Sustainable buildings generate stronger investment returns than traditional managed properties, according to an ongoing study of a national office portfolio managed byCBRE Group, Inc. (CBRE). The study found that there is a higher value and an increased demand for green, and in particular for LEED® certified buildings, which is demonstrated by increased occupancy and rental rates in comparison with the general market.

This is the third phase of a multi-year study initiated in 2009 by CBRE, the University of San Diego’s Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate and McGraw-Hill Construction. The largest and longest running research project of its kind, the study benchmarks and measures green building benefits and resulting economic outcomes as a framework of investment criteria for retrofit activity. The 2011 findings were made public yesterday at U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild International Expo and Conference. A full update to the study’s 2011 report Do Green Buildings Make Dollars and Sense? is expected to be released later this year.

The study, which surveys approximately 150 CBRE-managed office buildings and more than 2,500 building occupants, shows how green building performance continues to trend higher than the general market, establishing a clear economic case for the value of green in existing buildings, with mid-sized markets leading the trend. In particular, aggregated data on LEED certified buildings over three years shows an average 3.1% improvement in both rental rates and building occupancy in comparison to the general market. The 2011 phase reinforces earlier findings that demonstrate submetering of utilities for tenant space reduces energy costs by 21% on average.

While economic uncertainty can be extrapolated as causing downward pressure on an organization’s continuing commitment to sustainability, survey respondents consider green features important when selecting office space, with a healthy indoor environment as the leading factor. This finding supports other results of the study in which 19% of tenant respondents reported increased productivity and 94% of tenant managers registered higher employee satisfaction in green office space. The study also shows a growing awareness of green features in LEED certified buildings, with corporate responsibility and public perception playing an increasingly important role for building occupants.

The study defined green buildings as those with LEED certification at any level or those that bear the EPA ENERGY STAR® label. All of the ENERGY STAR buildings in the survey group had been awarded the label since 2008. Most of the buildings included in the research had also adopted other sustainable practices, such as recycling, green cleaning and water conservation.

CBRE was ranked #30 among Newsweek’s greenest companies in America in 2010, and #1 among the financial services sector. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has named CBRE an ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year for the past four years, including recognition for Sustained Excellence. The U.S. Green Building Council has awarded CBRE its Leadership Award for Organizational Excellence and the industry group, CoreNet, recognized CBRE with a special commendation for Sustainable Leadership and Design Development.