The News: Pause May Refresh Green Movement

As in many commercial property sectors, the green movement enjoyed a watershed year among retailers in 2007, noted Marc Heisterkamp, director of commercial real estate for the U.S. Green Building Council. But last year is now ancient history.As many retailers and owners fight to survive, will retail sustainability just stall, or will it take a step backward?It is a question Heisterkamp must ponder these days as the U.S. Green Building Council puts the finishing touches on its new rating system for retail properties. Scheduled to formally take effect next month, the ratings offer specific guidelines for categories within the diverse retail field, such as standards for water and energy use in restaurants.The retail ratings cover both ground-up construction and interior buildouts, but as a practical matter, the second category will be the focus for the time being. “The retail pipeline has shut off, so if we’re going to (rate) anything, it’s going to be existing buildings,” he noted.In the long run, that trend might actually benefit the retail sustainability movement, Heisterkamp speculates. As retailers come off several years of overheated expansion, less new development and fewer store fit-outs should give retailers the chance to size up their portfolios and evaluate how best to incorporate green measures.In the meantime, some retailers continue to agree that sustainability rewards any initial added costs with long-term savings. Last Wednesday, the Subway sandwich chain revealed that a shop in Kissimmee, Fla., is the first of its prototype Eco-Stores to win LEED certification. Three Subway stores are also awaiting certification, and the company indicated that it expects many more new environmentally friendly outlets to follow.Preliminary results for Subway’s year-old Kissimmee store suggest that the restaurant cut energy usage by 20 percent, the company said last week.