Hot Tips for a Tenant to Green its Space

by C. Gregg Ankenman and Daniel B. Myers

Companies of all shapes and sizes ranging from office and commercial tenants to those in the retail sector continue to look for ways to ensure their spaces are as “green” as possible – especially in today’s climate with a focus on water conservation due to the  increasingly worsening drought and the continuing efforts to conserve energy. Parties negotiating a new lease can enter into a “green lease” which establishes sustainability goals at the outset of the landlord-tenant relationship and allocates responsibility for implementation of sustainability measures.  However, parties to existing leases can agree to “green up” the premises (including amending an existing lease) to achieve sustainability goals.

Green Updates in Your Existing Space

Tenants should look at and consider the following sustainability upgrades that can be made – for an often significant environmental return – in their existing spaces, particularly those occupying older single-tenant buildings:

  • Water Use:  Make sure all break and restrooms in your space utilize low-flow systems.  Tenants in the retail sector might want to look into water-savings systems and practices that allow them to enjoy resulting savings (i.e. metered faucets). Particularly with the current drought, there are a number of exterior changes parties can make to reduce water usage, such as turf conversions and the installation of native landscaping, drip irrigation and the greywater recapture systems. While installing these systems can be expensive, rebates and reductions in water bills can help offset the initial installation costs. 
  • Energy Use:  In multi-tenant buildings, to accurately track energy use, tenants will want to request that separate meters be installed.
  • Solar:  Occupants of single-tenant buildings with long-term leases may want to explore whether it makes sense to install solar systems to serve the building. However, before doing so, the parties should carefully review and revise lease documents to specify each party’s rights and responsibilities.
  • Energy Efficient Lighting:  Inquire as to what kind of lighting your space uses and request more energy efficient systems if available. Occupancy sensors for lighting systems are another measure that should be considered.
  • Parking/Transportation:  Tenants might consider implementing green transportation solutions for employees or customers,  such as electrical charging stations, bicycle parking and other sustainable transit measures.  
  • Recycling:  While recycling is more than commonplace in buildings today, make sure there are easily accessible recycling bins in all areas (i.e. a basket in every office). Take efforts a step further by implementing a composting system and educating employees on how to use it.
  • Janitorial:  A relatively low cost measure is to require janitorial services to use sustainable cleaning products. In addition, tenants and landlords should make sure the janitorial service providers are turning off all lights and following recycling procedures.
  • Furniture/Carpets/Paints:  Another good measure is to look for and purchase low-VOC (or VOC free) furniture, carpeting and paint when making improvements in the premises. 

           

In most cases, an existing tenant’s lease will not give the tenant the right to require the landlord to spend money to make green upgrades. However, for parties with long-term leases, such capital improvements may result in long-term cost savings for both landlords and tenants (as well as improving the green credibility of the building). Therefore, even for parties in existing landlord-tenant relationships, there are opportunities to negotiate and document responsibility for installation and payment of green improvements through a lease amendment.