With green leasing, PSU extends sustainability efforts to commercial tenants

By Emily Quinton, graduate student, Environmental Science and Management

An urban campus like Portland State University is regularly visited by people in the surrounding area and not just by students and staff. Thousands of people eat, drink, shop, and seek other services offered by commercial tenants located in PSU buildings. Urban Center Plaza is a popular hub for activity and transit and is known for being one of the most active destinations in the TriMet system.

As a landlord to over 60 commercial tenants, PSU has a unique opportunity to enable and support them in achieving sustainability goals. To this end, I collaborated with staff in commercial real estate at PSU to design a green leasing program. I was motivated to expand the reach and impact of PSU’s sustainability programs, policies, and practices through this internship developed by the Institute for Sustainable Solutions, the Living Lab Program, Facilities and Property Management, the Campus Sustainability Office, and the Campus Planning Office. 

What is green leasing?

Green leasing provides a mechanism for landlords and tenants to negotiate and agree on sustainable building operations, expectations for occupant behavior, and transparency of utility use. Examples of green leasing programs exist internationally and programs vary in scope and intent. A green lease may contain provisions related to a variety of sustainability-related requirements and goals, such as pursuing or maintaining a green building certification, spelling out what materials can be used or should be avoided during the tenant improvement, and more.

I designed a green leasing program template with multiple points of tenant engagement. It is designed to infuse sustainability-minded decisions, plans, and actions into all parts of the leasing process from the initial vetting of potential tenants, then construction, and all the way through the tenant’s ongoing occupancy, which may last for 10 years or more.

Infrastructure and policy combine in the field of green leasing, and PSU and the City of Portland’s established sustainability programs offer an excellent foundation for engaging tenants. The program design I presented to stakeholders in September includes required or encouraged adoption of programs and policies such as the University’s Technical Design Standards, Sustainable Procurement and Life Cycle Consideration Policy, and more, as well as the City’s Sustainability at Work program and certification.

As stakeholders finalize what green leasing looks like at PSU, I am excited to see our community sustainability initiatives expand into all spaces owned by PSU, whether they contain University activities or commercial tenants.