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Know your goals, do your homework: BOMA BEST Smart bldg. managers

Livmore Toronto, Place Ville Marie in Montreal, 745 Thurlow in Vancouver first to be certified by new standard

TheMontreal’s Place Ville Marie. (Courtesy Ivanhoe Cambridge, Stephan Poulin)
Montreal’s iconic Place Ville Marie. (Courtesy Ivanhoe Cambridge, Stephan Poulin)

Smart buildings can be more efficient, cheaper to operate, and offer better user experiences. But preparation is key when property owners and managers pursue designations such as BOMA Best Smart, say executives behind the first buildings certified under the program.

The Smart certification’s main focus areas are security and safety; operations and management; network and integration; end-user experience; and reporting and analysis. The new technology-focused certification debuted in tandem with BOMA BEST Sustainable, the fourth iteration of the benchmarking program for existing buildings.

The inaugural Smart certifications were awarded to:

“What is the BOMA BEST Smart vision? We really wanted to ensure that through the process of developing our smart certification that it would be an accessible and inclusive certification, and one that is also aspirational,” BOMA Canada’s senior director of strategy and innovation Victoria Papp said during a webinar which also featured managers associated with two of properties.

“We want to make sure that we are pushing the industry forward and capturing everyone from the beginning of their digital transformation and smart journey all the way to those who have significant smart technologies implemented in their buildings.”

BOMA International, founded in 1907, is a federation comprised of 85 local U.S. associations and 17 international affiliates. BOMA Canada has more than 3,100 members representing more than 2.1 billion square feet of space.

The BOMA BEST certification was established in Canada in 2005 and more than 7,000 buildings have received a certification or recertification under the program.


Like the other BOMA certifications, building modules include office, light industrial, enclosed and open-air retail, multi-unit residential, health-care and universal buildings. The rankings are baseline, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

The Livmore achieved Silver while 745 Thurlow and Place Ville Marie achieved Gold.

“Our objectives zeroed in on six main criteria: to reduce operating expenses, reduce energy consumption, improve operational efficiencies, improve database decisions, enable future end-user experiences and ultimately increase tenant satisfaction,” GWLRA’s vice-president of development Andrew Hollins said.

Improving the operational efficiency of the Livmore included areas such as the HVAC system and lighting usage.

QuadReal’s vice-president of digital building projects Bill Masse said Internet-of-Things sensors were employed at 745 Thurlow to monitors areas including occupancy, indoor air quality, dedicated water services and tracking of consumables like toilet paper and paper towels. All of this info and more was integrated into a building management platform where the data is viewable “on a single pane of glass.”

Masse noted an AI machine-learning tool was used to leverage datasets from the weather, winter air temperatures, indoor air temperatures, occupancy and other factors to autonomously control building systems.

BOMA Canada president Benjamin Shinewald told SustainableBiz in May the certification makes it the only program of its kind to assess how smart a building is “using the same approach, the same structure as the sustainable buildings program.”

Buildings are able to pursue the Smart and Sustainable certifications at the same time, along with an in-the-works healthy buildings program certification.

Future of BOMA BEST Smart

GWLRA plans to certify more of its portfolio under the new BOMA certification, Hollins said.

Achieving the certification required plenty of adoption of cybersecurity and IoT technologies, something Masse advised other building owners to consider.

“It's important to establish some sort of pre-qualification enablement requirements around that, so you don't end up hitching your wagon to something that ends up being a vendor-lock, proprietary scenario, or just the wrong the wrong partner for what you're trying to achieve,” he said.

Hollins and Masse both agreed advanced testing is important to ensure interoperability between all the building’s systems.

Hollins reflected on the need to see more training in AI and machine learning for real estate operators.

“I'd love to see some really technology-based training courses that the building operators in the current and the future could take to help them understand how they can use these tools, because all of the solutions haven't even been thought about,” he said. “That's where I see the real acceleration of technology in real estate will happen, is when it becomes absolutely normal.”

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