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  • Writer's pictureCalamos Real Estate LLC

Sustainability and the labor market: Property management focus

While the general tone in office during 2024 has focused on leasing and occupancy in a post-pandemic, hybrid- or remote-work environment, there are two other significant issues that commercial property managers in all segments must address: the shortage of skilled trade labor and the drive toward environmental sustainability.

These two seemingly disparate concerns are tightly connected, along with the need for revenue streams to support them. Since profit is among the three pillars of sustainability and labor is needed for improvement, it is natural to focus on revenue-generating leasing and occupancy as a necessary catalyst for other good things to follow.

However, from a tenant perspective, this is not a lead-follow relationship. It is symbiotic. A tenant expects the investment it makes in a building to be returned to not only in square-footage, but in optimally functioning space that aligns with its corporate values and initiatives, such as sustainability.

Positive mid-year trend for office

The good news is that a mantra heard throughout the January 2024 forecast event presented by Illinois Real Estate Journal—Survive ‘til ’25—seems attainable for some office property owners and managers six months into the year. According to a survey commissioned by BOMA with JLL and Building Engines, a property management software provider, 61 percent of property managers are seeing tenants transition back to the office full time, and 41 percent reported they are not seeing a negative impact on renewals due to remote or hybrid work.

infographic showing upward trend of return to work

However, tenant tolerance is waning as it relates to comfort issues and slow responses to work orders and requests. It was reported as the second-greatest challenge—behind prioritization of work orders—for property managers responding to the BOMA survey.

Meanwhile, the demand for sustainability is only growing. The sustainable construction sector is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 8.91 percent as reported by trade publication Environmental + Energy LEADER, citing recent data from market research and consulting firm InsightAce Analytic.

“We’re fortunate that our flagship development, CityGate Centre in Naperville, was built with sustainability in mind so our focus is on maintenance and efficiency versus the retrofitting challenges many older buildings and communities face,” said Calamos Real Estate SVP Ken Witkowski. “If we had such a need, our construction management lead has deep experience and connections, and our licensed, full-time engineering team collectively offers more than 100 years of experience. Plus, its members hold professional certifications including OSHA, NIULPE and EPA, among others.”

Skilled trades challenge

The shortage of skilled tradespeople is attributed to an aging and retiring workforce that needs to be backfilled by enthusiastic, trained newcomers. Trade apprenticeship programs such as those promoted throughout Chicagoland by the Construction Industry Service Corporation (CISCO), often are a cost-effective way for property managers to expand their teams while investing in their own future needs. Even more locally, CISCO also co-sponsors the DuPage County Apprenticeship Expo with the DuPage County Building & Construction Trades Council, held at IBEW Local 701 Union Hall, home to PowerForward DuPage.

“Of course you want an experienced team, and that’s why investing in young learners is so critical, to give them experience as the workforce ages,” Witkowski said. “One member of our engineering team was an apprentice-to-hire with us, and as our workforce retires, we expect to continue to backfill in the same way. Property managers really can’t ignore this growing need.”

Cost-effective sustainability first steps

Nonetheless, there are sustainable upgrades that property managers can put in place that are cost-effective and not exceptionally labor intensive. Some of these are:

  • Water conservation: Beyond encouraging tenants and their employees to be aware of their water use, installing faucet aerators is relatively inexpensive and can reduce flow rates by two- to three-times that of traditional faucets.

  • Green roofs: If your building has a flat roof, a rooftop garden, also known as a green roof, is more than an aesthetically pleasing space. Rooftop gardens can reduce the urban heat island effect and lower roof surfaces by up to 40-degrees Fahrenheit, thereby reducing the demand on cooling systems.

  • Green Cleaning: Engaging a cleaning service that uses environmentally friendly products, or providing such products for self-cleaning, in refillable containers to reduce plastic waste.

  • Paper recycling: While encouraging electronic communication, printed materials can be recycled through building-wide or community-wide efforts.

“Beyond being a good practice, sustainability efforts attract tenants as organizations increasingly build ESG initiatives into their corporate values,” Witkowski said. “Aligning with those values and providing means for tenants to work accordingly is part of providing that return on lease investments they want, and that can go a long way.”

More resources for property managers and tenants

Property managers in DuPage county also can help their tenants achieve their sustainability goals. As founding members of Choose DuPage, Calamos Real Estate is proud to support its Sustainable DuPage program which, created in partnership with the University of Illinois Smart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC), offers a free Green Assessment along with several free, downloadable resource guides. It also can help businesses prepare for sustainability awards and certifications.

You can also learn more about DuPage County’s workforce ecosystem of more than 640,000 educated, skilled, diverse and future ready workers on the Choose DuPage website.

A go-to resource for owners

Named to The Best of the Best Property Managers by Midwest Real Estate News, Calamos Real Estate currently maintains more than 1.3MM SF of office, retail and special use properties and approximately 35 acres of land ready for development in an area that spans from Downtown Chicago to DuPage County, including special-use properties.

With resources in accounting, engineering, marketing and more, it is a one-stop shop providing brokerage services, building & land management, engineering and construction management, and marketing and accounting services.


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