Five Takeaways About Fitwel Certification

By Erin Vicelja and Allie Goldstein, Goby

You have an existing building. You’ve recently taken steps to improve the overall environment for its occupants. You’ve made your office building community better.

Now what?

That’s where Fitwel certification comes in.

Developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the General Services Administration, Fitwel aims to improve and enhance the health and well-being of those in office and multifamily residential buildings.

Recently, Goby Fitwel ambassadors hosted a webinar to explain the ins and outs of this green building certification.

Here are their top five most important takeaways about Fitwel.

Fitwel focuses on existing buildings. New construction builders are encouraged to use the Fitwel certification to guide their efforts. This can help when the building is eventually completed, and it is later submitted for Fitwel certification. Think of Fitwel as being complementary to WELL certification, which focuses on new construction. These certifications differ in other ways, too.

Fitwel is community level, WELL is tenant space level. Both certifications focus on improving health and well-being, but in different ways. Fitwel focuses on the wellbeing of the local community and merges public health and evidence-based research. Alternatively, WELL concentrates on medical science and individual levels of comfort, including quality testing of tenant space. Buildings can – and, ideally should – be certified in both. Now, what about LEED?

Fitwel focuses on occupants and community members, LEED focuses on impact on surrounding environment. Making sure the overall access and quality of water within the building is a Fitwel measure, whereas the environmental impact of the system used to supply or dispose of is within LEED certification.

Fitwel applies to any existing building, no matter how old. Even though some older buildings do not have some of the well-being amenities of newer construction, such as gyms, that doesn’t mean they cannot apply for Fitwel certification. In fact, they’re encouraged to look for realistic ways they can improve and increase their Fitwel score.

Fitwel will likely bode well for the building owner. While no studies have measured the impact of Fitwel specifically, many have been done about other green building certifications. These have proved a correlation between higher rent rates, satisfaction and occupancy. It’s not a stretch to conclude that the same will soon be shown for Fitwel-certified buildings.

For the full breakdown of the Goby webinar on Fitwel, please visit their blog.


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5 Steps to Spring Cleaning Your Parking Garage

By Kyle Stanish, PhD, SE, PE, Klein & Hoffman

As the long-awaited spring weather begins to enter our forecast, so too does another often loathed thought – spring cleaning. While usually reserved for our homes, this annual tradition should extend to our parking structures throughout the city as well. After months of being exposed to the harsh winter elements, these structures need a bit of spring cleaning. Here are the top five steps you should consider to ensure your parking structure is ready for spring and beyond.

  1. Power washing. Although sand and salt keep our roads drivable in the winter, they do quite a number on our parking structures. Now is a great time to clean and power wash your floors. Make sure the company you hire is aware of and complies with all local EPA requirements for managing run-off. They should also be able to recommend and use environmentally safe detergents. Additionally, don’t forget to remove any oil or grease buildup left from vehicles from the prior season.
  2. Clear floor drains and piping. With spring comes rain showers, and the water that comes in to your structure also needs to get out. Thoroughly examine your drains and piping to ensure everything is clean and clear, and also check any sand traps and oil/water separators (triple basins) in the facility.
  3. Evaluate seasonal damage. A winter of snow plowing can lead to damage, commonly including curbs and expansion joints. Use this as a reminder for next year to require rubber-tipped blades or spacers on the plows, and have the plows approach expansion joints at an angle. In the more near-term, also check for leaks throughout your structure. Water dripping onto cars below or seeping into the concrete and causing corrosion damage is cause for future issues.
  4. Reaffirm safety. Ensuring safety during spring cleaning and throughout the year is always a best practice. Take the time to evaluate all guardrails and vehicle barriers that may have been damaged over the winter. Also schedule an alarm systems evaluation with a professional to access fire safety devices, carbon monoxide monitoring alarms, security stations and illuminated exit signs. Furthermore, check for all trip and fall hazards – which are far too common and increase liability exposure – ranging from spalled concrete to uneven floors.
  5. Brighten the aesthetics. Strive to make your structure a more attractive and welcoming place to park. Make sure to clean light fixtures and replace bulbs, and paint exposed steel and parking spaces. Often times, doing so can extend the lifespan of the structure.

