To rate or not to rate? An update on BOMA BESt and LEED

Mark Hutchinson has a practical reason for recommending property owners pursue a certified green building rating.
“Perhaps it’s because of my scientific background, but it comes back to me to being able to prove what you’ve accomplished,” the Canada Green Building Council’s (CaGBC’s) director of green building programs said in Ottawa recently.
“It boggles my mind that people go ahead and spend millions and millions of dollars on buildings and then at the end of the day you ask the owners, ‘So exactly what are the outcomes, what have you actually got done? You know what you set out to do, you know you were at those meetings when you set targets, but what did you get?’
“They might not know all the answers to that and if they have some of the answers, they won’t actually be able to back them up and that’s hard to believe. So for me that verification and validation is the biggest benefit.”
LEED applications hit new milestone
Hutchinson, speaking at the most recent segment of the Better Building Breakfast Program, where the topic, fittingly enough, was To Rate or not to Rate?, said interest in CaGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification is definitely up. (Mark Hutchinson picture on the left)
“We hit a bit of a milestone just a few months ago where we registered our 4,000th LEED project in Canada,” Hutchinson said. “I think that’s a great milestone and we’re very happy to see that . . .
‘’We’ve been successfully adapting to this heightened interest, as reflected in the fact that the total number of certified projects increased over 60 per cent in 2012 alone – there are now over 900 LEED-certified projects in Canada.”
Throwing a bit of a wrench into the works, however, the City of Ottawa’s environment committee – citing a backlog in applications – voted last month to remove the rule that required most municipally owned buildings receive the LEED designation. City council has since handed the issue off to municipal staff for further study.
“Talks are ongoing with staff,” Hutchinson said. “The ultimate next step is that when staff feel that they have the information that the committee is looking for, they will make a presentation to the committee and at that session, other people will be invited to make presentations as well. We intend to be there.
“We’re confident that we can work with the staff to make a very strong case for why the city should be continuing with its current LEED policy.”
Hutchinson isn’t surprised by the turn of events.
Calgary review of LEED looking positively
“It’s understandable that this issue comes up periodically,” he said. “Its policy involves dollars and cents and so cities should be looking at these things periodically. The City of Calgary is another example where they’ve been spending time looking at whether it makes sense to have that LEED building policy and the tentative results from that are very positive . . . so I’m confident we can get the same outcome here in Ottawa.”
Hutchinson is also confident that LEED and fellow environmental certification program BOMA BESt (Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada’s Building Environmental Standards) can co-exist despite some admitted duplication.
“We’re looking at the same types of things, but we aren’t always looking at them in the exact same way,” Hutchinson said. “LEED on the whole will generally go into a little more detail and the stringency of what we’re asking for is a little bit higher and then the process of review will be a little bit more involved, more rigorous which entails yes, extra time and a little bit extra cost, but additional rigour to a process that’s supposed to be very rigorous. . . .
“There are subtle differences, but they’re really complimentary and the market, especially for existing buildings, deserves a continuum of options and BOMA allows you to get in right at the basic levels and get some best practices in place and get owners and operators talking to each other and understanding what they should be thinking about and taking, you know, baby steps and then move onto BOMA Level 2, BOMA Level 3, perhaps (LEED) EBOM (Existing Building Operations & Maintenance). So they’re different entities, but they really do help serve the entirety of the Canadian marketplace well together.”
Third-party certification, LEED and BOMA BESt a win-win
John Smiciklas, BOMA Canada’s director of energy and environment, agrees with Hutchinson that third-party certification is a win-win situation. (John Smiciklas picture on the left)
“It drives continuous improvement and results in dollar savings,” Smiciklas said. “As one example of what can happen to a building during the progression of these levels, look at the Scotia Centre (in St. John’s, N.L.)
“It has gone from a BOMA BESt rating of one in 2007, upgraded to two in 2008, upgraded to level three in 2012. In 2011, they had an actual cost savings of $20,000 over expected costs (those will increase in 2012, the numbers aren’t in yet). This is despite the fact that the tenants are using more and electronic equipment, but it’s been managed better.”
Smiciklas feels the future is bright for both the BOMA BESt program and the environment.
“I think the big untapped market really is the Class B, Class C buildings,” he said. “There are thousands of them out there and they’d never be able to go through the LEED process. It’s simply too expensive. BOMA BESt, even at a lower price range, may be a little out of reach, but if we can get those buildings . . . They’re smaller properties, family companies, small groups together buying buildings . . . if you can get those buildings up, you can make a real difference in the environment and you show the owners some initial profit.’’
Smiciklas cautions against pursuing green certification for the wrong reasons, however.
“When people use as it as a process to get better, it works very effectively,” Smiciklas said. “When they use it as a process to get a certificate on the wall, it doesn’t work that well.’’

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