A new certification for connectivity targets a building system that is both increasingly critical to tenants’ operations and often perplexing for non-IT professionals. WiredScore, a four-level scale for defining the capacity and resiliency of buildings’ telecommunications infrastructure, is becoming available in the Canadian commercial real estate market.
Proponents and early adopters suggest the program can provide simplified credibility for landlords and simplified assurance for tenants via a formal third-party building assessment and an easily decipherable rating system that is tied to rigorous criteria. WiredScore assessors might also be described as the telecommunications equivalent of energy auditors since they are additionally tasked with identifying how owners/managers can make improvements to their buildings.
“Connectivity is a very tricky subject for many tenants to grasp,” says Sean Menkes, development manager with Menkes Developments Ltd, speaking from the company’s Wired Certified Gold head office in Toronto. “WiredScore helps us to communicate what’s behind the walls, which isn’t visible or always easily understood when prospective tenants are visiting the site.”
Menkes has achieved the top rating, Wired Certified Platinum, for its new tower at One York Street in Toronto’s southcore and the Gold for its 30-year-old building on north Yonge Street ahead of the program’s official launch in the Greater Toronto Area, which is slated for later this month. In other new development, Ivanhoé Cambridge and Hines’ planned two-tower, 2.9-million-square-foot office complex in Toronto’s southcore is also designed to achieve Wired Certified Platinum.
Industry insiders foresee growing interest as the program rolls out in Toronto and engineer-evaluators are available for site visits and/or to review construction plans. Since its 2013 genesis through the auspices of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, WiredScore has spread to 80 cities throughout the United States and Europe with approximately 950 properties encompassing 350 million square feet of space now boasting some level of certification. Participants pay fees based on building size and, as with other types of building certification, institutional real estate players have been prominent among the first patrons.
“Many of the landlords in Toronto approached WiredScore to bring Wired Certification to their buildings and development projects,” reports Phil Kanfer, the program’s director of business development. “Tenants opening up new offices in the GTA marketplace have robust telecom needs and Wired Certification is a way to communicate advanced connectivity features to those tenants.”
“I’m not sure the standard has a lot of visibility with tenants right now, but I don’t think that it will take much time to gain traction,” predicts Lorri Rowlandson, senior vice president with the real estate and facilities management service provider, BGIS.
Leasing tool with risk management applications
Four levels of certification — Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum — translate into a shorthand for the type of internet service a tenant can expect. At the basic level, Wired Certified indicates that the building can support tenants’ current connectivity requirements and has measures in place to “reduce the risk” of service interruption or loss. At the top of the scale, Wired Certified Platinum denotes “best in class” for number and quality of service providers, redundancy and resiliency of telecom infrastructure, ease of installation and capacity for future new services.
There are separate streams for existing buildings and new development, promising a process that takes just a few weeks for existing buildings or that can be completed in time for pre-leasing of those under construction. Certification is valid for a two-year period. As a new and still largely untested product in the Canadian market, its backers are framing it as a tool to help leasing professionals match tenants’ needs to landlords’ offerings.
“We have always known that the connectivity and infrastructure in our Certified Gold building met the needs of sophisticated tenants, but the brokerage community might not be aware of this,” Menkes acknowledges. “Instead of them having to perhaps go to a consultant to assess that independently, they’ll have a WiredScore summary that comes from a reputable third party.”
Evidence from LEED’s evolution hints that tenants with clout can be expected to start demanding WiredScore should it become entrenched in the market. Opting for Platinum or Gold space might also be risk management to balance long-term leases against rapid technological advances.
“It’s more future-positioning than it is really about the here and now. The certification is an external verification that the building is resilient and has the capacity to accommodate clients’ needs five, 10 and 15 years from now,” Rowlandson maintains. “I really see this as a key readiness strategy for the Internet of Things and the backbone that we will need for what’s coming.”
Linking into the smart city
Telecom specialists advise some refinements will be needed as a template derived for U.S. service models is applied in Canada. However, Jennifer Sicilia, vice president and general manager with RYCOM Corporation, a smart master integrator, commends the program for supporting transparency and developing a consistent approach for evaluating, reporting and comparing connectivity.
“It’s great to see there is a certification in the market that is addressing telecommunications,” she affirms. “It’s a really good first step in having an understanding of what is going on in buildings.”
And what’s going on in buildings increasingly links to the broader economy. For example, JLL’s recently released comparative analysis of major global markets, Decoding City Performance 2017, labels Toronto as a “contender” or one of 10 cities jostling for position with the top echelon “big seven” of London, New York, Paris, Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul — and projects the ascendancy of those that foster innovation, provide reliable infrastructure that includes “network coverage” and are smart with digital connectivity at “both city and asset levels”.
“Real estate must adapt to this new reality where technology firms with more flexible workforces, substantial digital requirements and asset-light strategies are becoming the principal driver of absorption,” the report states.
WiredScore strategists likewise see a lucrative market. “It is apparent that Toronto is a major hub for technology in North America,” Kanfer observes.
“The more buildings we have that are certified and future-ready, the more we have the pieces in place for a smart city,” Rowlandson concurs.
Barbara Carss is editor-in-chief of Canadian Property Management.