Borrower profile: Accesso and the art of thinking green

Real Estate Capital USA

August 9, 2022

By Samantha Rowan

While the long-predicted Great Return has not yet transpired, the office specialist is seeing an uptick in people returning to the office.

Accesso, a Hallandale Beach, Florida-based owner, operator and investment manager, believes its focus on green and sustainable measures at its properties will be a boon for financial services providers, potential partners and – perhaps most importantly – office users who are making a slower-than-anticipated return to their physical spaces.

From a leasing standpoint, the firm has seen an uptick in potential and actual leasing activity. “We have seen more tours and more people coming to the market with a more defined plan of what they think they’re going to need,” said Tony Clasen, a director at Accesso. “The Great Return never happened and, at this point, we’re not sure it will happen on a specific day – we think it will happen over a less defined period of time. People will still come back, but we won’t know how quickly they will be coming.”

Accesso, which has tracked a slow return to the office, is starting to see an uptick.

“We have seen more people come back to the buildings, but I can’t tell you we necessarily have more people in seats every day, we are seeing a broader group of people coming. We also know Mondays and Fridays aren’t too bad to get to and from the office but Tuesdays to Thursdays seem almost like they were pre-pandemic and that shows in buildings,” Clasen said.

Green Loop 

The firm recently achieved LEED Gold certification for 20 North Clark Street, a Class A office property in downtown Chicago. The Central Loop building obtained the designation through implementing measurable strategies and solutions in sustainable water savings, energy efficiency, materials section and indoor environmental quality.

Accesso believes this kind of building will be more appealing to tenants. It is also a better fit with the company’s broader mission, said Paul Einum, director, asset management. “Especially in this new working environment, it’s more important than ever for our office properties to reflect the values of our tenants and their employees, and achieving the LEED distinction – and all it stands for – plays a significant role in this,” he said.

The 36-story, 393,107-square-foot office tower’s green features include LED lighting with motion sensors; auto-flush valves in restrooms for handsfree operation; a modern, technology-controlled HVAC system; and a recycling program. It is also close to restaurants, retail and entertainment, and has access to all modes of public transportation.

“Each building, we look at and say, ‘What can we do?’ I’d like to think that Accesso and our peers have taken care of the low-hanging fruits, doing away with incandescent lights and the big outside lights that use too much power and we’ve gone to LED conversions,” Clasen said. “When we upgrade a building, we look at ways to put in more efficient pieces of equipment or materials. There are also programs with incentives from, for example, different utility companies.”

By city, markets like Chicago want companies to report on green and other ESG metrics. “We’re starting to see that in some cities, if you don’t make improvements, you’ll start to see penalties. We got caught in the momentum of other people starting to report and it is now almost a requirement from our industry,” Clasen said.

The company also works with its tenants, completing night audits of energy use and making suggestions around ways the tenants can do simple things like switching off printers, copiers or coffee machines.

“Sustainability has become such a big part of our lives and some of the things we do now as a company and as an industry. We used to worry about just us, but now we work with vendors and our contracts and agreements talk about what they’re doing for their sustainability programs. Any landscaping we replace, we try and do indigenous so we can reduce irrigation and the need for landscaping.”

Reporting on green metrics has become a must-have for many market participants.

“When we look at a project, the first thing we ask is, ‘What is the right thing to do?’ The company made a lot of pretty major capital improvements before we started reporting so we unfortunately don’t get a lot of the benefits,” Clasen said, noting that a few years ago, reporting these metrics was not as necessary.  “But as we grew, we started having financial services firms and potential partners ask what we were doing and that led us to a heavier direction of going down that path.”