These tips will certainly improve your structure, but at the end of the day, garages last longer when a plan is in place to conduct the necessary maintenance to prevent surprises and reduce long-term costs. Now is a great time to be proactive and take the right steps to keep your structure in good condition – now and in the future.

About the author: Kyle Stanish, PhD, SE, PE, is senior associate and parking restoration practice lead at Klein & Hoffman, structural engineers and architects and BOMA member.

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Leave the Lights Out for Birds!

By Annette Price, Chicago Collision Bird Monitors

Chicago building managers and owners can take pride in participating in the nation’s most successful light reduction program for migratory birds. Lights Out! Chicago asks buildings to turn off or dim bright antenna, rooftop and display lights from 11 pm to sunrise every spring and fall migration season.  This act saves the lives of thousands of birds who would otherwise be attracted from their nightly travels towards the confusing city lights.

CBMC lights in lobby 2

Lights in a lobby show a safe and attractive place for a bird to try to fly away from a dark exterior.

Migratory birds face an additional hazard from brightly lit lobbies in the early morning hours.  As birds fly into the city just before the rising sun, they enter areas where the outside streets are still dark but lighted lobbies display trees, plantings, fountains and in some cases full screen projections of forests and streams.  These birds are seeking a safe place to find food and shelter, and a lobby whose lights are lit to full capacity invites them away from the darkness and towards the shelter of interior landscaping.

Birds cannot see that between them and a lobby tree there is a deadly invisible barrier of glass.  Dead and injured birds are most often found next to lobbies whose lighted interiors display plantings and fountains. Thousands are recovered every year by Chicago Bird Collision Monitors on their morning patrols.

A 2-year study at McCormick Place found turning off lights resulted in 83% fewer birds deaths – 1,297 birds crashed into lit windows compared to 192 into unlit glass areas.

While lobbies cannot be left in total darkness, there are easy and available ways to minimize risks for migratory birds downtown in the early morning hours (from midnight to sunrise):

  • Motion sensors light only the portions of the lobby that are being used.
  • Timers can turn off or dim lobby lights during early morning hours.
  • Station lighting at lobby desks can illuminate just the areas that staff require.
  • Curtains or shades diminish the amount of light that shines out from windows and lobbies.

Feel free to contact Chicago Bird Collision Monitors if you find a dead or injured bird or if you would like a consultation to see what simple measures you could implement to reduce lighting and make a big difference in preventing bird strikes at your building.

The light you turn out could be the migratory bird you save!

Thank you for helping us help the birds!

Annette Price is the Director of Chicago Bird Collision Monitors (CBCM), an all-volunteer conservation project dedicated to the protection of migratory birds through rescue, advocacy and outreach. For additional information, call (773) 988-1867 or go to


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BOMA/Chicago’s Preparedness Committee: Ensuring the safety and security of our buildings and communities

By Erin Parks, BOMA/Chicago Preparedness Committee Chair

Erin Parks Sterling Bay 111 North Canal and 1KFulton.jpg

There is an ironic and unfortunate truth surrounding safety and security in the commercial real estate industry. As we benefit from advances in security and emergency preparedness – in regard to technology, strategy and policies/procedures – so too do the capabilities of those who wish to compromise it.

This is one of the ongoing challenges our industry is constantly working to address. Yet by staying ahead of the game through the consistent analysis of risks, threats and industry trends, we are able to better secure our building assets to ensure an enhanced level of safety for our employees, visitors and properties.

