Tuesday, August 5, 2008

JLL Acquires LEED Rival

In a move certain to raise eyebrows in the industry that has grown around benchmarking and certifying green buildings, Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. (NYSE: JLL) has acquired the developer of Green Globes, an online interactive tool viewed as either a competitor or supplement to the U.S. heavyweight Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, depending on who you talk to.

In the deal, JLL acquires Toronto-based ECD Energy and Environment Canada Ltd., an environmental consulting firm known for developing suites of online environmental rating systems for buildings, including Green Globes, licensed and overseen in the U.S. by the nonprofit Green Building Initiative (GBI) in Portland, OR, and Go Green, supervised by the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) in Canada. ECD staff will join Jones Lang LaSalle’s Toronto office, but other terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The GBI, which emerged as an alternative to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED standard in 2004, touts Green Globes as "the practical building rating standard" on its Web site.

Green Globes’ roots go back to 1996 when the Canadian Standards Association, a public/private group establishing safety and performance standards, published the Building Research Establishment's Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) as a guideline for existing buildings in Canada. It became an online assessment and rating tool for existing buildings under the Green Globes brand in 2000 and began developing standards for new building design.

In 2004, Green Globes for Existing Buildings was adopted by BOMA Canada, where it operates under the name Go Green Plus. Under the terms of the acquisition, Green Globes/Go Green standards will maintain independence from JLL and continue to operate under the GBI in the U.S. and BOMA in Canada.

JLL, which has emerged as a leader in energy conservation and sustainability in the commercial real estate industry, acquires ECD’s technology platform for measuring sustainability and benchmarking across commercial building portfolios. The tools assess new building design, existing building operations and interior modifications for their impact on energy, water and other environmental factors, along with occupant health and well being.

Although the upstart program is often described as a competing standard to LEED, Jones Lang LaSalle officials describe it as a supplement rather than a replacement for the well-established USGBC program, especially for owners of large commercial portfolios.

"Green Globes is more of a tool than a standard. We think they are very complementary," Dan Probst, chairman of energy and sustainability services at JLL, told CoStar Advisor. "LEED is clearly a standard that has gained wide acceptance and carries a lot of meaning for people in the marketplace, particularly for new construction.

"The marketplace is begging for a tool that will enable a quick assessment. Owners who have a large portfolio of existing buildings want to know where they stack up in terms of LEED. We think Green Globes is a great tool for doing that baseline assessment, and generating some recommendations to improve the buildings’ overall performance."

"It’s a fairly lengthy process" under LEED to assess performance to the standard, especially portfolios that may have hundreds or thousands of properties, Probst continued. One scenario would be for an owner to start the process with a Green Globe assessment, then use the baseline and recommendations as a foundation to pursue LEED certification, "if they think it’s important to have [LEED] designation."

JLL "definitely does not" see Green Globes as an all-out replacement for LEED or Energy Star, he said.

"We really see it as more of a tool; in fact, we’re already looking at some enhancements to link it to Energy Star. We’ve already had some discussions."

In a statement released to CoStar on Wednesday evening, USGBC Manager of Corporate and Investment Real Estate Marc Heisterkamp called the JLL acquisition 'yet another proof point in the business case that green operations and maintenance practices are moving from an add-on, ‘nice-to-have’ feature to an integrated approach to sound building management that makes good business and environmental sense."

Heisterkamp noted that the USGBC has been working with 40 organizations -- including CB Richard Ellis, Cushman & Wakefield and Transwestern, which together own or manage more than 4 billion square feet -- to green their portfolios using LEED for Existing Buildings Operations & Maintenance.

"But those numbers, even considering Jones Lang LaSalle’s commitment, are small in the face of this tremendous challenge of greening 5.1 million commercial buildings," he said. "As an industry, what we have here is a good start, but there’s a lot more work to do."

While JLL supports LEED, Energy Star and BREEAM, "there are few efficient tools like the Green Globes/Go Green programs that allow owners to bring their entire portfolios up to these standards," said Lauralee Martin, JLL global chief operating officer.

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