Smart building certifications: An overview of current programs and their importance

Contributing 40% of annual C02 emissions, conversations have rightfully shifted to exploring ways to decarbonize the built environment. With roughly two thirds of the current global building stock to remain by 2040, along with the growing impacts of climate change, all sectors within the commercial real estate (CRE) industry play a role in accelerating the environment’s sustenance and building resilience throughout communities and cities.

This has led to key industry players making the move to develop smart building standards and certifications to increase the presence of eco-conscious buildings. Smart buildings have long been hailed for their innovative abilities with the potential to enhance tenant wellness and user experience, as well as support sustainability efforts.

According to a new study by Juniper Research, the number of smart buildings across the world will grow from 45 million to 115 million in 2026, cementing their presence in the environment. With leasing sustainably-focused buildings now becoming a must-have for many occupiers, smart building certifications are here to stay.

It is vital for property owners and managers to not fall behind this growing curve and familiarize themselves with the various types of building certifications available, which can be selected based on alignment with their building’s needs and goals. Below we provide a brief summary of the main certifications to consider.

LEED green building certification

LEED is the most widely used green-building rating system in Canada and globally. Implemented by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient green buildings with a positive return on investments.

This certification can be applied to all building phases, including its operations and maintenance. Under the LEED 4.1 version, its standards look more closely on utilizing data documentation to track a building’s sustainability measures, including energy management, as well as being used as a guide for recertification. There are various levels to the certification based on points received, ranging from certified to platinum depending on how well the building aligns with the given requirements.

BOMA BEST certification

BOMA BEST, administered by Building Owners and Managers of Canada (BOMA Canada), is one of Canada’s largest environmental assessment and certification programs for existing buildings. It addresses an industry need for realistic standards regarding energy and environmental management and performance.

Following its successful deployment across more than 7,000 buildings, the new BOMA BEST Smart Buildings certification has now joined the scene. This certification outlines how building managers and owners can leverage technology to realize significant value in their assets that will optimize operations, drive sustainability, and create unique user experiences. As it’s intended to set the global standard for how smart buildings are measured, six key indicators are assessed, being:

  1. Artificial intelligence
  2. Cyber and physical security
  3. Data management
  4. Connectivity
  5. Health and wellbeing
  6. Sustainability

Fitwel certification

Brought to Canada through a partnership with BOMA Canada’s BOMA BEST certification program, Fitwel is a health-promoting building certification for building owners, operators, or investors. Created in response to increasing market demand for buildings designed to support healthier lifestyles, this certification observes various evidence-based criteria to rate their effectiveness in advancing healthy buildings.

Fitwel leverages technology and simplicity to streamline the certification process, ensuring CRE building owners and managers can access their information and performance data to certify a project.

WELL Building Standard

Commercial property owners and managers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact the built environment has on occupants’ health and wellbeing. The WELL Building Standard, developed by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), is the first to focus exclusively on the health and wellness of a building’s occupants.

Applicable to new and existing buildings, the WELL standard is a performance-based system that combines optimized building operations and design, with evidence-based medical research on occupant wellness. This highlights seven key concepts within the standard that measures a building’s impact on its inhabitant’s health: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. It is also designed to complement and work harmoniously with LEED, as well as other international green building standards.

Preparing for the future with smart building certifications

With the use of innovative technologies to boost a building’s ecological competencies, smart buildings unlock many business opportunities and are crucial mitigators against the effects of climate change. It’s becoming less acceptable to simply own, operate, and/or develop a building; it must also work towards creating healthier, more sustainable and operationally efficient environments for everyone.