Many of the nation's office and retail towers would use one-third less energy by 2012, if they meet goals set today by the Building Owners and Managers Association.
The group unveiled its plan at its annual conference in Manhattan to shrink the carbon emissions of some 9 billion square feet of commercial real estate, using the government's Energy Star benchmarks for energy and water usage. Green-building standards set by the nonprofit-run Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design are more stringent.
Still, this initiative, if successful, would significantly cut the $24 billion spent on energy each year by the commercial building industry, which releases 18 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The move would also likely brighten the market for power-saving gadgets such as motion-sensing light switches and power strips, as well as monitoring software and construction materials.
Although a new generation of sustainable skyscrapers are on the rise in London, Dubai, Chicago and elsewhere, more property owners with eco-friendly, cost-cutting intentions find it easier to renovate existing buildings than to start from scratch.