Smart Office Leasing Strategies are Inherently Green

A skillful commercial real estate advisor approaches each transaction with the goal of obtaining the best deal and terms possible for their client, while also identifying a space that will maximize employee comfort and productivity. The advisor also plays a key role in influencing how the new office is built out and constructed, as well as where the office is located.

Sustainable business practices just happen to exist within the intersection of all of these goals; and if they do not, they should.

There are many opportunities throughout a commercial lease transaction to save the client money, and many of them also have the added benefit of being more responsible decisions, environmentally. Here are few examples of leasing strategies that easily align to accomplish both smart business and environmental goals:


Having an office located within a high-density area makes a lot of business sense; it makes a company more accessible to a wider and deeper labor and customer pool, and associated car parking costs can be reduced by simply being connected to multiple mass transit options. The positive environmental impact of removing single-passenger cars from the road are many, and employees who bike or walk to the office are not only happier and healthier, but more productive while at work.

Giving preference to LEED Certified buildings is a great start to any office search, as the ownership has already taken the necessary steps to reduce energy, waste and water consumption, and improve indoor air quality.


By identifying an office that most closely matches the client’s desired configuration, a better rental rate can be negotiated since the landlord’s cost of construction will be lower. However, scaling back the scope of the tenant improvements also helps to reduce added pressure on new resources as well as minimizing construction waste that would have otherwise been sent to a landfill.

Boosting employee health and comfort also increases productivity, and one of the most effective ways to do that is to increase access to natural daylight. This is most easily accomplished in an open office plan along a window line, however if private offices are necessary, then utilizing glass will allow sunlight to permeate the office. If the tenant is located on the top floor of the building, skylights are often inexpensive and effective. Increasing the availability of natural sunlight simultaneously reduces the need for overhead lighting – and reducing energy consumption leads to cost savings.


With the sheer surplus of used and refurbished office furniture available today, purchasing new is most often a waste of money. The leasing broker has relationships with many furniture vendors who can provide an office tenant with quality used furniture, usually 30-50% below the cost of purchasing new. But in addition to saving the client money, the broker has again helped reduce pressure on raw materials and helped divert used furniture from a landfill. Additionally, new furniture can also be extremely toxic and can leach harmful VOC’s (volatile organic compounds), formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals into the air. Used office furniture will have already off-gassed these fumes and will therefore not negatively affect the indoor air quality of the office.

There are of course many, many opportunities to align sound commercial leasing strategies with sustainable business practices, especially when the real estate process begins with mindful focus and awareness. Identifying the intersection of these goals is not only SMART, but GREEN.

Why I Exclusively Represent Office Tenants, and NOT Landlords

As a commercial real estate advisor who has built an entire career upon advocating on behalf of tenants, exclusively, the million dollar question I’m always asked is, “Why did you stop representing landlords when the money is so good doing both?”.

The easy answer is that I always felt like I was somehow representing the “bad guy” by representing landlords, and that I get much more satisfaction out of helping out the underdog, who is almost always the tenant.  Now, that’s not to say that all landlords are bad, but tenants are often the “Little Guy” at the negotiation table and need a strong ally in the ring with them.  While a commercial office tenant may only address their real estate needs once every 3 to 10 years, a landlord will conduct many, many more transactions in that same time and is tasked with maximizing shareholder/investor value – naturally, this typically runs counter to the economic goals of the tenant.

The second and longer answer, is that try and spin it as you might, there is an enormous amount of conflict when dual-agency exists – whereby the broker simultaneously represents both the landlord AND the tenant.  The only way to truly offer my clients the very best in service is to choose a side, and completely remove that bias altogether.

I think the best way to get my point across here is with a few examples:

Let’s say I’ve been hired by “ABC Tenant” to locate and negotiate terms for their new office relocation, however I also just happen to represent quite a few key landlords downtown.  Now consider this:  there is pressure from the landlord to tour the tenant through the buildings they own and to try and make a deal, even if it’s not the best fit for my client.  If the buildings I list don’t make the tour, I can forget about holding on to that listing for too long.

There’s also pressure from within the broker’s own firm, as the firm (and the broker) will earn a larger commission if the deal stays “in house”.  Again, the needs of the brokerage and broker are being placed above that of the clients’.  If the real estate broker is going to make more money if you lease space in a building that they list, rather than sign a deal at a competitor’s building, do you think that might affect the advice they give you?

Another valid scenario is explained in the following.  Let’s say I tour ABC Tenant through a building I do not currently list, but would like to win that landlord assignment in the future.  Well, I’ll probably do one transaction in the next 3-5 years with the tenant, but if I win the landlord assignment I could easily increase my volume twenty-fold.   How hard do you think I’m going to negotiate against that landlord and am I really going to go to bat for my tenant if I’m trying to create favor with the landlord?

There are plenty of hardworking, honest real estate brokers who offer dual representation and I am sure they outnumber the bad apples, however I firmly believe that the only way to truly offer conflict-free tenant representation is to completely remove any opportunity for bias from the equation; and the only way to do that is to simply NOT represent landlords, and focus solely on fighting hard for tenants.

How much office space should I REALLY lease?

Leasing too much (or too little) office space can be a costly mistake, however determining exactly how much space you require is one component of the leasing process that is often rushed or inaccurate.

Unfortunately, our industry is partially to blame for this.  Tenants often think they need more space than they actually do, and since a broker earns more when you lease more, they may be the last person to tell you that you could scale back.

Taking the time to identify the size, configuration and quantity of each element of your new office will not only save you time and money down the road, but chances are you’ll find that you require less space than you originally thought you did.

Old rules of thumb such as, “tech tenants require 150 square feet per employee, and law firms require 350” is an unreliable measure and nothing more than an insightful metric for spotting a gross irregularity; there are far too many variables involved in determining your space requirement to simplify it in this way.

A better and more accurate solution is to take an analytical approach by using a tried and true Excel spreadsheet.

First, calculate the quantity and size of all your desired offices, cubes, conference rooms and supporting spaces such as kitchens, server rooms, storage closets, reception area so as to arrive at your Net Square Footage.

Then factor the following into your spreadsheet as they’ll substantially affect your true space requirement.

  • Circulation Factor – this is simply “the space between” and takes into account all the interior space that hasn’t yet been accounted for such as hallways and walkways between cubes.
  • Load Factor – Buildings add a percentage on top of the actual square footage of your office to account for common areas such as lobbies, restrooms and hallways.  This is the difference between the Useable Square Footage (USF) and Rentable Square Footage (RSF). Properties can vary greatly in how efficient they are, and a good broker will not overlook this important factor.

Finally, this exercise will yield an accurate square footage of what you require today, but what about in the future?  Take time to consider factors that will affect your space requirement throughout the term of your lease such as hiring or consolidation, planned mergers and acquisitions and changing in funding schedules.