By Marnie Abramson, Principal of the Tower Cos.
Sunday, October 8, 2006
The Tower Cos. and Lerner Enterprises recently announced that Washington Square, which contains a million square feet of office and retail space at 1050 Connecticut Ave. NW, is purchasing wind power to meet 100 percent of the building's energy needs. Since then there has been significant interest in why we decided to make this purchase.
Compared with other forms of renewable energy, wind is inexpensive. It's also pollution-free, infinitely renewable and doesn't require water or fuel for generation. However, green energy is more costly than brown energy, which comes from coal, fossil fuels, etc. So why pay more for one kind of energy when you can buy another that performs the same task and costs less? Well, what makes you choose a Class A trophy office building over Class C space? Don't they both provide the same function? Of course, but they are obviously not the same. With this wind energy purchase, Tower and Lerner hope to raise the bar in terms of what defines Class A, what determines prestige and how social responsibility fits into those two concepts.
We believe tenants will see the value in leasing space in a building that protects the environment. We further believe that, by leasing in our buildings, companies will be able to use their commitment to environmental responsibility when recruiting and attempting to retain talented employees. Corporations around the world are adopting socially responsible policies in an effort to be cutting edge by caring about the issues that are important to their workers.
We considered the additional expense associated with wind energy, but those costs were minimal and the premium is almost entirely offset by the energy savings that came from updating our older mechanical equipment to more efficient systems. More important, we believe that our culture is approaching a tipping point surrounding environmental issues. By making this purchase, we have tried to anticipate the desire for companies to make bold statements about where they locate their businesses -- and anticipating the needs and desires of tenants is what providing Class A properties is all about.
How do we know that other businesses will value this move toward environmental responsibility? I guess we don't know for sure. But we do know that we, as family businesses with individuals who live and work in this community, are concerned about it on a personal level, and we figure that other people who live and work in the Washington area share our concerns. The bottom line is that wind energy is an alternative to nuclear energy, it is cleaner than coal, oil and natural gas, and it emits virtually no carbon dioxide into Earth's atmosphere.
Buildings consume 39 percent of the energy in the United States each year, according to the U.S. Green Building Council. That means that the real estate industry has a tremendous and immediate opportunity to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions and minimize global warming. With this wind purchase for Washington Square and by sharing our experience, we hope to encourage the real estate industry and governments at the local, state and federal levels to do more to stimulate the growth of clean energy use in this country.