Brookfield Properties offers insights for building owners and operators on establishing tenant trust and confidence in the safety of their buildings in the pandemic era.
Sean McCrady, CEICC, CMC, CIEC, LEED AP, WELL AP, Director of Assets and Sustainability, Real Estate and Properties Group, UL
Robert Cushman, Senior Vice President of Operations – Western Region, Brookfield Properties
Brian Pagac, Vice President of Engineering, Brookfield Properties
A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has accepted the new normal where disease transmission is top of mind and safety precautions are required. With a vaccine rollout underway, many businesses are planning for reoccupancy. In light of the new reality, indoor air quality (IAQ) has become another building attribute that must be managed by building owners, operators and tenants. With the help of UL, Brookfield Properties was an early adopter of IAQ best practices and their experience provides meaningful insight into the value of proactive testing and verification now and after the pandemic.
A strong foundation
As part of a commitment to tenant health and safety, Brookfield has taken measures to pursue healthy IAQ through regular testing, monitoring and evaluations conducted by global safety science leader, UL. A methodical, continuous process for IAQ inspections has been in place for years and, based on this foundation, Brookfield has been able to respond to COVID-19 concerns faster and more comprehensively than other operators. “Having a foundation in place to understand IAQ has been enormously beneficial when preparing our buildings for reoccupancy and elevating safety measures related to COVID-19,” noted Robert Cushman, senior vice president of operations for Brookfield Properties. For example, when developing their Back to Business safety protocols, Brookfield was able to pull in data from HVAC inspections conducted as a part of their IAQ audits.
Cushman noted that establishing a foundation does not have to be an overwhelming task. “Start with the collection and documentation of available data,” he recommended. “This may begin as a documented HVAC preventative maintenance schedule and a list of repairs and when they were completed. A strong foundation should include identification of indoor air pollutants and evaluation of HVAC systems. Other important components include management of water quality, building hygiene assessment and janitorial effectiveness.”
The importance of trust
Trust is more important than ever in light of concerns triggered by the COVID-19 outbreak and continued uncertainty surrounding the disease. “By relying on a well-known, third-party resource to conduct testing, we are able to offer objective data regarding the state of IAQ in our buildings,” said Brian Pagac, vice president of engineering at Brookfield.
When UL announced its UL Verified Healthy Buildings Program, which verifies that scientifically proven measures are taken to support good indoor environmental quality, Brookfield Properties was positioned to earn the Mark quickly based on the extensive measures and documentation already in place for the nine million square foot portfolio it operates in Los Angeles. “The UL Verified Healthy Building for Indoor Air Mark demonstrates that we prioritize the health and wellness of occupants and provides stakeholders trusted, third-party verification of our efforts to pursue good IAQ,” said Pagac. “By making a real effort toward improving IAQ and enlisting the support of trusted third-party providers, building owners and operators can establish a foundation of trust with tenants and other stakeholders,” he continued.
In light of the heightened awareness of the role of indoor air quality and HVAC in reducing the transmission of COVID-19, tenants are more informed and interested than ever in IAQ. Prior to COVID-19, the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating on an HVAC filter was a little-known term, only relevant to HVAC engineers and building operators. However, over the last year, MERV ratings have now become a common topic among the public. This single example demonstrates the growing interest in and demand for specific information regarding actions taken by building owners and managers to provide good IAQ.
Brookfield has leveraged social media, internal newsletters and regular tenant communications to share data, measures and the significance of achieving UL Verified Healthy Building status with stakeholders. The company has engaged in open dialog, forging additional trust and enhancing measures by encouraging all stakeholders to be part of the effort to support healthier buildings.
After leading thousands of IAQ inspections in buildings and orchestrating the launch of the UL Verified Healthy Buildings Program, Sean McCrady, director of Assets and Sustainability in UL’s Real Estate and Properties Group, has first-hand experience with what it takes to achieve good IAQ. “Maintaining healthy IAQ and reducing risk of COVID-19 transmission is a team effort that requires the participation of the entire ecosystem of stakeholders, from building owners and operators to tenants, janitorial staff and third party providers. It’s incumbent on everyone to engage in conversations and share ownership of the effective implementation of safety precautions like mask-wearing, social distancing and regular cleaning,” noted McCrady.
Brookfield has found that increased communication has grown tenant acceptance and adoption of best practices.
Regardless of their current status related to IAQ management, building owners and operators can take steps to proactively manage IAQ as a part of their reoccupancy preparation. “If there is a silver lining to the situation, it’s that the pandemic has ushered in heightened awareness of the importance of good IAQ. The health and wellness of our communities should always be top of mind, regardless of the pandemic,” Cushman commented. This commitment across all industries, types of properties and countries is important to supporting better health for all.
Brookfield Properties operates more than 650 properties and over 325 million square feet of real estate in cities around the globe, encompassing some iconic buildings. They have a history of early adoption of innovative health, wellness and sustainability solutions, and have prioritized good indoor environmental quality in buildings as part of their commitment to tenants. When the global pandemic struck, it catapulted concern for IAQ in buildings to the top of many building owners’ lists. Brookfield was well-positioned because they had a number of measures already in place that were instrumental in supporting health and safety as tenants returned. Brookfield’s insights provide valuable guidance for other building owners and managers as they prepare for reoccupancy.
Sean McCrady leads the Indoor Environmental Quality service line at UL. Sean is a certified environmental infection control consultant, certified microbial consultant, certified indoor environmental consultant and a LEED and WELL accredited professional.
Robert Cushman is Senior Vice President of Operations for the U.S. Office Division of Brookfield Properties, where he overseers the operations of a 12.5 million square foot commercial office portfolio in the Greater Los Angeles area.
As VP of Engineering Operations at Brookfield Properties, Brian develops new processes and procedures, implements ECO’s, identifies sustainable opportunities, analyzes new commercial development and acquisition opportunities, and investigates new emerging technologies to enhance the Brookfield Properties experience.