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Retailers starting to shop around for green spaces.

While retailers such as LL Bean and Whole Foods have had their eye on sustainability for a while--a reflection of their values as well as those of their customers--creating green retail spaces largely remains uncharted territory.

But a panel of experts last week for the International Council of Shopping Centers-Next Generation "Sustainable Retail" program attempted to unravel some of the mystery of the topic. They spoke about some of the driving forces behind the push, consumer expectations, the various benefits and the emerging LEED for retail rating system.

Justin Doak, of the US Green Building Council, said creating eco-friendly spaces has long-term energy-savings benefits, is being driven by companies' values and is increasingly important to customers. The event was held at the Times Center.

"I think it's becoming more of a competitive thing (between stores)," he said.

Doak was joined on the panel by Jennifer McDonnell, green mission specialist for Whole Foods-Northeast, and Leo Pierre Roy, managing director of environmental and energy services for Vanasse Hangen Brustlin.

While creating LEED spaces for commercial is fairly common these days, experts said, LEED for retail is newer. There is still very much a learning curve. For food retailers, for example--their spaces require intense energy use--some of the technology simply does not exist yet. Municipal codes are not up to date in other instances.

"In this particular case, a retailer is trying to do it but the regulations don't help," said Roy. Change can be hard, too. "I had a guy who was putting a waterless urinal say, 'It scares me.' Well, what is it that's scary?"

Experts said creating LEED retail can create added costs up front, but there are energy-savings benefits over the life of the building. The change can also add to employee retention as well as higher rents for those who erect green buildings, as research has shown a majority of tenants are willing to pay a premium.

Roy said there are a number of grants that may be sought for those building green. It may even speed the building permitting process because municipalities realize that sustainable facilities have less of a strain on infrastructure.

"Your time is money so moving your project along faster is good," Roy said.

McDonnell said Whole Foods has long had a green waste-management practice, though setting up various recycling containers has sometimes annoyed neighboring tenants.

"Ultimately, it has put us in a leadership position," she said.

The LEED for retail rating system is entering the public comment period and will officially launch in the fall. It will be broken into two ratings: LEED for Retail: New Construction, and LEED for Retail: Commercial Interiors.

Details on the rating systems can be found at www. usgbc.org on the Web.
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Title Annotation:Construction & Design
Comment:Retailers starting to shop around for green spaces.(Construction & Design)
Author:Majeski, John
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:May 7, 2008
Words:455
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