Multi-Residential Largely Untested Territory for Benchmarking
BOMA BESt and CRB Open Second Front for Sustainability
By Barbara Carss
BOMA Canada is the first entrant to the Canadian market with an assessment and benchmarking tool for sustainable operations in the multi-residential sector, but the momentum may lie elsewhere. The Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO) also has plans to introduce 14 new green standards later this year to augment its Certified Rental Building (CRB) program and has favourable prospects to sign up 75,000 suites by the fall of 2013.
“About 75% of the buildings currently in the CRB program will have to recertify in the next 18 months and, once the green standards are in place, participants will have to comply with them,” says Ted Whitehead, FRPO’s Director of Certification.
Meanwhile, BOMA Canada also anticipates an influx of rental housing properties to its BOMA BESt program. GWL Realty Advisors has pledged to certify its rental housing portfolio, which was reported at 13.5-million square feet in Canadian Property Management’s 2012 Who’s Who in Canadian Real Estate survey.
The multi-residential module was introduced in the fall of 2011 in tandem with other program-wide updates and revisions in the new BOMA BESt version 2. This establishes a fifth property-specific assessment module in addition to those already in place for offices, light industrial, open-air retail and enclosed shopping centres.
Rental housing and residential condominiums are assessed in six categories: energy; water; waste reduction/diversion; emissions and effluents; indoor environment; and environmental management systems.
These are also weighted according to operational prominence so that energy accounts for 35% of available points, for example, while water represents just 8%. Program criteria were tested and modified through a pilot project involving 11 buildings located across Canada.
“The pilot phase taught us a lot,” Meirav Even-Har, who was BOMA Canada’s Project Manager for Sustainability Initiatives at the time, told seminar attendees at the recent Green Real Estate conference in Toronto. “Residential is nothing like commercial.”
That’s precisely FRPO’s position. “We think a green program in the multi-residential sector looks very different than it does in a commercial building,” Whitehead observes.
In large part, that’s because much of a building’s energy expenditure, water consumption and waste generation happens within tenants’ units and is outside the landlord’s control. So, too, are many activities that can compromise indoor air quality or release hazardous substances and chemicals to the environment.
Reflective of those challenges, the market-dominant ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager benchmarking program covers 15 different categories of buildings in the United States – including hotels, dormitories and seniors’ care facilities – but does not yet convey scores for multi-residential buildings. “We’re working on one for multi-family,” Michael Zatz, Chief of the Market Sectors Group in the U.S. ENERGY STAR Commercial and Industrial Branch, reported at the Green Real Estate conference.
FRPO’s CRB program is an audited program that requires participants to comply with designated management practices in five categories: legislation/regulatory requirements; resident management; human resources; building operations; and finance. Building managers and operators from participating buildings must also complete an eight-hour training course on the program’s standards of practice. These include a range of obligations related to health and safety, privacy and human rights, customer service, preventative maintenance, record keeping, accounting procedures and labour relations.
The pending green standards were already foreseen when the program was launched in 2008, and are considered an extension of the CRB continuous improvement philosophy and the program’s commitment to ongoing evaluation of how standards can support the industry’s needs.
“FRPO’s intentions are to establish a set of green standards that are meaningful and hold members accountable to best practices in the day-to-day environmental management of multi-residential apartment buildings,” Whitehead says.
For example, standards will address management and purchasing policies, including the practices and environmental performance records of the contractors hired to work in the building. They’ll also focus on the operational aspects of the building that are within the landlord’s control.
“We’ll be looking at how they’re capturing the low-hanging fruit,” Whitehead notes. “That’s things like water-efficient toilets and showerheads, energy-efficient lighting, replacement of old appliances.”
FRPO has a long-standing presence in Ontario’s rental housing industry, with a wide membership of large, mid-sized and smaller owners and a recognized profile with the provincial and municipal governments, while the CRB program is gaining notice from tenants and the public at large due to its associated branding and signage strategy. This arguably gives it something of an inside advantage that could also be a platform for promoting wider sustainability strategies.
“We have commenced discussions with BOMA to determine how we can work together to provide the industry with the best possible opportunity to succeed,” Whitehead reports.
For more information about BOMA BESt, see the web site at www.bomabest.com. For more information about the Certified Rental Building program, see the web site at www.crbprogram.org.