environmental performance

BOMA BESt results show performance gains

Average energy score improves in 2014 as recertifying buildings face more rigorous criteria
Thursday, May 14, 2015
By Barbara Carss

Last year’s slate of 562 BOMA BESt certifications add to a growing database of participants in the environmental performance assessment and monitoring program. Among the 392 buildings attaining Level 2 to 4 standing in 2014, the newly released BOMA BESt National Green Building Report reveals improved energy and water efficiency, steady waste diversion tallies and continued high implementation of environmental management systems.

Scores are derived from 175 questions in six categories — energy; water; waste reduction and site enhancement; emissions and effluents; indoor environment; and environmental management systems — and results are plotted on a scale of 100. The average score for 2014 was 78.5, almost on par with 2013’s average of 78.6 for the 400 buildings that reached the Level 2 to 4 ranks.

Level 2, equating to a score 70 to 79, was the most common certification for 2014, as 207 buildings achieved that status. Another 170 buildings attained Level 3 with scores in the range of 80 to 89, while 15 buildings, or 3 per cent of the total, scored 90 or higher for a Level 4 ranking. Level 1 status – which recognizes the simple adoption of 14 planning, monitoring and oversight practices rather than a measure of results — accounted for 30 per cent of the overall certifications, down from 42 per cent of the total in 2013.

More than half of the 2014 certifications were actually re-certifications, which the BOMA BESt program requires at three-year intervals. Of these, 70 or 22 per cent moved to a higher level of certification — an outcome that BOMA BESt administrators see as particularly encouraging because the gains were made with more rigorous assessment criteria. On the flipside, some buildings dropped from Level 2 to Level 1 upon recertification.

“Buildings recertifying in 2014 did so using an updated standard, BOMA BESt version 2,” the National Green Building Report states. “With this newer and stricter standard, only buildings that continued to improve their performance since their original certification were likely to obtain a similar or even better score upon recertification.”

For example, buildings recertified at Level 2 to 4 recorded an average reduction in energy use intensity (EUI) of 2.9 equivalent kilowatt-hours per square foot per year (ekWh/ft2/yr) from their original certification dates — thus supporting the Report’s hypothesis: “The 2014 results suggest that implementation of the BOMA BESt program helps building managers improve their performance and reduce their environmental impact over time.”

Office buildings make up nearly two-thirds of the 2014 database — 365 in total, and 293 certified at Level 2 to 4. Five other asset classes — enclosed shopping centres, open-air retail, light industrial, health care and multi-unit residential — are also surveyed.

Of these, the health care category was in its inaugural year with five participating buildings — including one Level 4 and two Level 3 certifications, for an impressive 60 per cent of the asset class performing at the 80th percentile or higher. In contrast, 67.5 per cent, or 52 of 77, light industrial buildings, and 66 per cent or 14 of 21 multi-unit residential buildings were certified at Level 1.

Energy management and performance

Energy management and performance proportionally carries the greatest weight of the six assessment categories, representing about 35 per cent of the overall score. On average, 2014 results show Level 4 certified office buildings consume 44 per cent less than buildings with Level 2 status. The range is somewhat closer for enclosed shopping centres with an average EUI of 26.9 ekWh/ft2/yr for Level 2 and 22 ekWh/ft2/yr for Level 3. Meanwhile, the light industrial asset class is something of an anomaly in which the average achieved at Level 2 — 30.1 ekWh/ft2/yr — topped the Level 3 average EUI of 35.8 ekWh/ft2/yr.

EUI for office buildings in general was just slightly off the previous year’s mark, with an average of 27.4 ekWh/ft2/yr in 2014 versus 27.1 in 2013. Variables are more distinct among vintages and sizes within the asset class, as well as from region to region.

Beyond consumption, other criteria contributing to energy performance and management include: efficiency features, such as high-efficiency lighting, equipment and building envelope; and operational practices, such as energy assessment, operator training, sub-metering and preventative maintenance. Transportation options — cycling, walkability and access to public transit — also figure in the category. All this contributes to an improved overall average energy score for buildings certified in 2014 — 68.1 across the database — despite the slightly higher EUI.

Even so, there is a notable divergence in scores of Level 2, 3 and 4 buildings. The National Green Building Report identifies eight features and/or practices more commonly found at Level 4 standing, including: condensing boilers; exhaust air heat recovery; high-efficiency water heating equipment; daylight sensors; demand response capabilities; variable speed drives on pump systems; sub-meters; and periodic recommissioning or continuous commissioning.

This accounts for the average energy score of 86 for Level 4 office buildings versus and an average of 63 at Level 2, and also clearly filters through to the impressive 17.3 ekWh/ft2/yr EUI for Level 4 office buildings compared to the average of 30 ekWh/ft2/yr for Level 2.

Water efficiency

Water use intensity (WUI) accounts for a lesser percentage of the BOMA BESt score, but demonstrates impressive progress for program participants. In 2008, the average WUI for surveyed office buildings was 1.13 cubic metres per square metre per year (m3/m2/yr). In 2014, the average WUI was 0.68 m3/m2/y4 – on par with the 2013 average and just slightly higher than 2012’s best ever result of 0.65 m3/m2/yr.

In addition to WUI, BOMA BESt’s water category assesses: conservation measures, including types of fixtures and fittings and irrigation practices; water management policies and practices, including sub-metering, maintenance, leak detection and retrofits; and innovation.

Level 4 buildings more commonly had low-flow toilets and urinals, sub-metered evaporative cooling towers and automated irrigation systems — features that flow through to higher scores and lower WUI. The average WUI for Level 4 office buildings was 0.49 m3/m2/yr versus an average of 0.77 m3/m2/yr in Level 2 buildings.

All participating buildings typically scored well in the environmental management systems category, which is expressed in an average score of 96.5 across the 2014 database. This evaluates: documentation and planning; environmental purchasing; emergency response preparedness; and tenant awareness programs. Enclosed shopping centres are additionally assessed for community environmental contributions.

Although all buildings performed well in this category, the National Green Building Report identifies three practices more common in Level 4 buildings: tenant satisfaction surveys; green leases that include clauses for tenants’ energy and environmental responsibilities; and documentation of procedures for responding to power failures.

Barbara Carss is the editor-in-chief of Building Strategies & Sustainability and Canadian Property Management.

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