Financial Services Giant TIAA-CREF Wins Accolades From EPA for Energy, Water Efficiency Efforts

tiaa-cref building photo

Image: Brian Papantonio via flickr

The EPA gave an award recently to a surprising recipient: TIAA-CREF, one of the largest institutional real estate investors in the U.S. Considering the fact that buildings account for 40 percent of domestic energy consumption, it makes sense that the company would be recognized for its efforts to increase energy efficiency and decrease emissions. The company was given the agency's ENERGY STAR Sustained Excellence award, and last month renewed its sustainability goals to decrease energy intensity by 15 percent this year and water usage by 10 percent by 2013 within its real estate portfolio.

According to the company, between 43 million square feet of office space, that yields a total savings of 243 million kilowatt hours—the equivalent of taking 33,000 cars off the road.

Asked what kind of measures were being taken to realize these reductions, Nick Stolatis, Director of Strategic Initiatives for TIAA-CREF Global Real Estate, said, "Our focus is on identifying low-cost, no-cost approaches to improving our efficiency. Our belief is that we need to make sure we are operating as efficiently as we can before we consider making any capital investments, to be sure that the returns on those investments add value to the properties."

Head of Global Real Estate Tom Garbutt said, "Our experience has proven that energy efficiency can enhance the bottom line while protecting the environment at the same time."

The CEO of TIAA-CREF has spoken before about energy efficiency measures as a win-win strategy for the environment and for the company's bottom line, but it's nice to see the efficiency-friendly approach continue.

Stolatis said, "We are the only financial services company that has been recognized by the EPA for the efforts and the leadership that we've shown in this space." This is the fourth year in a row that TIAA-CREF has received recognition from the EPA.

TIAA-CREF has been gathering data on water consumption in order to identify no- and low-cost water conservation techniques that can applied across the company's portfolio, including plumbing fixture retrofits and reduction of water used for landscape irrigation.

Reducing Emissions While Raising Awareness
Stolatis said they encourage property managers to provide information and to educate residents on the reasons for the measures taken, like installing Energy Star appliances and efficient light bulbs. "When we did the compact fluorescent distribution [of more than 150,000 CFLs in the multi-family communities], for example, we had information sheets helping explain why the compact fluorescents are superior to the incandescent as far as energy efficiencies and the economic evaluation."

In TIAA-CREF office properties, efforts have focused on making sure lights and heating or cooling systems are operating only during office hours, as well as on reducing water consumption with appliances like low-flow aerators.

Stolatis said that office properties saved almost $12.5 million because of the increased efficiency measures. (The dollar savings realized by private residents are not available because their bills are paid privately.)

But the metrics are significant, he said. "We benefited ourselves as well as the tenants and residents in our investment properties."

More on real estate and energy efficiency
4,200 Energy Efficiency Projects Saved AT&T; $44 Million Last Year
Online Energy Audit Tool Helping More Homeowners Catch Rebates for Energy Efficiency
US Buildings Account for 40% of Energy and Materials Use

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