Copyright 2008, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP
Originally published in Blakes Bulletin on Real Estate Leasing, April, 2008
It seems these days that everyone is going green. The real estate sector is no different, with industry players rapidly familiarizing themselves with terms such as "green leases" or "greening a building."
This shift toward green building practices has been driven greatly by benefits that are a direct result of implementing a green approach. But how, exactly, is a building designated as "green"?
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is a third-party certification program and internationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. Through its use as a design guideline and third-party certification tool, LEED aims to improve occupant well-being, environmental performance and economic returns of buildings using innovative practices, standards and technologies.
Originating in the U.S. and active in Canada, green building council members representing every sector of the building industry develop and continue to refine the LEED system. Commercial buildings as defined by standard building codes are eligible for certification under the following categories: new construction, retail, existing buildings, schools, commercial interiors, and core and shell rating systems.
The rating system consists of an explicit set of environmental performance criteria, organized into six categories: (1) sustainable sites; (2) water efficiency; (3) energy and atmosphere; (4) materials and resources; (5) indoor environmental quality; and (6) innovation in design process. Projects earn one or more points towards certification by meeting or exceeding each credits technical requirements. All prerequisites must be achieved for certification. Points add up to a final score that relates to one of four possible levels of certification: LEED Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.
The fundamental reduction and relative environmental impact in addition to all the economic and occupant benefits go a long way for making a case for a LEED-certified building. However, some have criticized the LEED rating system as being insufficiently sensitive to local environmental conditions, since its rating system does not sufficiently take into account local environmental conditions. Another criticism is that LEED certification costs require money that could be used to make the building in question even more sustainable.
BOMA Go Green
By contrast to the LEED methodology, which primarily aims to capture new construction and development, the BOMA Go Green Environmental Certification program is a volunteer program designed solely for existing and occupied buildings. This program is industry driven, administratively simple and inexpensive. It is offered by BOMA Canada as a service to all member and non-member commercial building owners. Rather than setting specified quantifiable levels of environmental standards as with LEED, the program focuses on the development of environmental management plans, programs and policies for existing buildings. The process helps owners assess how a building is performing and includes suggestions for reduction of energy consumption and operating costs, as well as improving waste management.
BOMA Go Green is intended to recognize those buildings where environmental best practices had been implemented into the operations, including the following components: identification of a "best practices" benchmark for professionally managed buildings; recognizing buildings that meet or exceed the requirements inherent in the benchmark with a "Go Green" designation; and assisting buildings that cannot meet the requirements.
The criteria for the BOMA Group Go Green program are listed as minimum requirements identified in five key environmental areas: (1) resource consumption; (2) waste reduction and recycling; (3) building materials; (4) interior environment; and (5) tenant awareness.
Without the express environmental performance criteria of the LEED methodology, BOMA Go Green involves a lower threshold to obtain designation. However, with the focus on planning rather than implementation and the absence of design guidelines for new construction and development, the effectiveness of this strategy to truly "green" a building in significant measurable results is somewhat limited. Notwithstanding this limitation, the program still carries significance in enhancing perceived value of a building and marketing a property to prospective occupants.
Complementary Rather Than Competing Application
Rather than operating as competing models, BOMA Go Green and LEED certification can be used in a complementary manner and in combination to develop strategies that help building managers meet new environmental standards. While the majority of available green building information relates to LEED certification for new construction and major renovations, existing-building owners who want to green their buildings to stay competitive in the leasing market can either use LEED certification for LEED-Existing Buildings or use the BOMA Go Green standard to meet the requirements for environmental best practices in the operation of their buildings.
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