An interview with Gary Saulson, Executive Vice President and Director of Corporate Real Estate, PNC Financial Services Group. Paladino is PNC’s sustainability consultant.

Q: PNC is a leader in the sustainability movement. When did PNC decide to launch its green building initiative and why?

We don’t have a green building initiative and never have. Sustainability is engrained in our DNA and informs how we design our buildings. We have been building green since 1998 because we believe it’s good for our customers, employees, shareholders and the communities we serve.

Q: What are the challenges you faced in building for sustainability and how did you overcome them?

When we started, there weren’t many residential or corporate green buildings and we didn’t have access to many green products.

Over the years, we have worked with manufacturers to educate and convince them that there is a market for green products. That’s proven to be true because consumers at the retail and commercial level are demanding them.

There were only three manufacturers producing commercial green carpet in 1998. Now, every commercial carpet company offers a green carpet and the same is true with furniture companies, which now include green fabrics as part of their collections.

Manufacturers weren’t using recyclable materials in 1998 but now use materials that are 90 to 100 recyclable.

Q: What are the tangible benefits of your green building program? Can you measure the results?

The simple answer can be found by looking at Notre Dame’s study that compared the financial performance of PNC’s LEED-certified bank branches to the performance of our non-LEED branches. We were not surprised to learn that the LEED facilities performed better. Notre Dame found that consumer loans and deposits are greater and employees are happier at our LEED branches. Consumers opened 458 more deposit accounts and deposited $3 million more in LEED branches than in non-LEED branches.

This study offers strong evidence that consumers place a high value on doing business with companies that are committed to green building.

Q: What advice do you have for other companies that are contemplating going green?

There is no magic bullet. You need to make the decision to build green and commit to making it happen. Once you make the decision, there are many resources available to help you — consultants like Paladino, information on the Internet, manufacturers of green products and the U.S. Green Building Council.

Based on our experience, building green makes good business sense and is the right thing to do.

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