BOMA BC leads in program development and advocacy More than a century of leadership and service representing building owners’ interests

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Canadian Design and Construction
Report special feature

The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) BC was the first to incorporate under the BOMA identity in Canada, giving it the status of the longest history in the country. The group celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2011. BOMA BC is also one of the most active groups in Canada, leading the way through many of its initiatives.

BOMA BC president Paul LaBranche says over the years the building stock has evolved from initially prominent individual ownership to corporate and pension fund owned assets maintained by large professional property management firms. “However, that original principle of BOMA representing the owners’ interest is still there.”

Property management issues have, of course, also evolved through the last century. LaBranche says now there is a greater focus on tenant engagement and retention. Further, within building operations, energy and environmental matters are key items on the agenda and the building stock is becoming more multi-use in function.

He says about 15 years ago BOMA recognized the need to be proactive in energy efficiency and environmental responsibility and so introduced BOMA BEST. Created in B.C. originally as ‘BOMA Go Green,’ the BOMA BEST® program has evolved into a highly successful national certification program for existing buildings based on pragmatic, rationale standards and verified performance measurement.

The multi level recognition comes with new branding and enhanced software. Because the program is affordable and building owners recognize the value, LaBranche says the program has had great participation in all Canadian markets and continues to grow.

Besides setting standards, BOMA BC works with government at all levels to ensure any regulatory proposals “have the input of the industry” and provide training and standards building owners can work to achieve on a voluntary basis. “It provides an opportunity to lead the industry towards where the trends are going.”

Because the program is affordable and because building owners recognize the value, LaBranche says the program has had great success and continues to grow. At the heart of BOMA’s position, he says, is a belief that industry should lead and that government should be encouraged to support initiatives with appropriate programs and incentives.

Rather than being reactionary, BOMA tries to lead government towards its next important directions. He says BOMA prefers a carrot (incentive) approach rather than a stick (punishment) approach.

BOMA, he says, has had a lot of success working with government agencies. For instance, he cites a Vancouver bylaw that triggers environmental requirements for building owners who retrofit or renovate their buildings. Working closely with the City of Vancouver, BOMA achieved getting BOMA Best certification as an alternative option to meeting the city’s requirements.

“We recently hired a new government affairs director who will help BOMA enhance government communication and awareness at all levels,” he said. “We’ve always done a good job at engaging and communicating with government but that will improve even more so with a dedicated person in the role.”

LaBranche says BOMA is currently working on the issue of legislated mandatory energy tracking and benchmarking for building owners. “We support benchmarking in principle but we need to ensure the information gathered is used in a manner that makes sense. We are concerned about mandatory public disclosure of energy information and building labelling initiatives because it interferes with the marketplace. We believe private sector building information should remain private.”

He says it must also be recognized that LEED doesn’t necessarily translate to a building operating at highest energy efficiency levels. “It depends on the building’s management and operation and so this is where BOMA Best comes in.”

BOMA BC has numerous energy and environmental programs, including an award winning e-EnergyTraining web based course; a BOMA UTrack utility tracking system and a TWM (total waste management) program for recycling. Its EMP (Energy Management Program) is a special program with BC Hydro support to reach out directly to help members with energy conservation projects.

LaBranche added that two years ago, BOMA BC partnered with the provincial government to install more than 120 electrical vehicle charging stations into member buildings using incentive funding. LaBranche says BOMA does three things well: “We advocate for the industry. We support a diverse industry with education, training and research. And, we provide networking opportunities for people who own, manage, lease, develop and provide products and services. It is important for members to have the chance to develop relationships.”

Finally, he says, BOMA provides valuable member services. He referenced as the latest example another B.C. first initiative, the launch of a new ‘BOMAlert’ program. LaBranche says this program provides a mass notification system to reach members by phone, email and all social media and other forms of communication to notify them of any emergencies in their area in real time.

“Putting into place the infrastructure was our first step and now we are encouraging municipal and provincial governments to co-ordinate communication and enable first responders to communicate with our system directly so we can notify members immediately on a 7/24 basis promptly.”

LaBranche says he recognizes this is a huge undertaking but believes if one level of government is willing to be a leader in this, the rest will follow.

Operating under an annual business plan and long range strategic plan, LaBranche says BOMA BC is always looking forward to new initiatives. “Next on the hopper is tenant engagement.” He says a report on this challenge is expected out by early 2016.

For more information about BOMA and BOMA BC, visit www.boma.bc.ca

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