By Joseph Tohill
Smart growth has been a core component of The Tower Companies’ business operations since long before “green” was part of the lexicon of the commercial real estate industry. The company’s use of progressive environmental policies early in the game established it as a green pioneer, and gave it a competitive advantage when concerns over sustainability and green buildings eventually proliferated amongst developers.
Just like it did 20 years ago with green buildings, The Tower Companies has turned its attention towards yet another emergence: the electric vehicle market. And although the EV economy is still in its early stages, more and more people are turning to EVs as a form of clean personal transportation. But rather than stand at the sidelines of the emerging EV market, the company has decided to take an active role by installing charging stations at many of its commercial locations.
The Tower Companies realizes that EVs will play an increasingly prominent role amongst consumers and that leading the push for clean transportation gives the company a competitive edge in the commercial real estate industry.
For David Borchardt, Chief Sustainability Officer of The Tower Companies, installing EV charging stations provides an innovative new dimension to the company’s overall green vision.
“One of the things we noticed was that there was no infrastructure for EVs,” stated Borchardt. “And unlike a gas station where you’re in and out in less than 5 minutes, charging an EV takes a little bit more time. It seemed optimal to have charging stations where people worked or where they were going.”
Borchardt is well aware that one of the biggest concerns of EV owners is range anxiety, or not having enough juice to get them from place to place. Installing EV charging stations therefore gave The Tower Companies an opportunity to provide a much needed green amenity: a place for EV owners to juice up their car.
And the installation of charging stations has not gone unnoticed by EV drivers in the vicinity.
“We’ve had people contact us that work a few blocks away and ask to charge their cars at our garage,” reflects Borchardt. “And our response to them is: absolutely. You still have to pay for parking, but you can charge your car if you need to.”
Even people that do not drive an EV take notice when an EV charging station is installed. Borchardt notices that people will walk over and take a look at the new technology. The charging station doubles as an educational tool, as it reinforces green living and reaffirms Towers’ commitment to a sustainable economy. If an individual was previously on the fence about purchasing an EV, the awareness of a new charging station may encourage them to buy one.
Within the commercial real estate sector, the installation of EV charging stations has attracted attention from other developers, eager to incorporate EV amenities at their own sites.
“The amount of interest I’ve had from other developers is amazing,” Borchardt says. “They want to know how we did it, who we talked to, and what we might do differently in the future. There are companies out there talking about installing 10s of these, not just one or two like we’ve done. I have even heard of cases where tenants have asked their landlords to install them as a requirement to moving in.”
Therefore, the importance of tapping into the emerging EV economy is beginning to catch on amongst property developers throughout the country. Now, more than ever, people are looking to work in sustainable buildings and live in eco-friendly communities. Providing eco-friendly commercial spaces and communities is becoming a business imperative for commercial real estate companies that want to remain competitive by portraying a sustainable corporate image.
The Tower Companies has partnered with SemaConnect to install EV charging station at many of its locations, including:
- two at its live-work-play community at the Blairs shopping center
- one at Blair House
- one at its LEED Platinum certified office building at 2000 Tower Oaks Boulevard
- one at its LEED Silver certified Tower Building in Rockville
The successful deployment of these charging stations has given the company impetus to installing EV amenities at many of its future developments.
Borchardt even notes that providing a commercial landscape conducive to EV ownership opens up possibilities to partner with vehicle sharing programs such as the Zipcar. Since Zipcars are located near many of its sites, it would make sense to partner with the company by providing charging stations for a new fleet of EV Zipcars.
Although the installation of EV charging stations is still a new development, it provides commercial real estate innovators such as The Tower Companies an effective way to support emerging green lifestyles. The EV market will only continue to expand as gas prices increase, EV technology improves, and consumers increasingly embrace clean transportation.
The Tower Companies has opted to lead to the charge in the EV economy, rather than stand by and watch.
Joseph Tohill is a freelance writer and online communications specialist for organizations in the sustainability sector. He has a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of British Columbia and spent most of his academic career studying sustainable urban development; namely the interdisciplinary relationship between built form and natural environment.