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Data key to Triovest improving its overall GRESB score

The man responsible for innovation and sustainability credits access to data as the key reason Tr...

IMAGE: Philippe Bernier, Triovest’s vice president of innovation and sustainability. (Courtesy Triovest)

Philippe Bernier, Triovest’s vice president of innovation and sustainability. (Courtesy Triovest)

The man responsible for innovation and sustainability credits access to data as the key reason Triovest improved its overall score and ranking in the 2019 GRESB Real Estate Assessment.

Triovest scored 91 out of 100, up three points from 2018, placing it among the best in Canada and in its global peer group.

“You don’t get there by accident . . . I was really happy to see it go up,” said Philippe Bernier, Triovest’s vice president of innovation and sustainability, in an interview with SustainableBiz. “You never quite know what to expect because it’s a bit of a surprise when the results come out.”

Bernier said GRESB is reshaping how the real estate industry approaches business. In Triovest’s case, improving its company-wide data management systems and processes has been a priority the past two years.

While some may consider it a “boring foundational piece,” getting information from its assets into a structured database on a timely, accurate basis is crucial.

Data allows for quick response

“You can give feedback to your people — the building operators, the property managers — so they can know how they are doing and they can start to see if things are improving or not,” said Bernier. “They’re going to know better than someone like me, who has an indirect responsibility for hundreds of assets.

“If you can set up your data and set up your systems to give feedback to people, they’ll solve their own problems. People want to get better . . . we just need timely, accurate feedback.”

As its data systems expand and improve, Triovest plans to automate monthly or weekly reports so the project management team “can see and solve problems on the fly,” Bernier said.

But its progress is already significant, as measured within GRESB, the global standard for environmental, social and governance (ESG) benchmarking and reporting. The organization includes listed property companies, private property funds, developers and investors which invest directly in real estate.

The assessment evaluates performance against seven sustainability standards, according to the GRESB website. Fifty indicators follow a “plan-do-check-act” logic and are designed to encompass the wide variety of property companies and funds included in the benchmark.

Triovest a global top performer

Performance indicators such as energy consumption, GHG emissions, water consumption and waste are included.

A record 1,005 real estate companies and funds participated in the 2019 Real Estate Assessment, representing more than 100,000 assets in 64 countries, with a value of about $5.5 trillion.

Triovest was the runner-up in its peer group of 24 international participants. In the voluntary resilience module, Triovest ranked in the top 20 per cent globally out of 228 respondents.

The company also maintained its five green stars ranking for the third straight year, the highest rating available.

Triovest CEO Vince Brown called it a meaningful achievement.

“We have worked hard to embed sustainability across our organization,” said Brown in a prepared statement. “Our employees, clients, and tenants contributed to, and will all benefit from, this achievement.”

Triovest is a fully integrated commercial real estate advisory and capital firm with a $10-billion portfolio of 380 properties in Canada, comprising more than 38 million square feet under management. An additional $2 billion in property is under development.

Expanded focus on sustainability

Bernier has an engineering background and began with the company in late 2014.

He previously worked as Triovest’s director of sustainability, where he undertook the most detailed stakeholder consultation exercise of its kind in the Canadian commercial real estate sector. He then presented his findings publicly in Triovest Realty Advisor’s 2014 Materiality Matrix.

Bernier was also a consultant with Loop Initiatives, managing the development and implementation of Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan’s (HOOPP) international award-winning sustainability strategy. That includes HOOPP’s LEAP Awards, which influence positive change across $100 billion in commercial real estate.

“I think the biggest accomplishment, quite simply, is that Triovest’s mission is now (focused on) sustainability,” he said. “This wasn’t our mission until two years ago. But our mission now, of the organization, is ‘we create sustainable places that enhance communities and enrich relationships.’ ”

The new mission builds on “a lot of the great work that was already going on in the company across the country.”

Other recent honours for Triovest

This isn’t the only recent recognition for Triovest. Its properties recently earned awards in three categories at the 2019 BOMA Canada Awards Gala in St. John’s, Nfld. on Sept. 11:

* Its ATB Place Edmonton team earned the National Pinnacle Award for Innovation. The award recognized the installation of two combined heat-and-power plants to reduce operational costs, energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and improve building resilience.

* Marine Gateway in Vancouver was the inaugural winner of the BOMA Canada Accessibility Challenge. It topped all Rick Hansen Foundation, accessibility certified buildings in Canada.

* The team at Mississauga Gateway Centre won its best-in-class category of the Net Zero Awards.

Some projects are “really small and simple and you’re just changing temperature set points and start-stop schedules. It might be tactical lighting retrofits,” Bernier explained. “Then it can get really complicated, into big capital systems like putting in combined heat and power.”

As a third-party manager at most of its properties, Triovest serves the interests of both building owners and tenants: “We have to make a good case to our clients that this is the right investment strategy, or the right thing to attract and retain tenants, or for the asset,” he said.

“We do expect, as investors in real estate, to generate an economic return in addition to ideally creating some really beautiful places that meet the needs of customers.”

All of these requirements are ultimately supported by good data.

“The thing that’s most important to me, and I think to many who use GRESB as a tool, is to get the feedback to validate where you’re doing well and where you have those opportunities for improvement,” said Bernier. “It’s nice to see progress, whether you’re the top leader or right up there.”