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Filling in the Gaps: Welltower’s Green Arrow Building Certification Bridges Divide Between Medical Office Buildings and Need for Sustainability Metrics

By Better Buildings Beat Team on Oct 06, 2017

What happens when a service you need is taken off the market? You figure out how to get the job done yourself! In 2013, ENERGY STAR® retired their certification for medical office buildings, based on the lack of a good data set for scoring and comparison. Better Building Alliance partner Welltower™, a real estate investment trust (REIT) with 1,400 properties across the U.S., U.K., and Canada, had relied on that certification for their outpatient medical properties. Understanding the value of tracking and improving the energy efficiency of its medical office portfolio, Welltower™ decided to develop its own in-house certification program to validate the high standards of performance they were striving to achieve. So, in 2014, Welltower™ developed the internal Green Arrow Building Certification (GABC).

Built on the foundations of both ENERGY STAR and GRESB (the Global ESG Benchmark for Real Assets), the GABC measures multiple sustainability markers:

  • Energy use intensity
  • Water use intensity
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Waste management/recycling
  • Indoor environmental quality
  • Innovation strategies

Since deploying GABC in 2014, 115 properties have achieved certification with 86 certifying a second time. Over 230 properties participate in the program each year, and it has helped identify areas of improvement and guide the implementation of corrections. Most properties have seen a 1-12 percent reduction in energy use; GABC scores improved nearly 23 percent in 2016 alone.

So how exactly do Welltower™ buildings obtain GABC? Each company-managed outpatient medical office building completes an annual data submission process and has the opportunity (based on scoring) to achieve one of three levels of certification:

  • Green Arrow Achiever (20-24 points)
  • Green Arrow Performer (25-30 points)
  • Green Arrow Leader (31-50 points)

Data on building performance is drawn from multiple sources: Portfolio Manager, waste diversion rate, indoor air quality readings, and certification documents developed as part of the program. This information is reviewed, verified, and the final word comes from the Internal Audit Department.

Each year, there are two submission periods, in April and October. Recognition comes with a building plaque, a certificate, promotion on the Welltower™ website, and a feature in the company newsletter. Those who fall short have to keep making improvements until they certify, checking in every six months to stay on track.

Developed with the aid of third-party consultants, the GABC proved an early success. With the full support of Senior Executive Management, GABC training is now part of new-hire on-boarding and is promoted regularly both within the company and externally – the GABC program was recognized  within Welltower’s 2016 Corporate Sustainability Report. GABC was also a 2016 finalist in the IREM REME Awards Program for Workplace Environment: Sustainability Programs.

For more details on how Welltower™ developed the Green Arrow Building Certification and how it works, go to the Better Buildings Solution Center and check out the full Implementation Model!