For the Preparedness Committee, our ability to effectively support our members stems from the working relationships we’ve solidified with some of Chicago’s finest government officials. Over the years, we’ve developed a strong partnership with the Chicago Police and Fire Departments, Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC), among others. In fact, an official from each organization attends our monthly committee meetings to provide updates around current Chicago events so we can remain ahead of local activity with potential implications for our members.

As awareness about threats increases, and best practices for prevention, response and recovery emerge, it’s important for our committee to remain active. Over the past couple years, we’ve successfully accomplished several goals on our members’ behalf.

For starters, we’ve had representatives at the OEMC’s monthly Public-Private Task Force meetings. The Task Force is a collaboration between City of Chicago public safety officials and critical private sector entities that provides an ongoing and consistent forum for information sharing, contingency planning, and building resilience. We have also coordinated appreciation efforts for first responders supporting Chicago’s Central Business District. Additionally, members might recall participating in our annual Tabletop Exercise or joining an open meeting aimed at education and emergency preparedness improvement for all building members.

Beyond these accomplishments, the passion I have for the Preparedness Committee and BOMA/Chicago continues to grow each and every time I hear a story from one of our members that reaffirms the positive work we are undertaking.

For example, after attending our “Building Emergency Best Practices” panel in 2017, an Assistant Property Manager was able to effectively respond and neutralize a bomb threat at her property. Even more inspiring, a member of our very own committee performed CPR for 10 minutes on a building tenant suffering a heart attack – and he saved that individual’s life!

While these are just a couple excellent success stories resulting from the work we’ve accomplished, our committee, steered by our newly developed Advisory Board comprised of property managers, security professionals, and government representatives, is always proactively looking toward the future. The committee’s near-term initiatives include:

  • Engaging property managers and building engineers in regular committee events and initiatives.
  • Revamping our resource library on the BOMA/Chicago website, where members can find best practices related to security and emergency preparedness, including training modules and take-away documents
  • Identifying the best possible channels and venues for providing timely and educational security and preparedness information to our membership (IMPORTANT: Don’t miss our open meeting next Tuesday, March 20 on Emergency Communications)
  • Corresponding with city officials about the possibility of conducting large-scale emergency situation drills for our member buildings

Is there a pressing issue we have yet to address or would you like to become more involved? Please reach out to The Preparedness Committee for participation opportunities and the tools to provide a safe and secure environment for your building and tenants.

Erin Parks, CPP, is the Head of Security and Emergency Preparedness with Sterling Bay.



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ENERGY STAR Scores for Most Office Buildings Will Fall in 2018

By Dan Bailey, Sieben Energy Associates

ENERGY STAR scores for most if not all office buildings will decrease as early as August 2018 due to recalibration. Current scores for office buildings will drop by an average of 8 points. The U.S. EPA broke this news at the ENERGY STAR Commercial Buildings Partner Meeting that was convened in Chicago in October 2017.

So if your building’s ENERGY STAR score is currently a 78, it could drop to 70 or below, preventing you from maintaining ENERGY STAR certification, which requires a minimum score of 75.

Why will the ENERGY STAR scores fall? The short answer is that buildings overall are becoming more energy-efficient, and the EPA needs to recalibrate scores to account for these changes. Specifically:

  • ​For a particular building type, an ENERGY STAR score of 50 is supposed to be calibrated to median energy use.
  • Current ENERGY STAR scores for office buildings (as well as hotels, retail stores, K-12 schools, and warehouses) are based on data from the 2003 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS).
  • The EPA is in the process of updating all ENERGY STAR scores based on newer energy performance data from the 2012 CBECS, the most recent available.
  • The data show that office buildings are more energy-efficient in 2012 than they were in 2003. Improved median energy performance means that a given building will need to use even less energy to maintain a certain ENERGY STAR score.
Since the first CBECS was conducted in 1979, average energy use intensity for all commercial buildings has generally fallen over three decades. While average natural gas use has decreased significantly, average electricity use has increased slightly. The graph below shows that total average energy consumption in the 2012 CBECS was about 80 kBtu per square foot, an intensity equaled previously in 1992 but not observed during the past 20 years.


