This paper maps some of the social and commercial forces shaping the debate around ‘realistic’ or ‘appropriate’ levels of energy specification in the commercial office market. It discusses how the dynamics of the market, alternative lease arrangements, enhanced building management standards, technological innovation and shifts in cultural taste are all redefining contemporary office space and presenting new opportunities for environmental innovation. Drawing upon interviews with developers, investors, agents, occupiers and property researchers in Britain and France, the changing, often conflicting, priorities underpinning decisions about energy standards are explored. The paper explores possible ‘futures’ for office development processes in the United Kingdom. Highlighting the ebb and flow of the market, the paper points to the changing nature of tenant demand and current ‘opportunities’ for the development of alternative, more ‘realistic’ energy specification levels. Looking beyond the current property slump it examines the cultural and structural shifts likely to sustain any reformation of British real estate practices. In particular, the paper highlights contemporary debates around transformation of the institutional lease and legislative codification of energy and environmental standards. It is argued that this loose constellation of social forces promises a significant, new mutuality of interests between developers and occupiers which is cultivating ‘appropriate’ specification and procurement practices.