Reaching the “High Pointe” of Energy Management
By Jessica Bates
This is the second in a series of case studies exploring the six best practice areas evaluated by the BOMA 360 Performance Program®.
For the building staff at BOMA 360-designated High Pointe Office Center in Milwaukee, energy management is more than simply an obligation, it’s a mindset. “Our building could last for generations, and we see ourselves as its caretakers,” says Chad Venne, executive vice president of Property Management for commercial real estate firm Wangard, which manages the building. “By taking the best possible care of our building systems and equipment, we’re not just ensuring operational efficiency—we’re being good stewards of our community.”
It’s not hard to imagine High Pointe standing the test of time. Situated within a wooded landscape, the glass and brick building complements its natural surroundings, and the elevated building site allows natural light into every floor. But the building’s appeal goes well past the exterior to the actual operation of the property. Venne was not surprised to learn that, of the six best practice areas evaluated by the BOMA 360 Performance Program, his building had particularly excelled in the area of energy management during their recent BOMA 360 designation renewal process: the building is LEED-EB Gold certified and holds one of the highest ENERGY STAR® ratings in Wisconsin.
In fact, though it was constructed nearly 20 years ago, the building meets cutting-edge standards of energy efficiency in many areas. “Our technology and equipment might not be brand new, but through a proactive preventive maintenance program, we’ve kept them performing as if they are,” Venne says. To accomplish this, he attributes a strong team commitment to energy management, including everyone from the building ownership to vendors to tenants. “We’re very fortunate to have the support of our leadership, which has allowed us to undertake energy efficiency projects like upgrading our outdoor lights to LEDs,” Venne explains. Vendors are thoroughly vetted to ensure they can comply with the building’s energy management requirements, and the building staff helps educate tenants on the benefits of lowering energy use through simple behaviors such as lowering the blinds during certain times of day to help regulate the internal temperature.
Another huge component of the Wangard team’s success has been their commitment to benchmarking, regular internal inspections and, ultimately, maintaining their BOMA 360 designation. “In the day-to-day work of managing a property, it can be easy to drift off course. Submitting our property for BOMA 360 consideration in 2012 encouraged us to sit down and examine on our accomplishments and goals in a way that really helped us stay focused,” Venne says. In fact, during their recent renewal process, they discovered that some of the building’s systems were not quite as efficient as they had once been. As a result, they were able to make corrections to bring the building back to its previous performance level.
Now, comprehensive monthly inspections by the building engineers help to reveal any issues with the property. Venne stresses the importance of regularly checking the building’s systems and tenant spaces, rather than waiting until a problem reveals itself. Not all tenants will notify a property manager about an office space that’s too hot or too cold, for example, allowing problems to go unreported for months until they show up in the building’s energy bill—a particular problem in a place like Milwaukee with its variable weather extremes. Checking the temperatures of each floor not only can reveal issues with building systems, but it also can go a long way towards ensuring tenant comfort and satisfaction.
Venne say his company values the BOMA 360 designation because, unlike other certifications, it takes into account all facets of building operations and management. This is important because best practices in one area, such as training and education for building personnel, can affect others, including environmental performance. “The BOMA 360 designation is aligned with who we want to be as a company,” he says. “We take every aspect of property management very seriously, and we know that sustainability and energy management aren’t just trendy buzzwords—they’re a critical part of our mission.”