REITs have been a part of the green building trend, although the economic crisis is slowing or postponing some of those efforts. I recently chatted with Jason Mattox, chief administrative officer of Behringer Harvard, a commercial real estate company based in Dallas with properties domestically and internationally, to get his take on the trend and to talk about what his firm is doing.

"The current economic environment creates challenges and may slow down the transformation or push," he says, adding it's too early to tell how President Obama's policies will impact the movement. "I believe it's a real possibility that lower energy prices will slow down the movement, but over the long term energy prices still are moving up."

The company, a REIT sponsor that offers direct participation programs to investors, is one that's continuing its commitment to making buildings more environmentally friendly and energy efficient. On January 17, the company announced it bought Westway One, a three-story, approximately 143,000-square-foot office property in the Houston area that is pre-certified LEED CS at the Silver Level. LEED is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, which provides standards for environmentally sustainable construction. LEED CS (CS stands for core and shell) is a green building rating system for designers, builders, developers and new building owners who want to address sustainable design for new core and shell construction. Robert Behringer, founder and chief executive officer of Behringer Harvard, has said the LEED certification will help the firm in attracting tenants.

The Westway One building was completed in November 2007 and contains numerous "green" features including low-water-use irrigation and plumbing systems, heat-reflective roofing, high-efficiency electrical and air conditioning systems, ultraviolet air treatment and micro air filtration, and environmentally friendly building materials. The building is distinguished by its under-floor air distribution system, which uses substantially less energy, provides better indoor air quality and allows each occupant to control their own air temperature.

Through its sustainability program, Behringer Harvard also is taking steps to make other buildings it owns energy efficient. For example, Three Eldridge Place is a 13-story, 303,166-square-foot office building being constructed in Houston that is LEED pre-certified Silver that the company intends to operate under Energy Star standards. Its Bank of America Plaza 40-story office building in Charlotte, N.C., and 13-story Lawson Commons in St. Paul, Minn., have been registered LEED EB Operations & Management (a green rating system for existing buildings).