Redefining ROI for your Existing Building

Eric Baxter, Brightworks Sustainability Advisorby Eric Baxter, Director of Existing Buildings

A recent article on features six steps to move a building and a team through a LEED for Existing Buildings Operations & Maintenance (LEED EBOM) certification process. If you’re a building owner or manager, I encourage you to carefully consider each step when embarking on LEED EBOM. Before you do, however, consider one other critical piece — think of it as “Step Zero.”

As consulting firm that has worked on numerous LEED EBOM projects since the first pilot rating system was introduced in 2002, Brightworks has seen many project teams successfully execute an EBOM program for their facility. We have also seen a few project teams fail. In some cases it was an inability to follow through on the six recommendations in the article.

In other cases, they had overlooked Step Zero: understanding and agreeing on their organization’s motivations and value proposition for undertaking the EBOM journey, implementing this rigorous program and seeking this type of certification.

This step is a critical part of our work with clients, and something we’ll cover at our session at the BOMA Every Building Conference and Expo in Seattle in June. Without a clear, circumspect analysis of this critical piece before starting any kind of existing building sustainability program, the project team will be challenged to focus on the proper critical path items, budget appropriate funds to move forward and get buy-in from essential team members. Falling short in any of these areas can cause a project to lose its way and ultimately fail to earn a certification.

Common LEED EBOM Motivations

Considering Step Zero gets the project on track from the start. There are many motivations for undertaking the LEED EBOM journey and submitting your building for  certification. Here are a few that might point you in the right direction:

  • Increased Return on Investment (ROI): For some owners and organizations, the primary driver is using the certification process to create ROI opportunities. Many project owners are most interested in direct operational cost savings from energy and water efficiency. With appropriate analysis and cost estimating at the onset of a LEED EBOM process, the identified quantifiable savings can justify these specific energy or water upgrade projects. In some cases, these savings can also pay for other sustainable operations strategies that have little or no direct, substantiated ROI, like indoor air quality improvements and sustainable purchasing. Cost savings for these owners and organizations is the edict, and it must also be their mantra when deciding whether to go forward. If savings opportunities aren’t identified, it’s okay to not pursue the certification.
  • Tenant retention: Undertaking LEED EBOM can be a strategy for retaining tenants in a leased property environment. Over the past two years, Brightworks has seen increasing numbers of clients seeking our consulting assistance with LEED EBOM after prospective or existing tenants of their buildings required LEED certification before signing a new or renewed lease agreement. This can be a very effective motivational tool when deciding whether to pursue a LEED certification. However, project teams can still struggle if ownership or management aren’t continually championing the process, providing realistic budgets for the targeted certification goal or rating, and recognizing the barriers the team may be facing.
  • OHSU Center for Health and Healing Lobby

    The OHSU Center for Health and Healing, Certified LEED Platinum for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance and for New Construction.

    Enhanced marketing: A third type of motivation for undertaking a LEED EBOM effort is support for marketing a building’s green attributes, even without explicitly achieving additional operational cost savings. Brightworks recently concluded a successful LEED EBOM Platinum certification on the Oregon Health and Science University’s Center for Health and Healing. This building had already achieved LEED for New Construction Platinum certification five years ago. During the first five years of operation, the property management team worked very hard to integrate green operational practices that aligned well with this unique, state-of-the-art facility. One of the primary goals of this facility is to provide world-class health care services. OHSU is also highly motivated to promote this facility’s green credentials as part of marketing its services to residents in the Portland area. In an ongoing effort to leverage the value in those credentials, the building operations team worked closely with the ownership group to assess and then undertake a LEED EBOM certification effort.

What’s the goal behind your goal?

We’ll have more to say at the upcoming BOMA conference about the analysis and decision-making process our clients CBRE and OHSU used before moving forward with LEED EBOM. Conference attendees and all building owners and managers have much to gain from considering “Step Zero”, being thoughtful about their business priorities and finding sustainability projects that support them.

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