Over the last century, Washington, D.C.-based BOMA Intl. has evolved from a few small local associations to an international powerhouse in the commercial building industry.
In 1906, a year before BOMA formed, a new monthly magazine entered the expanding marketplace of commercial buildings. The Building Manager and Owner (which became Building Management in 1906, Buildings and Building Management in the 1920s, and Buildings in 1947) covered the interests of building owners and managers. Born only a year apart, the histories of the magazine and the organization are intertwined. This is their story, covering the last 100 years.
In the inaugural issue of The Building Manager and Owner (January 1906), Nathan William MacChesney, secretary for the Building Managers’ Association of Chicago, penned an article discussing the evolution and success of the organization since its establishment in 1902. The purpose of the association, he explained, was the cultivation of social relations, discussion, and cooperation among managers of buildings. Chicago, along with the 1904 formation of the Minneapolis association, would spark the interest of managers and owners nationwide, and serve as an example for effective organization.
An editorial in the magazine’s February 1906 issue began the repeated plea for a national presence. The editorial staff observes, “It seems strange that up-to-date and progressive men who have to do with the operation of buildings should be so remiss about forming associations for mutual benefit and protection ... ” The dream of a national organization turned to reality in September 1907 as the publication announced that the first national convention would be held in Chicago in 1908. A true grassroots effort, over the next few months, the magazine solicited readers’ opinions on possible dates and program material. The consensus led to Aug. 10-14, 1908, “a time when most managers can get away.”
The convention, with an attendance of 75 professionals from 26 states, allowed - for the first time - a sharing of information between building owners and managers. Clarence Coley of New York City revealed the operating costs of his buildings, ranging from 45 to 65 cents a square foot per year. This kind of cooperation would continue throughout the history of what would become BOMA Intl.
Making it Official
In 1911, an official national association had formed. Initially called the National Association of Building Owners and Managers (NABOM), the organization was created “to bring together the owners of buildings or their representatives for the purpose of effectively bettering conditions pertaining to the conception, construction, and management of buildings.” Building Management’s August 1911 issue contained NABOM’s full constitution and bylaws. C.A. Patterson, manager of the Pontiac Building in Chicago, was the managing editor of the magazine as well as the secretary for the national convention in 1911. Of the significant developments at the Cleveland Convention, he wrote, “It was decided to make the membership dues $10 per year, and every delegate to former conventions qualified under the constitution was voted a charter member.”
Over the next few years, the number of local and state associations increased dramatically. Buildings published an official directory of the organization in each issue. In January 1917, there were 20 local associations. By December 1919, the number had already grown to more than 30.
The Birth of the Experience Exchange Report
The 1920 convention showcased the fourth annual report of the Operating Experience Committee: the Experience Exchange Report. Committee chairman Edwin S. Jewell reported in Buildings that 150 members of NABOM filed reports of 1919 building receipts and expenditures (90-percent more than the previous year). In all, reports were filed in 56 different cities. Buildings published a digest of the information, but the complete report was available only to NABOM members who joined the exchange. Building owners across the country appreciated the accessibility of valuable information.
A Local and National Presence
The Great Depression gave NABOM more reason to ensure a Washington presence. Harry J. Gerrity was named the national association’s “Washington Representative” in 1931. He wrote the first “Washington Letter” for the association’s magazine to keep members abreast of legislative activities. As the effects of the Depression began to wear off, building owners’ attention turned to the modernization of buildings. In the ’30s, Buildings was filled with articles recommending the installation of air-conditioning to increase rental rates and announcements of high-rise buildings successfully installing their own systems. NABOM specifically addressed this technology, along with advances in lighting and soundproofing, at its 30th annual national convention in Buffalo, NY.
By December 1937, the building industry appeared to be improving. Buildings reported that a NABOM survey showed occupancy levels that were nearing normal. Growth of both national and local organizations continued in the ’30s, reaching a total of 68 local associations in December 1937, 48 of which were members of the national organization.
A Changing Nation, An Evolving Organization
World War II changed the nation and the building industry. NABOM analyzed the consequences of the increasing numbers of women at work. In 1947, the Philadelphia BOMA chapter reported that a survey of 34 office buildings showed the rate of pay for cleaning women jumping to 64 cents per hour - an 83-percent increase since 1938. The organization was also affected in more personal ways. In the “Names in the News” section of the July 1947 issue, Buildings made the following announcement: “Capt. C.S. (Tom) Jackson, former executive secretary of the Houston Association of Building Owners and Managers, is home after more than 5 years of continuous military service.”
By the 40th annual convention in 1947, Editor Charles A. McCaleb reported that the Boston meeting differed considerably from previous conventions concerned with only emergency measures. “Management is back at work - managing buildings to make them profitable, not merely to keep them running another month or two under emergency situations.” In the 1950s, the country moved to the suburbs and NABOM adjusted. Much of the 50th annual national convention focused on the fears and struggles that downtown building owners were facing.
Updating BOMA’s Name and Location
Governors at the NABOM 1968 convention approved a name change for the organization. “Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) Intl.” was chosen to reflect the organization’s expanding geographic representation, including Canadian, Japanese, British, and Australian members. Buildings reported on the change of name, but emphasized the retention of image. “Its role remains unchanged - one in which it is expected to benefit ownership by protecting and enhancing investments in private and public buildings. With slightly less than 3,000 members, BOMA is a significant representative of the building management industry.”
BOMA established the Building Owners and Managers Institute (BOMI) in 1970, building on the work of the association’s Education Committee. This announcement launched the Real Property Administrator (RPA) designation program. In 1976, BOMA moved its headquarters from Chicago to Washington, D.C., another opportunity to increase its political clout on issues like rent control and the energy crisis. Also in the ’70s, Buildings began publishing a “BOMA News” column. A news item from July 1977 reveals that the 1977 Experience Exchange Report for Downtown and Suburban Office Buildings featured 1,130 buildings, breaking BOMA’s record for building reporting by more than 100.
The Recent Past
BOMA expanded its cooperation with Washington throughout the ’80s and beyond. The National Advisory Council (NAC) was established in 1980. Composed of senior commercial real estate professionals, the NAC discussed issues affecting companies with large portfolios. Members agreed to raise dues in 1983, allowing for further increases in legislative staff and efforts.
Especially before the advent of the Internet, Buildings and BOMA worked together to collect industry information. The April 1983 issue of the magazine contained a tear-out survey on building fires to document the causes and extent of fire loss in the office building industry.
In 1985, BOMA began The Office Building of the Year (TOBY) Awards program to recognize quality in office buildings and reward excellence in building management. The Earth Award was later introduced to salute environmentally friendly buildings.
The BOMA legislative column debuted in the January 1995 issue of Buildings magazine, featuring legislative updates and regulatory information on issues directly affecting the commercial real estate industry.
Just last year, the BOMA Energy Efficiency Program (BEEP) was created to educate commercial real estate professionals on how to reduce energy consumption and costs. The six-course series was made possible through a grant from the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and developed in partnership with ENERGY STAR® and the EPA.
The long-standing relationship between Buildings and BOMA continues today. Recently, BOMA and Buildings partnered to offer a series of webinars and The Office Building Show at BOMA’s annual convention. Buildings continues to bring owners and managers monthly BOMA news, both in print and online. One hundred years ago, BOMA Intl. and Buildings shaped the industry together - they hope to continue that tradition into the next 100 years.
Anne K. Goedken ([email protected]) is new products editor at Buildings magazine.