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Sonoma County Mulls Green Real Estate

The $1.6 billion Sonoma County Employees Retirement System is looking at how to implement environmental investing into its existing real estate portfolio. Mark Billeci, managing director of Principal Real Estate Investors, gave an educational presentation to the board this month’s meeting, stressing the benefits of investing in green office buildings, said Trustee John Pels. These buildings leave a smaller carbon footprint on the environment and leave employees happier and more productive, Pels added. It might also be harder to rent non-green buildings in the future because the industry is already moving in this direction and many tenants will be interested, Billeci told trustees. "You’re going to be left out," Pels said.

Pels said the county will ask its real estate managers, UBS Realty Investors, BlackRock Realty and RREEF, to see how environmental factors can be incorporated into their strategies. This may involve buying up or converting existing properties to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified buildings. These types of buildings provide better indoor air quality, prevent sickness and are closer to mass transit, Pels said. The plan has a 13% target allocation to real estate.

Separately, the board will hold a planning session at its October meeting to go over the results and implementation of a recent asset-liability study.

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