BOMA BESt story hidden in the numbers

Level 4 certification a rarity
Monday, August 19, 2013
By Barbara Carss

BOMA BESt level 2, the least stringent ranking of building performance, represents the industry norm among the 455 buildings that achieved level 2, 3 or 4 certification in the Building Owners and Managers Association’s (BOMA) national environmental benchmarking and assessment program last year. The recently released BOMA BESt Energy and Environment Report pegs the 2012 average score in the mid to high seventies of a 100-point scale.

The average score for office buildings, which account for 80 per cent or 367 of the buildings certified in 2012, was 78.2 per cent. Only 18 of those buildings met the requirements for level 4 certification – considerably fewer than the 147 level 3 and 202 level 2 scores that made up 95 per cent of the participating buildings. Buildings certified as BOMA BESt level 1 are not covered in the report since this level of certification simply requires adoption of various planning, monitoring and oversight practices rather than actual measurable results.

The report’s key recommendations point out areas with lower levels of compliance and opportunities for improvement. Some involve capital investment – sub-metering is notably identified as an energy management feature that is still lacking in more than half of the buildings. However, a low-cost operational measure – regularly scheduled cleaning of light fixtures – is also highlighted as a largely overlooked practice, occurring in only 42 per cent of buildings.

Tables throughout the report give a more detailed breakdown of building features and management practices that are common or more difficult to find; however, they should be interpreted carefully. Percentages sometimes suggest performance patterns that the actual numbers do not support.

For example, high-efficiency chillers are found in more level 2 buildings (78) than level 3 (58) or level 4 (12), even though the percentages suggest level 2 falls farther behind. In sheer numbers, more level 2 buildings have variable speed drives and full building automation systems, while percentages suggest level 3 buildings are ahead. Similarly, more level 2 buildings (99) have composting programs than level 3 (97) but, in percentage terms, level 3 buildings appear to be a much better performer with a 66 per cent compliance rate versus 49 per cent of level 2 buildings.

More often, though, the separate reporting of compliance percentages for each of level 2, 3 and 4 tends to hide weaker overall results. For example, only 45 per cent or 164 of 367 buildings have high-efficiency boilers despite the fact that 52 per cent of level 3 and 100 per cent of level 4 buildings boast the equipment.

The most prevalent energy efficiency features include: temperature setback controls in 354 of 367 buildings; shading or reflective film in 350 buildings; compact fluorescent lamps in 348 buildings; and economizers on boilers in 347 buildings.

Water conservation features are less common. Less than two-thirds of the buildings meet the benchmark of at least 40 per cent water-efficient toilets and only 55 per cent have water-efficient urinals. Approximately 70 per cent of the buildings have water-conserving faucets, while 57 per cent have valve controls or proximity sensors.

The report’s key recommendations note that buildings certified in 2012 actually had lower waste diversion rates than those certified in 2011. Although 86 per cent of buildings have waste reduction targets, tracking of waste diverted or sent to landfill occurs in only 81 per cent of buildings, while waste audits have been conducted in only 68 per cent of buildings within the past three years.

One-third of the buildings still rely entirely on ozone-depleting refrigerants, including 80 in level 2, 41 in level 3 and two in level 4, while 40 buildings solely use low ozone-depleting substances. In total, 213 or 58 per cent of the buildings use some combination of substances with ozone-depleting properties or global warming potential, yet only 199 or 54 per cent have refrigerant leak detectors. Remarkably, 19 buildings report that no refrigerant recovery system is in place during system maintenance, repairs or disposal.

Turning to other hazardous materials, 98 per cent of buildings either have an asbestos management program, which is a regulatory requirement in Ontario, or are asbestos-free; 89 per cent of buildings have a PCB management program or are PCB-free.

Barbara Carss is the editor-in-chief of Building Strategies & Sustainability and Canadian Property Management magazines. 

One thought on “BOMA BESt story hidden in the numbers

  1. The BOMA BESt results shows that many buildings are improving with energy and water-saving measures. In order to manage and keep those savings, they need measurement. Using information technology to improve building automation will make them more intelligent (“smart”) and ready for the significant new opportunities to be interoperable with the smart grid. To benchmark current building automation capabilities, visit There, you can obtain a free Building Intelligence Quotient 1.0, which was developed for the Continental Automated Buildings Association and is now being updated for smart grid opportunities.

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