The EPA is more than halfway through a 24-month process to develop new scoring models using the 2012 CBECS data. The tentative release date for the new scores is August 2018.

Many other commercial building types will also be affected by recalibration. Scores will be adjusted for retail stores, K-12 schools, bank branches, medical offices, hotels, courthouses, supermarkets, distribution centers, and worship facilities. All building types that are not grayed out in the image at left are included in CBECS and so their scores will change.

While the scores for office buildings are expected to decrease by an average of 8 points, and retail stores and supermarkets will see the same decline, the average drop for K-12 schools is 12 points.

The plot of current ENERGY STAR scores for K-12 schools below shows how scores are skewed heavily towards the higher end of the scale, with nearly 25% scoring between 81-90 and nearly 40% scoring 91 or greater. The plot of updated ENERGY STAR scores better resembles a bell curve, with the largest percentage of scores between 51-60, and only 10% scoring 91 or greater.

Energy performance data for some commercial building types, such as hospitals, data centers, and multi-family housing, is drawn from other national building surveys, not CBECS. Scores for these few building types will not be affected by the August 2018 recalibration.

Building owners and managers who require certain scores to achieve LEED certification or who have scores close to the 75 threshold for ENERGY STAR certification should attempt to certify their eligible buildings for 2018 no later than July 2018.

Sieben Energy Associates (SEA) is a recognized leader in energy efficiency and energy management for the built environment. Since 1990 SEA has enhanced the performance of thousands of buildings. SEA specializes in finding opportunities to driving cost savings by make existing infrastructure work smarter for building owners and managers. Today SEA delivers retro-commissioning, monitoring-based commissioning, energy audits and assessments, energy purchasing, energy benchmarking, and other energy management services. Explore our services and learn why we think about energy every day. Dan Bailey is the Director of Energy Consulting.

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How BOMA 2017 Can Change Your Building’s Rentable Square Footage (RSF)

By Bob Ladner, John Kuczura, Veronica Avila, Meredith Bass at SDI Presence

Last week, the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International released its new office measurement standard: BOMA 2017 For Office Buildings: Standard Methods of Measurement (ANSI/BOMA Z65.1-2017). Last updated in 2010, this BOMA methodology is considered the indisputable standard for measuring buildings’ rentable square footage (RSF) in the United States, Canada and internationally.

The BOMA 2017 standard has both increased the opportunity to capture Rentable Area, such as balconies and finished rooftop terraces, to better align with modern building design fueled by tenant demands.  The standard has eliminated and clarified ambiguities, such as the concept of Public Pedestrian Thoroughfare (PPT) and the proration of areas outside of actual tenant premises (found in the previous standards).  Additionally, the lowest level of all Vertical Service and Circulation Area, such as Stairwells and Elevators, is now included as Building Service Area (BSA) in keeping with the concept of floored area counting as Rentable Area.

Below is a representation of the major changes impacting Rentable Area under BOMA 2017.

BOMA_2017_SDI FileBOMA 2017 has greatly elaborated on definitions and details, both in text and graphics, regarding the disclosure of area allocations.  The new concept of Tenant Ancillary Area clearly delineates the area of actual tenant premises from areas outside the tenant premises, such as Extended Circulation (EC) and door set-backs and balconies, which are prorated to a tenant.  This will help to reduce the discrepancies regarding the usable and rentable areas of proposed tenant premises often encountered between tenant architects/brokers and building reps under the previous standards.  Similarly, the Inter-Building Area concept clearly identifies portions of an Office Building –  such as Conference Centers, Fitness Centers and Tenant Lounges – that may benefit single Occupants and Occupants on a given floor, in an Office Building, and across multi-building complexes.

With the accounting of every conceivable portion of a property, BOMA 2017 makes for a much more involved calculation process, but results in greater transparency for tenants, leasing agents and ownership. If you are preparing to buy or sell a property, or lease several contiguous floors to a single tenant, you may benefit from an updated measurement.

