Commercial buildings used nearly 20 percent of total energy in the United States—more than half of which is consumed by small and medium buildings under 100,000 square feet, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. For small businesses that rent space in commercial buildings, energy is a top cost, often ranking behind only labor and rent as a portion of annual expenses.

Although technologies exist to help tenants and landlords dramatically lower energy usage and save resources, there is so much information available that it is difficult to know where to begin. To address this, the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) and the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) partnered to launch the Cleveland Energy-Aligned Leasing Program in the Greater Cleveland area, with generous support from the Kresge Foundation and the Energy Foundation.

The Cleveland Energy-Aligned Leasing Program combined energy efficiency education with energy audits, green (energy-aligned) lease resources, and financing options—giving small businesses and building owners in Cleveland a foundation to understand and execute cost-effective energy and water-saving solutions. Working with a dedicated network of real estate stakeholders including the City and County sustainability offices and the Cleveland 2030 District, IMT and COSE engaged over 60 local building owners and small business tenants representing more than 7 million square feet of space to help them pursue efficiency through tenant-landlord collaboration.

The project resulted in “Making Efficiency Work for You: A Guide for Empowering Landlords and Tenants to Collaborate on Saving Energy & Resources,” a resource that presents replicable starting points that others in the commercial real estate industry can use in looking to establish other programs or complement current value propositions around sustainability. The guide, which can be downloaded here for free, includes the following sections:

  • Green leasing frequently asked questions
  • Infographic: How the lease can bring landlords and tenants together on energy efficiency
  • Sample green lease clauses
  • Tenant operations guide
  • Tenant build-out guide
  • Case studies

To view the resource guide in Uberflip, visit:

To view six case studies that document best practices underway in Cleveland, visit:

For more information on the Cleveland Energy-Aligned Leasing Program, please contact: 


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Green Lease Leaders