Dispatches from Greenbuild 2013 – How to Pitch a Good Idea?

One of the hardest aspects in the green building industry is convincing an owner to try out a new energy efficiency strategy, pilot a new product, or set corporate sustainability goals that go above and beyond the industry standard. One panel at Greenbuild 2013 highlighted this challenge and presented ways to overcome that difficulty. Panelists included the sustainability directors for four national REIT’s, from their perspective.


According to the panel of experts, there are a number of different reasons why a product may not be that advantageous to a large developer. The most important would be the need to interfere with the tenant and the tenant’s occupation of the building. However great a product may be, if the owner needs to contact or bug the tenant, it is almost impossible to make that product come to fruition. A good analogy is to think about it in terms of how you would approach your boss. If there’s a product that might make your life a little easier, but you would have to considerably inconvenience the person who pays you, would you do it? Other considerations for new technologies include an increase in maintenance costs, an increase in training costs, and the fact that a large number of spaces are triple net leases, or that the tenant pays the energy bills. If the tenant pays the energy bills, and would be the sole entity to benefit from any energy efficiency measures, it is extremely unlikely that the owner would put up the capital necessary to incorporate those measures. An issue that also plagues some strategies is the idea of tax rebates or tax credits. When a strategy can take advantage of tax incentives, it is important to realize whether or not the company you are pitching the strategy to will have the tax appetite to take advantage of those incentives.


The panel also gave suggestions on how to properly pitch these new strategies or technologies, and how to get the person you want to talk to pay attention. The first step is always getting the right audience. Sustainability directors get many requests every day for meetings and phone calls to go over these items, and thus just ignore the vast majority of them. The key is to come with a reference, someone that person knows and trusts. If you come via recommendation of another person in their office, they will almost certainly pay attention and at least respond to your email. Once you get the meeting, it is important to look at things from the owner’s perspective. Know who typically pays the energy bills in their buildings, the risk of your product, the potential for increased maintenance and education costs, and how it impacts tenants. It is always advantageous to describe to the owner how it will benefit them specifically. For instance, if a product will protect an HVAC unit from a lack of preventive maintenance, describe the advantages to the owner. If the tenant is responsible for HVAC maintenance, it is likely they will ignore this responsibility. Thus, once they move out, the owner will have to replace the unit, incurring increased costs. Pitch your product in terms of how it will save the owner money at this point in time, and how the tenant may even stay longer if the HVAC is functioning properly. This is counter to pitching the energy savings that the product may provide.


Event Recap by Bobby Almeida, Project Engineer