Monday, September 29, 2008
The beauty of a dimmer skyline

By Jerome L. Rappaport Jr.
Published in The Boston Globe, Opinion section
September 23, 2008

WILL THE LAST person to leave please shut off the lights-

It sounds like such an easy request. At least it was when my father shouted that common refrain toward the kitchen at us kids each night.

But as an adult working in - and owning - commercial buildings, it is clear that such Yankee frugality didn`t quite transfer to the office over the years. Why- Well, traditionally tenants don`t pay the electric bill and landlords haven`t really wanted to dictate a lights-out time to their tenants.

Of course, the urgency around climate change today has made reducing energy as much of a moral imperative as an economic one. And that`s a beautiful thing to see - literally.

Over the last few weeks in Boston, you might have noticed the stars seem a little brighter. As a result of Mayor Thomas M. Menino`s Lights Out initiative with private-property owners, the city skyline is noticeably dimmer between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. as internal and architectural lighting are being shut off in most major towers across the city, including 60 State Street, where New Boston Fund leases office space.

Unfortunately, the Lights Out initiative ends Oct. 31, a date set to coincide with the end of the fall migratory season for birds, which are confused by a brightly lit city skyline - especially buildings over 30 stories - during their commute south.

But why should we stop on Oct. 31- If the city`s biggest property owners and management firms can have the last person to leave shut off the lights this month and next, let`s stick with the program and even expand upon this way of thinking.

One of the most encouraging aspects of this latest wave of environmentalism is the breakdown of the barrier between eco-conscious behaviors at home versus those at the workplace. Some folks may be avid recyclers in their homes, but not in the office, perhaps because there are no recycling bins next to their desks to make it easy. If we can figure out how to shut off city lights, can`t we put recycling bins in every office- Indeed, even use less paper altogether-

In our company, we have converted all of our photocopiers to make double-sided copies and we are scanning documents and e-mailing them instead of printing and making copies whenever possible. We embrace ZipCar for employee use. We are using videoconferencing for as many meetings as possible and purchasing carbon passes to cover all other air miles traveled.

But I don`t say that to brag. I know New Boston Fund is not alone in making such changes - that`s the point.

For some time now, the commercial real estate industry has been trying to figure out how to engage tenants to be eco-minded at work, whether it`s turning off the air conditioning on pleasant days, shutting down computer equipment at night, or swapping out light bulbs for compact fluorescents in their desk lamps - even if they don`t see a reduction in their lease payments.

These days, the opposite is happening: Tenants are demanding themselves to be greener more than ever before - and want their landlords to be too. Whether that means investing in low-flush toilets or ensuring that their cafeteria composts and uses corn-based biodegradable take-out containers, those Yankee sentiments including waste not, want not are making a comeback in the workplace.

I see this shift at home, too. Regardless of how conscious I am about shutting off unnecessary lights, it is my children who are the most vigilant about saving energy - even though they aren`t paying the utility bills. Somehow, I`m still being yelled at to shut off the lights. But now, I am happy to do it.

Jerome L. Rappaport Jr. is president and CEO of New Boston Fund and chairman of Urban Strategy America Fund.

About New Boston Fund
New Boston is an independent, privately owned real estate investment manager and an industry leader in providing real estate investment, development and management services with a history of strong sponsorship and oversight of its investment funds. New Boston has developed or acquired commercial and residential properties with a cumulative market value of about $4.4 billion including 22 million square feet of commercial real estate and 7,500 residential units. Our investment vehicles cater to institutional and high-net worth investors by offering value add and urban real estate investment funds with a focus on diversification and capital preservation. New Boston Fund: People, Values, Returns.

About the USA Fund
The Urban Strategy America (`USA`) Fund is a New Boston real estate investment fund that executes on the promise of a triple bottom line- generating solid returns to investors, spurring economic development and workforce housing, and promoting environmental sustainability.


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