Canadian Consulting Engineer

Report Card

March 1, 2010
By Nada Sutic, BOMA Canada

The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of Canada released the first ever BOMA BESt Energy and Environmental Report in September 2009. BOMA BESt is a national environmental certification p...

The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of Canada released the first ever BOMA BESt Energy and Environmental Report in September 2009. BOMA BESt is a national environmental certification program for existing buildings, with BESt standing for Building Environmental Standards.

The program is managed and delivered by BOMA Canada and its affiliated associations across the country. Since 2005, nearly 1,400 buildings have achieved the certification, which is valid for three years.

The BOMA BESt Energy and Environmental Report (BBEER) aggregated performance data on over 450 office buildings in Canada. It identified the average energy intensity for BOMA BESt certified buildings, and uncovered some interesting insights into what correlates with low energy consumption. What are the impacts of energy efficient equipment? How much does building age matter? What are the next steps for commercial real estate?

While 1,400 buildings have achieved BOMA BESt certification, the report focused on 456 office buildings that achieved BOMA BESt Levels, 2, 3 or 4. To achieve these higher levels of certification, buildings must go beyond best practices (Level 1), submit utility data and respond to a series of questions about equipment and management practices. Third-party verification takes place at the property to confirm the data that is submitted through the online application.

Certified buildings do perform better than average

The buildings certified by BOMA BESt that were reviewed in this study perform better than the national average. The average energy intensity of BOMA BESt buildings reviewed was 31.52 equivalent kilowatt-hours per square foot (ekWh/sf) on an annualized basis. In comparison, the national average of office and public administration buildings is 35.48ekWh/sf annually according to Natural Resources Canada’s Commercial and Institutional Consumption of Energy Survey of 2007. BOMA BESt certified buildings have energy performance that is 11% better than average.

When considering the different levels of certified BOMA BESt buildings, the Level 3 and Level 4 certified buildings show even better perfor- mance, with Level 4 certified buildings performing 46% better than the NRCan national average for offices and public administration.

Figure 1 shows that 25% of the buildings have an energy intensity of less than 23ekWh/sf/yr, and half of the buildings in the data set have energy intensity between 24 and 36 ekWh/sf/yr. That means nearly 75% of BOMA BESt certified office buildings perform at the national average or better. The bell curve distribution in Figure 1 demonstrates the validity of the data set.

One of the most interesting findings (Table 2) is that building age did not have a strong correlation with energy performance. In fact, the average energy intensity for buildings constructed before 1960 was lower than for those constructed after 1990.

Other data sets have demonstrated similar findings, including the data found in the REALpac “20 by ’15” report issued September 2009 by the Real Property Association of Canada.

Several factors are likely influencing this energy consumption, including lower occupant density, types of office use and the associated auxiliary plug loads. For example, in buildings constructed prior to 1960, the likelihood of call centres as occupants decreases, and often the floor layouts offer more space per person.

The BBEER report data has not been normalized for these factors, and further research is needed to completely understand the opportunities available to reduce energy consumption in Canadian office buildings.

Building management as important as equipment

The implementation of retrofits to improve energy efficiency can be an effective way to reduce energy consumption. However, data in the BBEER indicates that management practices such as an energy policy, and operator training are equally or more important.

When the 456 office buildings were considered in quartiles from the top performing to lowest performing groups, the incidence of energy efficiency features was rather similar across performance levels. The presence of high efficiency lighting such as T8 or T5 lamps, LED exit signs and even lighting controls, for example, was relatively consistent among both high and low performers.

In some cases, the buildings with the lowest energy intensity did not have specific energy efficiency features. Further research into these issues is needed to better understand the opportunities for improvement. Additional examples are in Table 3.

In comparison, energy management practices had a greater correlation. While many energy management practices are common across the range of energy performance levels, they are more notable in the better performing buildings (Table 4).

Water and waste

In addition to energy performance, the BBEER reviewed water consumption, water efficiency features and management practices, waste management, indoor environmental quality, emissions and effluents and overall environmental management.

In particular, water consumption was reviewed on an intensity basis of cubic metres of water used per square metre of floor area. It was found that large buildings, those over 500,000 sq. ft. (46,450 m2) in size consume 83% more water than small buildings under 100,000 sq. ft. (9,290 m2).

BOMA Canada has noted a trend toward achieving higher levels of certification each year. Less than a year ago, only 47% of all buildings with valid BOMA BESt certifications had a Level 2, 3 or 4. That number is now at 57%, including 21% of the buildings with a BOMA BESt Level 3, and 2% having achieved Level 4.

The BBEER has provided the Canadian commercial real estate industry with a better understanding of how it performs. While the study has demonstrated that the industry is staying ahead of the curve with BOMA BESt certification, the report also serves as a reminder that there are many more opportunities to improve building performance.

BOMA Canada plans to have further research conducted to provide better information and resources to the industry.

The full BOMA BESt Energy and Environmental Report can be ordered at

Nada Sutic is manager of environmental initiatives with the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of Canada. BOMA Canada is the voice of the commercial real estate industry.


One of the most interesting findings in the data is that building age did not have a strong correlation with energy performance.


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