BOMA BESt for MURBs including condos: A game changer for green buildings

Thousands of multi-unit residential building owners and managers across Canada can now take steps toward making their property more environmentally sustainable with the introduction of a building assessment module for multi-unit residential buildings (MURBs) launched as part of the BOMA BESt program in late January 2012.

BOMA BESt (Building Environmental Standards) is Canada’s leading environmental assessment and certification program for existing buildings. It is managed by the Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada and delivered through the organization’s 11 local associations across the country.

Regardless of ownership type – rental, co-op, non-profit, condo or condo-rental – existing multi-unit residential buildings as small as three story low-rises to hi-rise buildings where the sky’s the limit are eligible for the program.

The ease of entry and reasonable cost of BOMA BESt certification paves the way for multi-unit residential owners across the country, BOMA members and non-members, to participate in greening their property – – a potential game changer for making an even larger percentage of buildings in Canada more sustainable.

A BOMA committee with broad representation from the industry along with building science experts led the development and implementation of the module including a pilot program. The pilot included 10 apartment buildings located in five provinces and one condo, the Shangri-La in Vancouver.

Following the launch of this module GWL Realty Advisors, who was a participant in the BOMA committee developing the MURBs standard, and had four buildings in the pilot, is rolling out BOMA BESt to more than 50 apartment buildings across their portfolio. Parkview Towers in Burnaby, B.C., 400 Walmer Rd as well as Bretton Place in Toronto and 4300 Maisonneuve in Montreal are the four buildings that GWLRA had in the test program.

“Programs like BOMA BESt help companies like GWL Realty Advisors at many levels,” explained Andres Bernal, National Director of Sustainability and Energy Management for the company. “Introducing it to our multi-residential portfolio is an opportunity to enhance the standardization of management practices, establish environmental benchmarks and further engage staff as well as building residents in sustainability programs”

“The benchmarking process provides a starting point, and a reference scale, from which buildings can move forward with greening their operations. It establishes a culture of continuous improvement while setting a mechanism that rewards best performers,” Bernal said. A BOMA BESt certificate issued by BOMA Canada supports the claim that a building is green which in turn may be attractive to some occupants and the community at large.

“The pilot was one of the marvelous things about the process,” said Melissa Peneycad, Manager, Environment and Energy Sustainability Practices for BOMA Canada. “It proved to be incredibly beneficial as it contributed information that was highly relevant to the residential building type. The pilot program provided assurance to BOMA Canada that the industry will respond positively to the program and that it will be widely adopted,” she said.

Like the other BOMA BESt assessment modules, the MURB module includes six key areas of building performance: energy, water, waste reduction and site enhancement, the management of emissions and effluents, the quality of the indoor environment, and environmental management system.

The indoor environment portion is weighted substantially higher in the MURB module accounting for 18% of the available points, compared 10% for commercial offices, to account for some of the significant differences between the building types.

“One of the surprises and a take away from participating in the pilot program was the extent to which there are building specific issues,” said Bernal. Unique lighting, cleaning, waste management and even municipal regulations, among others, require some customization specific to a building, yet the program allows for maintaining portfolio wide policies and procedures.

EDC-Jones Lang LaSalle owns and operates Green Globes a building environmental design and management tool. BOMA Canada has the rights to use Green Globes for existing buildings in Canada and has re-branded it as BOMA BESt.

A team from ECD Jones Lang LaSalle, led by Jiri Skopek, provided advice and development support with respect to upgrades to BOMA BESt and introduction of the MURB module. The team brought its experience with the Green Globes multi-unit residential module available to JLL customers in the U.S. where it has been ‘kicking the tires’ of the program for a while explained Skopek.

“BOMA Canada brought additional resources, eyes and ears to the process and to the multi-res product” said Skopek and allowed for the preparation of a uniquely Canadian MURBs module.

Creating a database of the environmental footprints and energy consumption patterns of multi-residential buildings across Canada will be a significant outcome the MURBs program. This information is a vital learning tool for determining “what we understand where we are going” and to facilitate information sharing amongst those enrolled in the program explained Skopek.

“From many points of view we are trying to improve the performance of the building stock. Canada used to be a leader in the environmental sphere and many people at the individual level are interested in their environmental impact,” said Skopek,

He anticipates that the residential sector will mimic the office sector where building occupants are now pressuring owners to improve the performance of their buildings. “Once people know that it is happening then it will be incredibly positive,” Skopek said.

Once a year BOMA Canada compiles energy and environmental data for buildings enrolled in BOMA BESt into a report and releases it in the spring of each year. A report derived from the new MURBs module should be available in the 2012 report.

Download the BOMA BESt brochure about the Multi-unit residential module.

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