As we step into the new year with our eyes wide open to the financial and environmental benefits of investing in more sustainable buildings, we sat down with BOMA Canada’s president and CEO Benjamin Shinewald to hear his top tips for building owners and managers looking to make a dent in today’s climate crisis.
1. Leverage existing benchmarks
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when shifting towards greener initiatives, especially if you can’t afford a sustainability committee or manager – there are plenty of experts out there who have already put in the hard work to help you understand what matters most! While there are countless options for North American building owners and managers, Benjamin believes BOMA BEST is the most adaptable and accessible one of them all; offering a range of point-based initiatives of all sizes and costs to allow every building to create their own, unique pathway to sustainability.
“Every building has special needs, so one size can’t fit all. BOMA BEST is like a sustainability buffet: you can pick the easiest, or the least expensive, or the biggest impact initiative to get you started. Then, once you’re aboard, you have what you need to keep going.”
Already, the likes of Colliers, Oxford and Cadillac Fairview have all joined the program and reduced their energy consumption by 9% since 2008. So joining the 3000+ other certified buildings in the BOMA BEST program doesn’t just offer you constant support as you go green, but it puts you in rather prestigious company.
2. Get tenants involved
Getting tenants involved in your sustainability initiatives is absolutely essential to your success, which is why we’ve baked in educational workshops and demos to our turnkey beekeeping solution. To drive this point home, Benjamin spoke to us about 4711 Yonge Street, in Toronto. Owned by Marisa Construction Ltd and managed by Menkes Property Management Services Ltd., the building recently won a BOMA Canada Net Zero Challenge Award for showing the greatest improvement in operational sustainability. One key to their success? Regular meetings with their tenant council to engage in dialogue and find strategic ways to collectively mobilize, engage and educate curious tenants.
3. Bring on the bees
In the BOMA BEST sustainability certification program, welcoming an urban beehive onto your building can earn you up to 4 points. But beyond any rating system, urban beekeeping is one of the simplest and most playful ways to help employees, tenants and visitors understand the impact every little action can have on our broader environmental ecosystem. As one of the early adopters of our urban beekeeping program, Canada’s national broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada has already seen that shift begin to take place.
“We continue to have beehives at six of our properties (Fredericton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg). Workshops are held throughout the year for employees to visit the bees, and learn about them, their impact on the ecosystem.”
They’ve even taken the initiative one step further – using the proceeds from their hive-derived products to support local food-based charities and increase their social impact as well.
4. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket
Though it may be tempting to kick off your sustainability efforts with just one big pet project, research shows buildings tend to have more success when they take on a few initiatives at the same time. In fact, according to Benjamin, they’ve even been able to pin-point the magic number where things really begin to change! Properties implementing at least 6 sustainability strategies have shown significantly better performance results, energy reductions and cost savings than those focusing on just one. All the more reason to join a program like BOMA BEST to access a whole range of tools, resources, inspiration and initiatives.
5. Ditch the water bottles once and for all
Let’s face it: there’s little excuse for buildings to still promote the use of single-use water bottles. So if you’re looking for low-hanging fruit, says Benjamin, shifting your building’s relationship to water is a great place to start. BOMA BEST buildings have already kept nearly 3 billion water bottles out of our landfills, and partners like Cadillac Fairview were able to reduce their water use by 4.6% in 2018-2019 alone. With data estimating that over half a trillion plastic bottles will be sold in 2020, your commitment to doing your part in reducing consumption can go a long way.
But most importantly, says Benjamin, building owners and managers need to stay engaged and curious. Be it through documentation and tips provided by a certification program like BOMA BEST, or through independent research into the latest green technology and trends, it’s essential to understand environmental sustainability as a continuous commitment and process; one that reminds us we can – and should – always do better.
Looking for ways to bring that sustainability momentum into your own home?
Benjamin recommends you check out this beautiful list of 101 ways to live sustainably by Curbed!