology within CBRE|ESI create tremendous value for both individual facilities and global portfolios,” said Bill Concannon, CEO of CBRE’s Global Workplace Solutions.

CBRE|ESI employs 70 engineers, designers, developers, and data scientists who provide solutions for building automation, systems integration, security, life safety, energy services, and building operations.

Full Disclosure Please

Last but not least, Helios Exchange, the world’s first commercial real estate platform for energy retrofit project development, insurance and financing, in February launched launch of the world’s first online platform offering comprehensive solutions to discover, develop, insure and finance energy efficiency retrofit projects.

"Buildings account for 40 percent of US energy use and carbon emissions," said Pierre Trevet, founder and CEO of Helios Exchange. “Typically, buildings can save 30 percent of their energy use through proven energy efficiency measures. Until now, the transaction costs to develop and finance energy retrofit projects in commercial real estate have been prohibitive, leaving 70 percent of the building stock unaddressed. Thanks to Helios’ game-changing retrofit risk simulation technology, financing and insuring the energy efficiency improvements can be done cost-effectively for any size building.”

One way Helios does this is to take advantage of city energy disclosure regulations in many if not most of the nation's largest cities, from New York to Seattle to Los Angeles and San Francisco. With free public access to over 150,000 commercial buildings, the Helios platform identifies what it says is $12 billion in annual energy savings opportunities, which can be implemented through proven financing solutions offered by Helios. The company has secured access to an initial pool of $500 Million in capital for all types of project financing models: Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), Energy Services Agreements (ESAs), loans, leases, as well as tax-exempt financing.

Adam Bruns
Editor in Chief of Site Selection magazine

Adam Bruns

Adam Bruns is editor in chief and head of publications for Site Selection, and before that has served as managing editor beginning in February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.


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