Arrington Building’s Blueprint for Success Includes BOMA 360

By: Jessica Bates

“I’ve heard tenants tell me that they can tell whether or not a building is managed by our team—and has the BOMA 360 designation—as soon as they step inside.” So says Terry Scott, general manager for Forest City Realty Trust. “We’ve had tenants in very similar buildings nearby move into our buildings simply because they were more effectively managed.”

Scott and her team manage 12 Class A, multi-tenant office buildings, 11 in the Glen Forest Office Park in Richmond, Virginia, and one in downtown Richmond, all of which have been BOMA 360-designated. The first building on campus to achieve the designation, back in 2013, was the Arrington Building, a 100,000-square-foot, redbrick building that houses investment and accounting firms, IT companies and law firms.

Achieving the designation was part of a broad effort to ensure the Arrington Building was being managed at the highest possible level. To earn the designation, the Forest City team began a comprehensive preventive maintenance program, took on specialized energy management training, began tracking the energy usage on campus using ENERGY STAR and went through their building operations with a fine-toothed comb.

Multi-tenant office buildings involve so many moving parts that even the best property teams can overlook inefficiencies. “We were operating well, but we knew we could do better,” explains Scott. “The BOMA 360 submission process brought the team together and broadened our perspective on the entire operations of the property.” During one team meeting, the staff realized that the building’s common area lighting was being left on over the weekends when the offices were vacant. They installed timeclocks on the lighting to ensure this energy was no longer wasted.

Being part of a campus comes with certain benefits—ample walking and running trails, space for visiting food trucks—but it can present a particular challenge to ensure each building is running consistently at an optimal level. Once the Arrington Building achieved the BOMA 360 designation, the “blueprint” for the building’s standard operating procedures was applied to the other buildings on campus.  “We were able to implement, test and fine-tune our operations through the submission process,” Scott explains.  “The BOMA 360 designation helped us create a precise guide for our building operations across the campus.”

The maintenance staff rotates buildings each quarter to ensure they are all familiar with each of the properties and regular campus-wide staff meetings allow everyone to share ideas and information. Many of the staff members have worked on the campus for years, as have most of the vendors and outside contractors, which has helped build a sense of community and supported Forest City Realty Trust’s push to improve.

Each year, the property management team sends out tenant surveys on everything from cleanliness to staff friendliness and sets a goal to increase the overall results by two percent over the previous year. They come together as a team to look at the results and brainstorm ways to improve. “Over the past four years since we earned the BOMA 360 designation, our vacancy rates are down and we’re currently commanding rental rates that are at the top of the market,” Scott says. The Arrington Building is currently 100 percent leased.

Scott also sets a personal goal to come within one percent of her projected budget each year, which she’s been able to hit every year since she’s been there and has gotten even closer to her target since achieving the BOMA 360 designation for her campus. “So many parts of our operations have gotten more precise since 2013—everything from retrofitting our water faucets to putting a weather tracker on our irrigation to lower water usage, and installing new energy efficient LED lighting in all common areas” she explains. “Our expenses are lower, so our net operating income is much higher.

Taking time to communicate these successes to tenants is a key part of the property’s success. Tenants receive a quarterly newsletter of recent awards and designations, and the BOMA 360 logo is prominently displayed in the property’s marketing materials.

“BOMA 360 gave our property the score card to measure how we performed; anyone can use this program to help any property succeed if they are willing to put in the work,” Scott explains. “We love telling people that we’re BOMA 360 designated, because people know what it means—and it makes a big difference when prospective tenants are looking for properties to call home.”