Even with the economy and real estate business in the tank, building owners are looking for ways to make their properties more eco-friendly. But the driver in the decision to build and operate more energy and environmentally efficient properties has as much ? if not more - to do with saving dough as hugging trees, real estate industry leaders meeting in Dallas Tuesday said. </p> <p> ?The fact of the matter is this is just good business - making buildings perform better,? said Dan Probst, an energy and sustainable development expert with real estate broker Jones Lang LaSalle. ?We are not building a lot of buildings today. </p> <p> ?It?s all about making existing buildings perform better.? </p> <p> Probst was one of a series of speakers at a seminar sponsored by the Urban Land Institute, the North Texas Commercial Association of Realtors and the Real Estate Council. </p> <p> Industry leaders say they have observed a shift in attitudes toward eco-sensitive real estate. </p> <p> ?Today people simply expect it,? said Michael Buckley, a real estate professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. ?Cost savings is going to drive things.? </p> <p> Buildings with environmental and energy design features have almost 4 percent higher average occupancy, and save significantly on utilities, the latest data shows. </p> <p> Corporate America is more interested in the concept. </p> <p> ?Their shareholders, customers and employees care about it,? Probst said. </p> <p> Developers of Dallas? new convention hotel are already on board with sustainable development. They are seeking environmental savings certification for the property. </p> <p> ?We basically have to look at every single decision made about in that building,? said developer Jack Matthews. ?We spent 10 hours in the last month looking at the laundry alone. </p> <p> ?I want to do it because it?s the right thing to do,? he said. ?And it?s about saving money.? </p> <p> One of the country?s big office tenants ? accounting giant Ernst & Young - is also shifting its emphasis toward green properties. </p> <p> More than half of the 6.1 million square feet Ernst Young occupies in the U.S. has energy savings ratings, said Judy Barth Bowles, a director of real estate services with Ernst & Young. </p> <p> ?We?ve looked at everything to maximize the dollars we spend,? Bowles said. ?We are very cognizant of the energy consumption. </p> <p> ?Landlords are very interested, and we give them the push.?