Tenants Go Green at the Aon Center: Piedmont Office Realty Trust, JLL, and Various Tenants

Aon Center Buildings

As part of its Tenants Go Green program, Piedmont and JLL created a Sustainability Board of Directors at the Aon Center in Chicago.

Landlord/Property Manager's Challenge:

Piedmont Office Realty Trust and JLL (co-property managers of the building) sought to promote high performing and sustainable features of the building to tenants and gain buy-in for future projects.

Tenants' Challenge:

Tenants wanted to learn about sustainable practices in the building as well as participate in initiatives that both align with corporate sustainability goals and engage employees.

Building:

Aon Center, 200 East Randolph Street, Chicago, IL

Lease Structure:

Net (Tenants pay energy bills directly to the utility)

As one of the largest professional real estate service and management firms in the world, JLL understands the importance of engaging tenants, in terms of building performance and client satisfaction. The Aon Center in Chicago is owned by Piedmont Office Realty Trust and co-managed with JLL. In addition to being the property co-manager, JLL’s World Headquarters is also located at Aon Center. The desire was to provide an opportunity to raise the level of attention and engagement around sustainability with tenants. Matthew Amato, the Aon Center’s General Manager, and John Schmidt, Chief Engineer, had been focusing on upgrades to the base building, but heard from many tenants that they wanted to learn more about sustainable practices in the building. Bob Best, JLL Executive Vice President for Energy and Sustainability Services, Amato, and Schmidt realized that providing a forum for tenants to exchange information with building management could foster innovation and a spirit of collaboration. So they asked tenants to appoint representatives to a “Sustainability Board of Directors” and convened a meeting.

From this first meeting, Piedmont and JLL realized that the group offered much more than a forum for dialogue between landlord and tenant, as tenants began to share ideas and experiences with each other as well. For example, one tenant shared signage it created to remind employees to recycle, and another shared artwork behind a campaign to encourage employees to turn lights off when not in use. As the group continued to meet, tenants even presented suggestions for less conventional ways to promote sustainability among occupants, such as connecting with a local organic farm’s community supported agriculture program.

Lessons Learned

  • Capitalize on tenant interest in sustainability. Consider forming a tenant-landlord committee that offers tenants an opportunity to share ideas and help drive sustainability initiatives for the building, while providing property management with an opportunity to share accomplishments and promote best practices.
  • Engage tenants to ensure your building is as energy efficient as possible, but also be open to broader sustainability initiatives that match tenant and occupant interests (such as participation in an organic community-supported agriculture program).
  • Test ideas for tenant engagement in one property and/or with tenants most likely to be receptive, and replicate success at other properties.
  • Recognize and capitalize on the important role property managers can play in engaging both tenants and landlords in sustainability initiatives.

“Microsoft is proud to partner in the Aon Center’s ‘Tenants Go Green’ initiative. Our goal is to drive responsible environmental leadership and we are committed to helping reduce the impact of our products and global operations on the environment. The Tenants Go Green campaign highlights the importance of collaboration as our society adapts and works to find solutions to help improve the environment.”

– Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist, Microsoft

As a result of the Sustainability Board of Directors meetings, Piedmont and JLL worked with tenants to create a sustainability pledge, energy challenge, and other initiatives. The program was formalized under the name Tenants Go Green and was promoted to tenants throughout the Aon Center. Property management utilized a vacant space on the ground floor of the Aon Center to display the pledge with signatures from the CEOs of tenant companies Microsoft, Aon, Edelman, JLL and KPMG. This space became known as the “Green House” or the hub of the Tenants Go Green program where building occupants could find resources for reducing energy use, joining the community supported agriculture program, and taking advantage of preferred parking for hybrid cars, among other building sustainability projects.

The tenant representatives on the Sustainability Board of Directors continued to meet regularly to share ideas and discuss initiatives. The property team uses those meetings as an opportunity to share best practices for reducing energy use within tenant spaces, allowing the Aon Center to maintain high performance and its ENERGY STAR certification (achieved every year since 2009). In early 2014, Aon Center achieved LEED Silver certification - the property team used the Sustainability Board of Directors to gather needed information from tenants to support the LEED certification project. After the success of Tenants Go Green at the Aon Center, JLL offered the program to all buildings that they manage in the Chicago market as a best practice and is continuing to promote the benefits of tenant sustainability efforts to buildings throughout its managed portfolio.