New GRESB Indicators Recognize Leadership in Development

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Overall, the 2016 GRESB Real Estate Assessment is pretty similar to previous years. One exception is the set of indicators offered in the New Construction & Major Renovation Aspect (NC&MR), also used in the new GRESB Developer Assessment.

The NC&MR indicators have evolved to better differentiate practices between companies and funds. Today, it is common for companies to have one or two green buildings. It is more meaningful to dig deeper into an entity’s green building program to understand how a company or fund is working to ensure social and environmental performance. Consequently, GRESB Assessment participants will see a repeated pattern in the 2016 NC&MR indicators:

  • Planning and Design: How does the entity prepare for performance through its design process, specifications, and requirements? High performing companies and funds encourage integrated design and have rigorous product specifications and contractual requirements.
  • Implementation Measures: How are planning and design goals reflected in project features? High performing companies and funds use a palette of features to save energy, conserve water, and promote indoor environmental quality.
  • Operational Monitoring: How has the entity prepared for high performance operations? Efficient facilities rely on processes and technology to monitor and report on real-time performance, such as electricity sub-metering, leak detection, and similar systems.

These sections are followed by a new sub-question asking about the entities’ strategy with respect to codes and standards. This requires a bit more explanation.

  • Meet local requirements: The hope is that all entities meet all local requirements. Every entity should answer at least this level.
  • Meet above-code standards for some projects: This option is intended for entities that sometimes set beyond-code requirements for individual development projects. This could be expressed with respect to a regional green building rating system or specific engineering standard.

A typical example response at this level might be a developer that sometimes uses the EarthCraft rating system for light commercial buildings  – a scheme used in the Southeastern United States. The developer sometimes also requires portions of developments to exceed the ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2013 energy standard by 10%. This energy efficiency requirement may or may not be accompanied by a green building certification. However, not all of the developer’s projects are built to these standards, some simply comply with code.  The entity should select this level and explain its practices.

  • Meet above-code standards for all projects: This next level maintains a similar concept surrounding the use of rating systems and standards. However, in this case, the entity applies above-code standards to all of its projects. Again, the entity should explain which specific codes and standards are exceeded for all projects.
  • Meet national or global leadership standards for some projects: This answer choice recognizes entities that move beyond local or regional standards by adopting national or global leadership standards. This is intended to recognize best-in-class ratings or standards. These types of ratings and standards are used across an entire country and/or used in multiple parts of the world. They are recognized across borders as marks of excellence. This is admittedly somewhat subjective on the margins, but, at a minimum, national or global leadership standards are used across their home countries and at least one other area. Such standards always have beyond-code prerequisites. As with the previous option, standards can be “rolled up” in a green building rating system (e.g., BREEAM, GreenStar, LEED, CASBEE) or used a la carte (e.g., achievement of the zero net energy Petal within the Living Building Certification).

A typical example might be a global logistics company that usually requires the use of internationally recognized green building standards, such as BREEAM, GreenStar, or LEED, for its new development. Alternatively, the logistics company might require certain new developments to beat the latest ASHRAE 90.1 energy code by 45% and/or reduce water consumption by 25% relative to requirements of the International Plumbing Code.  However, not all projects are certified or required to meet these above-code standards. In either case, the entity should select this level and explain its practices.

  • Meet national or global leadership standards for all projects: The last level maintains a similar concept surrounding the use of national or global standards. However, in this case, the entity applies the strategy to all of its new construction and major renovation projects.

There’s a lot going on in this question. We anticipate further improving it in 2017 based on experience this year. For now, the crux is simple: participants should select the level that best reflects their aspirations and practices for new construction and major development. Do they simply build to code? Do they do a bit better than local requirements, perhaps using a local green building rating system or a regional energy code? Do they rigorously require an internationally recognized rating system or aggressive standard on all projects? Entities should select the level that best reflects their practices and use the open text box to describe their strategy.