Meeting the Challenge

In today’s academic climate, researchers examining the specific outcomes of sustainability in the built environment are often faced with obstacles to financing their innovative research ideas, or lack broader corporate support where hypotheses can be tested. CBRE created the Real Green Research Challenge to meet this need, providing qualified applicants with the financial and resource support their project requires, from concept development to real-world implementation. It’s our goal to establish a collaborative partnership with researchers in order to explore new and exciting ways that empirical evidence can advance the green building movement. The entire commercial real estate industry stands to gain from results of this research and its potentially broader, global application.

Who should submit?

CBRE invites all academic and professional research teams and individuals to apply for up to USD $1,000,000 in funding, to be distributed at CBRE’s discretion over the next four years. We are looking to attract one great idea – or many – that can impact how commercial real estate could be owned, occupied and operated in a more sustainable manner. This requires applicants to introduce a fresh or innovative approach to proving the value of “green,” or to dust off that brilliant, market-disrupting idea that now has a chance to be funded. We expect the best submissions will derive from university and professional researchers who have a team in place, infrastructural support and prior experience in their field of study.


We call them “driving lanes” – the broadly defined categories in which your research idea can be judged against pressing market requirements. These are areas of focus we feel would benefit from a deeper level of study, and can help better define your own project idea. Organized around our observations of the market, widely recognized expertise in the built environment and industry leadership in sustainability, suggested categories include:

  • ​Comparative productivity studies that can prove empirical benefits of sustainable building occupancy
  • Behavioral effects of disclosure and transparency on consumption
  • Development of online predictive modeling software
  • Development of an industry-wide sustainability scoring system for consumer comparison
  • Best practices or system software for auditing and sharing savings derived from energy investments
  • Best practices or system software that reduce operating costs or enhance revenue through recycling strategies and programs
Please note that all ideas representing legitimate and innovative research in a chosen field of study will be considered, as long as the proposed idea demonstrates viability and can address a clearly defined sustainability need in the built environment.


Applicants will be judged on their ability to articulate their proposed research idea through the RGRC online submission process, and to effectively manage requirements of the process, including due dates, in order to present the best case possible to the RGRC Judging Panel.

Those who do, and who qualify for migration through the phases outlined below, will be rewarded with financial support commensurate with the fulfillment of criteria set forth by the RGRC Judging Panel, which includes but is not limited to:

  • Ability to address a recognized and well-defined sustainability need in the built environment
  • Innovativeness and impact potential in the commercial real estate space 
  • Amount and caliber of third-party (non-CBRE) resources dedicated to the research and outcomes


The Real Green Research Challenge is a USD $1,000,000 CBRE-funded grant, awarded in discretionary amounts over a four-year period to qualified applicants for addressing a recognized and well-defined sustainability need in the built environment. No purchase of any product or service of CBRE or any third party is required for participation.

In order to ensure a level playing field for all applicants, and to provide the most effective and equitable disbursement of funds over the established four-year period, the RGRC adheres to a specific chronology of phases, as outlined below.

Phase 1 (September 24, 2012  – February 1, 2013)
Applicants will submit a short abstract of their research proposal, including objective, description, timeframe, budget, resources and limited relevant attachments. 

Phase 2 (February 1 – March 31, 2013)
The RGRC Judging Panel will review the abstracts received and award up to 15 abstract concept ideas of up to USD $15,000 each. Results of the Phase 2 evaluation will be made available March 31, 2013 and funding will begin in April.

Phase 3 (April 1 – June 10, 2013)
Those applicants funded in Phase 2 will submit complete research plans, including a clearly defined Phase 4 objective supported by greater depth of concept, defined scope of work and long-term research budget. The timing of an individual applicant’s research plan completion will be determined by the nature and complexity of the abstracted concept but will not exceed December 31, 2013.

Phase 4 (July 1, 2013 – December 31, 2015)

  • Awards amounts and quantity are discretionary and may be renewed annually through December 31, 2015, based on research progress and expected outcomes. Selected recipients can earn up to USD $250,000 across Phase 4 as solely determined by the RGRC Judging Panel. 
  • Awards are provided for the exclusive purpose of executing the research plan according to criteria met and progress achieved toward the project’s ultimate vision, the demonstration of which will be required regularly throughout Phase 4.
  • Award(s) include supplemental support provided by CBRE. 
  • Recipient(s) will be required to show progress toward the stated objective in a pilot program at designated buildings, demonstrating merit of the project for commercial application.
  • Recipient(s) are expected to collaborate with CBRE in developing an integrated marketing, education and media outreach plan that supports the idea’s adoption and can promote its broader distribution.


Importantly, CBRE is committed to providing successful applicants with access to organizational resources, such as intellectual capital, relevant technology and managed space over which CBRE has jurisdiction, in order to augment the applicant’s project and to validate its potential outcomes in a real-world building environment. In this sense, and as a core tenant of the RGRC, the phased approach aims to empower academic researchers to become pioneers in the field of sustainability through a collaborative process between CBRE and the research team over time. As partners in this process, we look forward to breaking new ground through empirical evidence in the research team’s chosen pursuit. 

RGRC Judging Panel

RGRC funding recipients are selected by a diverse group of individuals who serve on the RGRC Judging Panel​, which evaluates the quality of each submission in accordance with the proposed idea and established criteria. The RGRC Judging Panel is appointed by the governing body and will consist of a majority of non-CBRE personnel. The governing body reserves the right to change the composition of the RGRC Judging Panel at any time. 
For more information, and to review official rules of the Real Green Research Challenge, please see Terms of Use and Conditions​.


Email: rgrc@cbre.com