It achieved the rating for its 47 properties across North America, Australia and Europe including Berlin’s Sony Center, which becomes Germany’s first office building to attain the rating.
Marlee Kohn, manager of sustainability for Oxford, said now more than ever customers, employees and visitors are expecting to walk into healthy buildings.
“And they have high expectations on the indoor air quality, the indoor environmental quality, the amenities that we’re offering, the policies that we have in place at our buildings to ensure that our buildings are the healthiest they can be,” she said. “I think those expectations are really high for those people who are coming and spending the majority of their days or just passing through our buildings.
“So this certification really gives us that additional seal of approval for anyone who is coming into our buildings that they can feel comfortable, they can feel confident and happy to come back to our buildings. Really that certification solidified that for us.”
WELL is the world’s leading health-focused building standard, specifically designed in response to COVID-19, incorporating guidance from the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It focuses on six main health and safety themes:
– cleaning and sanitization;
– emergency preparedness;
– health service resources;
– air and water quality;
– and innovation.
WELL HSR is achieved through adherence to scientifically backed best practices proven to safeguard the health and safety of customers, employees and stakeholders as buildings become increasingly re-occupied.
How to achieve WELL certification
To achieve WELL HSR, each recognized asset was required to meet quantitative benchmarks, and ensure adherence to specific protocols — many of which were already standard practice throughout Oxford’s portfolio, said the company. This includes benchmarked testing of air quality including fine particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, ozone and carbon dioxide.
Additional measures, such as a comprehensive return to work plan, an HVAC engineering assessment, and robust health and wellness offerings provide occupants with some of the healthiest possible indoor environments, it said.
“(The certification is) definitely more important than in the past, more from our customer perspective because there is a heightened awareness . . . to that indoor air quality . . . and what we have at our buildings,” said Kohn. “It’s always been important for us though, previous to the pandemic.
“So when the pandemic hit what we were doing differently wasn’t so much in terms of our practices, but it was moreso how we’re communicating it and how we’re sharing that with our community and those customers and our employees.
“We saw that heightened interest in what HVAC filters we were using. How often we were bringing in fresh air. All of these things, all of these questions, were starting to be raised. It’s not that they haven’t been raised before. It’s not that we haven’t communicated it before, but we just saw that it was magnified immensely through the pandemic.”
Despite the company’s previous efforts, Kohn said the pandemic led to an even deeper look at its practices and infrastructure.
“Did we sit on that, though, and assume that we were doing the right thing? No,” she explained. “We looked to the external standards out there. We aligned with those standards that we normally have. We were part of external conversations with our peers, globally, industry experts, outside of the industry experts as well.
“We were aligning with these groups and these conversations so that we could confirm that we were doing all that we could do. We were exploring new innovations, new technologies, just to see if that was the route we wanted to take, in addition to the existing practices that we were doing.”
About Oxford Properties Group
Oxford Properties Group is a leading global real estate investor, asset manager and business builder.
Established in 1960, Oxford and its portfolio companies manage approximately $70 billion of assets across four continents on behalf of their investment partners. Oxford’s owned portfolio encompasses office, logistics, retail, multifamily residential, life sciences and hotels; it spans more than 150 million square feet in global gateway cities and high-growth hubs.
Oxford is also one of the world’s most active developers with over 100 projects underway globally across all major asset classes. Oxford is owned by OMERS, the Canadian defined benefit pension plan for Ontario’s municipal employees.
“Achieving one of the world’s largest portfolios of WELL Health-Safety Rated office buildings is an impressive validation of not only the quality of our assets but also how we operate them,” said Chad Remis, executive vice president, North America, Oxford Properties, in a statement. “Customers and employees expect healthy buildings, and this certification gives an additional seal of approval to our occupants as they continue to return to the workplace.”
For property owners, any certification involving health and safety, the environment and sustainability is a big help when it comes to leasing.
“When we first heard of the WELL Health-Safety Rating we engaged colleagues from across our organization to discuss the opportunity and what it might mean for our portfolios . . . All-in-all I think the overall sentiment from all the leasing teams across our regions saw that having that third-party certification, third-party verification, whatever the form comes in, is very important,” said Kohn.
“Our leasing teams really saw that as an opportunity.”