As national manager of sustainability for Cushman & Wakefield, among the country’s largest real estate services firms, Eric Duchon is responsible for staying on top of new legislation that might affect the owners and tenants that his company represents. In New York City, that means benchmarking as required by Local Law 84 and performing audits as required by Local Law 87. Mr. Duchon spoke to The Commercial Observer last week about ramping up for new rules and lobbying elsewhere for newly passed legislation.
The Commercial Observer: It’s been one year since Local Law 84 first went into effect, and this May will mark the second round of auditing deadlines. What did you learn from the first time around in 2011?
Mr. Duchon: Basically, the city put this comprehensive legislation around sustainability into place that has four local laws—84, 85, 87 and 88—and 84 is the first to take effect and it calls for the transparency of environmental data and so basically you have to report your building’s Energy Star score through the Energy Star portfolio manager system for the full year—12 months of consumption. Anyway, last year all our buildings were in compliance, and they were in compliance by the May 1 deadline. We took a little bit of extra time this year just to ensure that the ones where our property managers were doing it themselves were done correctly because it was new for some of our properties. They hadn’t done it before.
Are people in your field satisfied with the final language ratified in Local Law 84?
Yes, we are, and there are a number of reasons—and there are a number of people who don’t like it. But the advisory community that is progressive and looking at how to incorporate green aspects of building performance into their valuations is very happy because what it’s going to do is make this data transparent.
And who is opposed to the new laws?
The building owners that house energy hogs. Buildings consume a lot of energy and not all the owners are interested in putting capital upgrades into them.
Do you see your job as protecting the environment or protecting your employer, Cushman & Wakefield?
I think it’s both. You know, I have a vested interest in the environment around me. I want it to be around for my kids and their kids, and be as healthy as it can be for me. But at the same time there is also a financial aspect to all this: We don’t recommend initiatives from Cushman & Wakefield that don’t make sense financially. So we take a look at what our owners’ payback objectives are and what their financial objectives are. And if that owner says he will do projects with a three-year payback we will look for projects with that. If the owner has a longer payback appetite then we’ll do what makes sense in that regard.
I assume the East Coast and West Coast are more progressive when it comes to building sustainability. Where else might I be surprised to hear owners and lawmakers are taking steps to protect the earth?
Minneapolis. Cushman & Wakefield recently entered into a joint venture partnership with Northmarq, and Northmarq has a very large presence there. But even before that our city leader from the Cushman side was very progressive, and we have markets where the progressive owners have their buildings do this Energy Star benchmarking, and we have some that don’t care about it. But in Minneapolis when it was fully Cushman we had every property submit with Energy Star and I was working closely with that portfolio. And that impressed me because you just don’t think of Minnesota as being a progressive state.