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TOBY Award Winner Explains How to Prepare Your Building for Success

03/27/2019 | By Valerie Dennis Craven

Interested in learning how your building can receive the commercial real estate industry’s highest recognition honoring excellence in commercial building management and operations? BOMA International’s The Outstanding Building of the Year® (TOBY®) Awards is where you should set your sights.

For your building to be recognized as a TOBY Award winner, the building’s operations are thoroughly evaluated and judged on various aspects. To win a BOMA International TOBY Award, a property first must win both local and regional competitions. A team of expert industry professionals also conducts comprehensive building inspections.

Susan Hammer, vice president and general manager with JLL for AMA Plaza in Chicago, winner of TOBY Award.Susan Hammer (pictured), vice president and general manager with JLL for AMA Plaza in Chicago, calls winning a TOBY Award the ultimate achievement in property management.

“Other awards may address singular accomplishments in energy, sustainability or community service, for example, but the TOBY represents best in class in all facets of commercial property management,” she says. “Achieving excellence in each of the eight sections of the award criteria validates the efforts of the management team and elevates the property management profession as a whole.”

Buildings are evaluated on things like community impact, emergency preparedness and energy conservation, among others.

“The competition breeds excellence, and management teams should look for unique and innovative ways to differentiate the building they manage,” says Hammer, also co-vice chair of the BOMA International Awards Committee. 

She says management teams should showcase the diversity of their programs and consider synergies between each of the sections.

“One example is including tenants in community service opportunities and supporting tenant charities, which covers programs in the community service section as well as the tenant relations section,” she says. “Enhancements in technology could traverse between the energy section, life safety and access, and training sections.”

BOMA 360 Designees as TOBY Award Winners

In 2018, 11 of the 16 TOBY Award winners were also BOMA 360 designees. While it’s not required to win the award, being designated a BOMA 360 Performance Program building first can help.

Hammer explains how the two programs line up: “Most of the components of the BOMA 360 designation are the same or similar to the TOBY Portfolio Specifications and/or are addressed in the TOBY on-site building inspection.”

TOBY Award entries receive additional points if they have already earned the BOMA 360 designation. A competitive management team will be strong in each of the BOMA 360 criteria areas, she notes, and getting the TOBY Award means that they have gone above and beyond.

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For the BOMA 360 designation program, buildings are evaluated against industry best practices in:

  • Building operations and management
  • Life safety, security and risk management
  • Training and education
  • Energy
  • Environmental/sustainability
  • Tenant relations/community involvement

Individual buildings that satisfy the requirements in all six areas earn the BOMA 360 designation. Since inception of the program in 2009, more than 2,000 buildings have received the designation.

[Educational opportunity: New Property Management Certification from BOMA]

TOBY Awards Application Tips

The AMA Plaza management team was attracted to the BOMA 360 program because it “provides a window into recognizing standards important to the industry as well as serves as a tangible reflection of the exceptional operational and management standards that were already in place.”

AMA Plaza was the first BOMA 360 designated building in Chicago and one of the first two in Illinois. The building’s third 3-year renewal of the designation was completed in 2018.

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Get Your Building Ready to Enter the TOBY Awards

Janelle Penny talks about tangible ways you can showcase how you’re elevating your building if you choose to enter your facility for consideration for a TOBY Award.

Using the completed components of the BOMA 360 program made it easier to begin the TOBY Awards process, Hammer says.

She provides 5 tips for people looking to submit their building for the TOBY Awards:

1. Begin sooner

If there are areas on your application that require work, start early enough so you are able to incorporate all of the requirements and have the building ready for the on-site inspection.

2. Pay attention to directions

Follow the guidelines carefully and include all of the requested attachments that support the applications.

3. Get key players involved

Include all stakeholders in the decision to enter and the entire management team in the application process.

4. Be organized with details

Keep track of all of the programs and events completed and quantify as much as possible—include dollar and items totals for donations, energy savings and recycling statistics. Judges want to see the total impact of your programs.

The most effective ways to do that are through quantifying and engaging the tenant population through communication and participation.

5. Don’t quit

If you aren’t successful the first time, keep trying to improve your team’s programs and initiatives and reapply. 

AMA Plaza didn’t win the first time the building was entered, but with each competition, Hammer says the team became more focused and determined to increase its competitive advantage. She notes that once they won, they continued what was implemented and it became standard practice with the building’s culture.

“The TOBY competition is the ultimate achievement for property managers,” Hammer says. “I can’t describe the excitement and pride of hearing AMA Plaza called as the winner of the Over 1 Million Square Foot category and walking to the stage to receive the award. The BOMA 360 designation was an important part of getting us there and served as a differentiator in the competition.”

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