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1992: the year of the environment.

No one in the New York real estate community had to get on a plane and fly to Brazil for an "Earth Summit" to realize that the environment was the number one topic of just about everyone on the planet during the first half of 1992. Without a doubt, the words "Sick Building Syndrome" and "Indoor Air Quality" took their rightful place alongside the major environmental concern of the past five years, asbestos. Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) and Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) will continue to be the primary issues that we confront for at least the next six months, and for a much longer time after that.

Awareness That

Something is Wrong

In early 1992 the real estate industry continued to come to the same conclusion that the Environmental Protection Agency arrived at in 1989, when it reported to Congress that "sufficient evidence exists to conclude that indoor air pollution represents a major portion of the public's exposure to air pollution and may pose serious acute and chronic health risks."

As environmental consultants trained to recognize potential health risks and assess them with the tools of biology and modern technology, we can say without a doubt that we consistently found air quality problems within buildings that must be addressed if workers are to maintain their health and building owners and managers are to avoid serious litigation, not to mention tenant defections. Banks have already become acutely aware of the consequences of the environment on property transfers and lending.

The cause of poor indoor air quality is generally thought to be the result of the energy-conscious 1970's. As you'll recall, the OPEC oil embargoes stimulated Americans to build structures that were tighter than ever before, in an attempt to avoid heat and air conditioning losses. This construction put a great deal of pressure on air circulation systems, especially the air conditioning and ventilation systems. Simply stated, the results were a classic mixed-blessing: more efficient buildings on the one hand, but also more mold, mildew and fungus - the causes of sickness - on the other. When serious complaints began to be reported industry-wide, something had to be done. We are at the point of deciding what to do now.

The Forecast

Although forecasting anything in today's real estate market is a challenge, in the area of the environment it may be slightly easier. From global warming to recycling, the environment is a politically-charged area in which everyone has an interest. The media has not been shy in keeping us focused on the problems. As a result, public concern will continue to put pressure on legislators and leaders to make laws, and they will respond. In fact, one of the more significant events of the first half of the year took place on Long Island in March, when the New York State Assembly Committees on Health and Environmental Conservation conducted the state's first-ever hearing on Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). While mountains of presentation material and reports were generated in Garden City, the results can be summarized by saying that office workers suffering from poor indoor air quality have found increasing interested and powerful advocates in the legislature. New York City, with its history as a strict regulatory climate, may become "ground zero" for the first strike against a problem that, according to the American Lung Association, costs an estimated $100 billion annually in medical claims and lost productivity.

It would be self-serving to say that "clean" buildings will be the wave of the future, if common sense did not lead to the same conclusion. People do not want to experience fatigue, blurred vision and nausea. Economic sense dictates that, for the moment, a building that has a certified, clean bill of health, or takes advantage of modern technology and ensures clean and safe working conditions, will offer value that not everyone in the market can offer right now.
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Title Annotation:Review and Forecast, Section IV
Author:Carey, Jennifer L.
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jun 24, 1992
Words:644
Previous Article:Development still needed in some areas.
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