Our team is working with several building owners and operators to set a COVID-related strategy using covid rating systems and covid certification. We are helping them to find ways to execute industry-leading safety measures while also connecting this COVID-related work to ESG, sustainability reporting, and certification strategies. A holistic view and connection to corporate strategy help ensure maximum value is created at the asset, portfolio, and corporate levels.
It’s clear that policies and procedures based on science and centered on sanitation, health & wellness, air quality testing, distancing, PPE, and HVAC maintenance along with tenant education is key to bringing people safely and confidently back to the office.
We’ve previously written about emerging COVID-readiness frameworks and rating systems, including the WELL Health Safety Rating, the Fitwel Viral Response Module, and LEED pilot credits (here and here). Paladino continues to see both the WELL and Fitwel options gaining traction in the commercial real estate market as firms look for ways to communicate COVID readiness and manage portfolio risk given the tumultuous real estate market that lies ahead.
Since August (?), we’ve seen 3 additional frameworks and rating systems emerge. Our team is monitoring the market to understand what is available and when each option best applies. Here’s what we’ve learned about these three new COVID-readiness programs:
BSI is the national standards body for the UK, and is a member of the International Standards Organization. While BSI is based in the UK, it operates internationally, including significant operations in the US.
BSI has released a set of guidelines, rather than a formal standard. The guidelines have been reviewed by an expert advisory group, and like Fitwel and IWBI, BSI intends to update the guidelines regularly. As BSI is headquartered in the UK, the guidelines reference UK Government guidance, information, and recommendations. As of this writing, BSI has released Version 3, BSI Flex 45005: 3.0
The guidelines are meant to be actionable by any organization of any size. The key points applicable to all organizations include:
- The basics: hygiene, physical distancing, and contact tracing are the most effective controls against communicable disease.
- Involve workers in decisions and communicate openly and often.
- Manage the psychological health and well-being of workers.
- Stay focused and minimize complacency.
Our take: This is a great starting point for internal education and operational strategies. While BSI is highly respected as an organization, it’s not well known among consumers and tenants so marketing that you have adhered to the BSI Safe Working Guidelines may not carry the same weight as a well-branded certification that is active in the real estate sector.
The RESET Standard
The RESET standard was released in 2018 and is a set of standards and assessment tools and services to develop actionable, long-term air quality management strategies. RESET is a sensor-based and performance-driven data standard and certification that is based on continuous monitoring and performance. It is intentionally non-prescriptive.
Research points to the impact of humidity, temperature, and airborne particulate matter on the rate of virus transmission. RESET has released indexes for airborne viral transmission alongside their existing standards for hardware, software, installation, and project performance as a framework to optimize indoor environments.
RESET has started marketing a soft launch of two new or expanded Indexes in October 2020 in response to COVID-19. Both express performance on a 100% scale.
- RESET expanded its Index for Building Optimization to include temperature and humidity to account for the impact these operating parameters have on viral infection rates.
- RESET’s new Index for Airborne Infection Potential calculates the potential for infection based on the indoor air quality metrics that can be controlled by a ventilation system.
Both indexes are only for registered projects and paid users of RESET Cloud. To use the indexes, a project needs to register as a RESET project and use a RESET Air Accredited Monitor and RESET Accredited Data Provider. There are no additional costs for registered projects. The costs to register with RESET range based on project type and square footage. For reference, a 200,000 sf commercial interior project is estimated at $4,500.
Our take: RESET is not yet a widely adopted standard in the United States, with approximately 200 projects currently registered worldwide. It got its start in China, where given air quality concerns, the ability to measure/compare outdoor air quality with indoor air quality was of the utmost importance. We see RESET as an interesting standard and one that will likely gain traction given the increase in continuous IAQ monitoring within real estate. As a pure COVID response play, our thought is that it is too narrowly focused.
SeeLevelHx, which provides consumer experience research data, announced the CoOperate4Safety certification in September 2020. This rating system targets retailers and restaurants that want to ease consumer concerns about visiting a business. This certification addresses customers’ top concerns for safety: employee mask-wearing, customer mask-wearing, social distancing, contactless services, surface sanitization, and partitions at crucial interactions. Certification is achieved after a third-party assessor audits each location.
Our take: This standard seems appropriately comprehensive for the retail and restaurant space, but is pretty lightweight for broader application. It’s a good collection of best practices meant to build consumer confidence, but it’s not clear that the certification is meaningful to the customers.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO NEXT
If you own or operate commercial real estate, you have no doubt been burning the midnight oil thinking of the right steps to achieve a safe and healthy environment and also the right steps to communicate with tenants and occupants to build trust. The next step is to understand the specifics of the rating systems and frameworks that provide the most value for your business model.
Whether you turn to WELL Health Safety Rating, Fitwel Viral Response Module, LEED Pilot Credits, BSI guidelines, or CoOperate4Safety, there are three things that any building operator should do right now:
- Review and update policies that impact occupant health and safety (or create them if your policies are incomplete
- Create a plan to communicate your re-open readiness including details about science-based strategies on-site
- Align the immediate need for third-party validation of COVID-19 Readiness to future certification strategies.
More information is emerging every day, and if you would like to talk to our consulting team, contact us.
- BSI Safe Working Guidelines
- RESET Indexes for Airborn Viral Transmission
- Update: Covid-Readiness Certification Options
- Covid Readiness: Iwbi And Usgbc Seek To Help Businesses Quantify Risk
- The Environmental Impact Of Covid-19
- Three Strategies To Improve The Wellness Of Building Systems And Gain Tenant Trust
- Green Cleaning And The Coronavirus