13 Tips for Certification Success

10/01/2015 | By Janelle Penny

Smooth the way toward a green designation

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts member services facility in Hingham, MA

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts achieved LEED Silver certification for its member services facility in Hingham, MA which serves over 1,400 associates and includes a 1,500-car parking structure. PHOTO CREDIT: WARREN PATTERSON PHOTOGRAPHY

When codes and local mandates increasingly require building performance on par with what’s needed to earn certification, what difference does a plaque make?

In short, third-party recognition infers accountability – a neutral organization has verified the building manager’s claims. That counts for tenants and occupants, says Daniel Cote, Regional Manager for Piedmont Office Realty Trust and Vice Chair for the BOMA 360 Performance Program Council.

“Buildings may all look pristine on the outside, but as a potential tenant or employee, if you don’t know what differentiates one from another, you could end up finding out that a building isn’t run properly or managed efficiently,” explains Cote. “One of the key drivers for us to certify so many buildings in our national portfolio with BOMA 360 was that we wanted to announce to the marketplace that our properties are managed effectively.”

Is your organization about to launch its own certification effort? Take charge and make sure your facility gets the designation it deserves with these 13 tips from FMs, consultants and green building experts who have already walked the walk.

1) Enlist Tenants Early
If you manage a leased facility, you’ll need buy-in from the tenant before you can even think about certifying your building.Most green building certifications require hard numbers on energy and water consumption, and some may also examine things like your use of environmentally friendly cleaners. None of that paperwork will be possible if you can’t get the required information from your tenants, so get them on board as early as you can.

“Our tenants were very helpful because they had to provide us with specific information on employee numbers and how they conducted certain functions of their operation. They embraced the process 100%,” says Jordan Guenther, Director of Property Management for Eastman Companies, a real estate development, construction and management company that recently earned LEED Silver for its Eisenhower Corporate Campus office complex. Cooperation with the building’s tenants (which include Verizon) was vital in obtaining Existing Buildings certification for the 385,000-square-foot complex, which was built in 1984 and features four buildings joined by a common atrium in the middle.

Frequent communication can also help bring potential problems to the forefront where they can be dealt with more easily. At the Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse in Long Beach, CA, a 531,000-square-foot justice center completed in 2013, a focus on LEED certification from the very beginning of the project enabled the team to tackle an emerging issue early and find a solution that worked for all stakeholders.

“Integrating LEED into the tenant’s requirements for the retail and food court space took some educating with smaller tenant contractors and the prospective tenants who initially felt overburdened,” explains Freddy S. Rayes, Chief Executive Officer of Long Beach Judicial Partners LLC, which operates and maintains the courthouse. “With guidance, they have since adjusted and now appreciate the value of compliance with sustainability.”

2) Grow Your Team
Bring in as many members of your team as you can, Cote suggests. You have valuable building management experience to contribute for everything from planning a lighting retrofit to investigating building automation systems.

“The owner’s representative doesn’t necessarily bring FM teams to the table at the right time during the process of designing and determining how to meet certification requirements,” adds Valerie Molinski, Sustainability Director for Vocon, an architecture and interior design firm. “But the FMs are ultimately the people who are going to run the building. The right people need to be at the table at the right time.”

3) Investigate Education
Before the certification effort starts, make sure the facilities team has all the knowledge it needs to contribute. George Denise, Director of Operations for Oracle RWS, Director of Sustainability for Oracle headquarters, and Chair of the BOMA 360 Performance Program Council, recommends taking classes and workshops targeted at building owners and managers while laying the roundwork for the coming certification work. Earning your LEED Green Associate designation (the personal certification that is earned before becoming a LEED Accredited Professional) will bring you up to date on how to certify buildings under LEED.

“Start by taking a class on ENERGY STAR and begin benchmarking your building with Portfolio Manager,” says Denise. “Attend the BOMA Energy Efficiency Program webinar series. Begin implementing no- and low-cost energy conservation measures, increasing your ENERGY STAR score as you go.”

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