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30. 3. 2023

Certifications are also important for office tenants’ ESG strategies

While manufacturing or logistics companies will likely consider minimising their carbon footprint, recycling or reducing energy consumption as key points in their ESG strategy, the office sector will focus primarily on office design and equipment. In addition to environmental impact, companies in these industries should look at offices’ impact on employee health. Two certifications in particular can help them do this: LEED Interior Design and Construction (LEED ID+C) and WELL (WELL HSR). Both are based on international best practice and scientific norms and can help organisations make great strides toward ESG compliance.

LEED Interior Design and Construction (LEED ID+C) monitors environmental impacts and reduces their negative effects during any renovation or adaptation of indoor spaces. This system, like other certification methodologies, allows a project to be assessed based on an extensive list of sustainability-related elements and practices. It includes, among other things, site selection and site attributes such as access to public transport, support for alternative transport, and basic neighbourhood services. It also takes into account specific requirements related to energy and water management, as well as requirements for the selection of environmentally friendly materials that reduce harmful emissions, access to fresh air, supply and use of natural light or office acoustics. The system essentially provides a comprehensive plan for achieving sustainability in office spaces. The LEED ID+C certification process also includes several requirements that address clean air during construction.

The certification process itself is relatively straightforward, but it requires coordination of work processes and early inclusion of ESG requirements to ensure that mandatory system provisions (such as the amount of fresh air or energy efficiency) are met by both designers and building managers.

The second certification system that may be of interest to office tenants is the WELL Health and Safety Rating (WELL HSR). This is the first certification of its type to focus on healthy indoor environments and their impact on people. It was developed in collaboration with leading scientists, physicians, architects and leaders in the wellness field and has become an important tool for improving health and well-being in buildings around the world. Simply put, it measures the relationship between people and the building. This includes air and water quality, the amount of natural light, and other aspects related to how people use the space they occupy. In a way, this certification begins where the LEED certification leaves off. While LEED is more about environmental impact and resource efficiency, WELL incentivizes the creation of a better, healthier work environment. The certification process examines a total of 20 areas in five categories: at least 15 must be met and documented - such as operating policies, maintenance protocols, contractor involvement, and emergency plans.

In addition to LEED ID+C and WELL HSR, BREEAM In-Use and LEED O+M are among the typical certifications that may be important to building tenants. Both of these certifications and their associated procedures can be applied to new and existing spaces. They focus mainly on operational aspects and building management. The primary purpose of the assessment is to reduce effectively, and in an economical way, the environmental impact of building operations. A specific feature of these certifications is their limited validity.

The importance of certifications as a key factor in property selection is constantly growing. It is no longer just a 'nice to have' element, but rather a basic requirement. This is not only because of ESG strategies for developers or tenants. Certified buildings are perceived as higher quality and more sustainable; therefore, they can attract tenants for developers and investors and, in turn, employees for tenants.