For 20 years, SDI has specialized in helping commercial real estate portfolio owners and property managers maximize the revenue generation potential of their properties. Trusted by the nation’s top real estate developers, owners, and managers, SDI has assessed over 200M square footage of properties across the United States, adding over $285M in potential annual revenue for our clients.



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Gold Circle Award Winner Profile: Julia Rabban

Julia Rabban picJulia Rabban, Property Manager with Transwestern, is the recipient of BOMA/Chicago’s 2017 Emerging Leader of the Year Award.

What was your first paying job? I had my first job when I was 14 years old during the summer before my first year of high school. I was a swim lesson instructor at a summer camp in my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. I eventually became a counselor, lifeguard and swim coach at the camp and worked there every summer until I graduated from college. During those summers, I gained priceless experiences beyond the obvious (child care and how to survive the sun), but how to be a team player, a reliable partner and a trustworthy employee. I gained leadership talents, learned the importance of teamwork and became confident in my communication skills. Looking back at the many responsibilities and experiences I had, I couldn’t recommend a better summer job for a young adult.

How were you introduced to the industry and what attracted you to it? The city of Phoenix boomed during my childhood. I remember seeing new neighborhoods and shopping districts appear practically overnight. My father has worked in the industry for many years and has shared his career with our family every step of the way. I can remember visiting construction sites and watching tenants move in to new buildings at a young age. I’ve always been interested in real estate and have seen firsthand how multifaceted and dynamic it is. A role in real estate isn’t just a job title or desk assignment, the industry is too complex and can’t limit your potential. Commercial real estate is constantly evolving, so there will always be a future in it; there will always be a next step in your career or something new to learn.

What was the most unique challenge posed by a tenant that required an innovative response/solution? A tenant at 200 West Madison operates nearly 24 hours a day almost every day. In consideration of their valued tenancy and operating expenses, our team became committed to improving the process and reducing their overtime HVAC costs. After evaluating the many factors included, we calculated the actual cost per hour to provide accurate vs. estimated billings. We then considered the physical process of ordering and monitoring overtime HVAC. By looking for a more streamlined and convenient solution, we discovered the Genea ACS Cloud portal. Genea Partners, a BOMA/Chicago member, provides cloud-based software that works alongside the building automation system. Its innovative platform enables Tenants to order HVAC on a real-time basis, either online or through a smartphone application. The data monitoring allows us to fluctuate billing rates so to accurately charge for services provided within any time frame. This technology not only offers flexibility, immediate results and time and cost savings, it has also elevated the property’s infrastructure to operate as a modern-day office building by putting tenants behind the wheel.

You’re a member of BOMA/Chicago’s Emerging Leaders Committee. How can young professionals and those new to this industry benefit from this committee and its network? When I first started, I was new to both Chicago and the real estate industry. I looked to the Emerging Leaders for not only a social connection, but for a reliable group of peers that can offer advice and guidance as I formed my own network. Realistically, the Emerging Leaders Committee members are still fledglings in their careers as well. To me, this seemed admirable as the camaraderie and motivation among the group is so easily seen. Today, as a member of the Committee, this characteristic helps me further believe that real estate is the most welcoming and achievable industry to pursue a career in.

What are some of your interests and hobbies outside of work? If I’m not at a concert, I’m saving pennies to travel! I’m constantly visiting friends all over the country. I love seeing new places. Hoping to do Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam next spring.

What advice would you share with someone considering a career in the commercial real estate industry? If you like hard work and great success, commercial real estate is for you. CRE is completely versatile, opportunities lie in many areas for many kinds of people. Don’t be afraid to dive in! Jump in the deep end. Ask questions and be involved! This industry is welcoming, thrilling and most importantly, timeless. It’s constantly changing and will keep you on your toes. Being a member of CRE in Chicago is extremely rewarding, you won’t want to leave the party.



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