Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) Canada has had an overwhelmingly positive response to the BOMA BESt portfolio-based environmental management and benchmarking system it launched at the beginning of the year.
The impetus for the program came from members who wanted to increase their number of properties certified under BOMA BESt in a more cost-effective way, particularly light industrial and open-air retail properties where cost is more of an issue.
“They receive lower rents, so operating costs become much more important and more directly affect the bottom line,” said BOMA energy and environment director John Smiciklas.
The program introduces centralized verification that allows property owners and managers to certify multiple properties with fees apportioned on a square-foot basis across the portfolio.
The cost is equalized for properties, regardless of size, and buildings can be added or removed from the portfolio due to changes in ownership or management company.
Nearly 200 light industrial and open-air retail buildings were BOMA BESt-certified in 2013, accounting for about 28 per cent of the year’s total certifications.
Most properties were looking for Level 1 certifications so they could get best practices in place and differentiate themselves in the marketplace without having their results measured or plotted.
“We moved away from the three-year certification program to a continuous certification model featuring an annual fee,” said Smiciklas.
“As long as a large portfolio of properties are operating under common policies and procedures, we’ve taken advantage of the fact that auditing standards allow you to put together a formula for a statistically valid sample of those properties.
“As long as that sample meets the requirement of the program, we can extend that through the entire portfolio.”
Three million square feet of space needed
A property portfolio must consist of at least three million square feet of space to be eligible for the program.
Verifiers will examine portfolio-wide documentation and conduct an annual on-site sampling verification program according to the requirements of the ISO 17021 standard for bodies providing audit and certification of management systems.
Properties selected to be verified within the portfolio are chosen annually using what Smiciklas called a “complex formula” that involves a number of factors.
Building owners and managers don’t have to worry about their certifications expiring and the workload to become certified can be spread out farther over a period of years so they don’t face the feast-or-famine situations of the previous model where many properties may have come up for certification one year and few the next.
“It saves time and it saves money,” said Smiciklas. “The overall cost to our membership is less and it can also save on resources and allow them to be planned more efficiently.”
BOMA members that weren’t heavily involved in BOMA BESt are now interested and inquiring about the portfolio certification program, and BOMA is reviewing the suggested idea of extending it to cover all asset classes.
Small building fees to decrease
Bentall Kennedy, Triovest and GWL Realty Advisors are taking part in the portfolio program and a large but still unrevealed pension fund will put its portfolio through it as well. Nearly 200 properties in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia are entering the program and BOMA is anticipating that number will increase to between 400 and 500 by the end of the year.
“We see this as revenue-positive,” said Smiciklas. “The fees for very small buildings will actually decrease and, in some cases, decrease by a lot. But we’re seeing a dramatic increase in the number of properties being added to the program that is going to make up for that.
“Our role here at BOMA is to service our membership and, since membership has been fairly clear that this is how they would like things to be operated, we’ve given them another option.
“This is a way of taking a large portfolio of buildings and bringing them up to a minimum level of sustainability performance and demonstrates very clearly to our stakeholders that we’re moving forward with our sustainability initiatives.”