SPECIAL FOCUS: The Greening of Shopping Centers

As the green wave rolls across the shopping center industry, it is buoyed by a handful of shopping center developers that have turned the tide inside their own organizations—and made sustainability a rising priority.

But the companies leading the charge will soon be joined by all of real estate, as surveys reveal that green building will become the industry standard.

“I believe that in five years sustainable development will be the norm,” asserted Jerry Yudelson, International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) research scholar and principal of Tucson, Ariz.-based Yudelson Associates. “Developers won’t be building large centers without a certification, and they won’t be operating properties that aren’t going through a certification process. It’s just a question of which system you’re going to use.”

In the United States, green buildings are being measured by the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, as well as the ENERGY STAR system, which is a joint program of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy. While Energy Star focuses on energy-efficient products and practices, LEED is more sweeping in its green approach, promoting whole-building sustainability. For shopping center developers, however, the two systems aren’t ideal.

“The basic problem is that there is no LEED certification for shopping centers,” explained Yudelson. “So what developers have to do is certify shop buildings by using LEED for Core and Shell, which is really aimed at office buildings. But you can make it work.” Two developers that have shown an early commitment to sustainability have made the process, however cumbersome, work.

Green prongs: In February, Jacksonville, Fla.-based Regency Centers named Mark Peternell its VP of sustainability. Very few companies in the United States have a formal sustainability position—and Regency is using the post to rapidly roll out its environmental programs and policies.

“My path is to oversee, implement and evolve Regency’s sustainability and green-building program,” Peternell told Chain Store Age. To drill that down, Regency has a three-pronged approach: new developments, its operating portfolio and corporate operations.

“For new developments, we use the LEED rating system as a guideline and a benchmark for our performance,” said Peternell. “We are specifically committing to certify 20% of our new developments in 2008, 40% of our new developments in 2009 and 60% in 2010.” For those projects that don’t formally go through a LEED-certification process, Regency will integrate various green-building design and construction practices. (See sidebar “Environmentally Correct” in this story for more information.)

Green day: Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises holds up one of its main core values as sustainability and, as such, green colors the entire organization—from building the first-ever LEED-certified Main Street center (Northfield Stapleton, in Denver) to planning and implementing a one-of-a-kind 2008 Earth Day celebration that was recognized around the country.

The Earth Day idea—called EcoChic—was the brainchild of Shema Krinsky, director of marketing for the company’s Mall at Robinson in Pittsburgh. Why the name Eco-Chic? “When you think ‘shopping centers,’ you think fashion,” said Krinsky, “and when you think fashion, you think chic.”

Officially celebrated in 15 Forest City centers in conjunction with Earth Day on April 22, 2008, Eco-Chic was more than a one-day or a one-month affair. “The program is multi-faceted,” explained Paulette Caputo, director of marketing/commercial management for Forest City’s commercial group. “One component takes advantage of the fact that our shopping centers are gathering places; we can provide the venue for sustainability education within the local communities.” Another component is the means to provide a platform for mall tenants to communicate their own efforts to incorporate sustainability into their businesses. (See sidebar “Green Is Chic” in this story for program details).

Both Forest City and Regency Centers are at the leading edge of what ICSC research scholar Yudelson describes as “a sea change in the environment.

“Sustainable development is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, probably the biggest thing since the Internet,” he said.

For more information on green construction and maintenance issues, visit  www.greenforretail.com.