The first office building with a verified score under BREEAM In-Use in the US, Three Ballston Plaza

Built in 1990, this 342,280 square foot Class A multi-tenanted office building is located in just 5 miles from the heart of Washington, D.C in Arlington, Virginia.

Ballston17 BRE Group

BREEAM Good (48.5%)
Version: BREEAM In-Use USA Parts: 1 & 2
Owner: AEW Capital Management
Assessor Organization: Healthy Buildings
Management Team: Cushman & Wakefield

BREEAM In-Use supports ownership and management to formally recognize building sustainability achievements and identify opportunities to improve performance in the first office tower to certify with BREEAM USA


Built in 1990, this 342,280 square foot Class A multi-tenanted office building is located in just 5 miles from the heart of Washington, D.C in Arlington, Virginia.  Three Ballston Plaza has been owned by AEW Capital Management since 2010 and is managed by Cushman & Wakefield.

Anne Peck, as part of the sustainability team for AEW’s asset management, worked with the Cushman Wakefield property management team to identify an efficiently-run building to pilot BREEAM In-Use as a certification standard for sustainability. As part of a GRESB fund, this verified score serves to improve the portfolio’s performance within the GRESB rankings. Additionally, recognition for the building team, alignment with the US General Service Administration requirements and other tenant sustainability desires, and reasonable certification costs – made this building a perfect pilot for the BREEAM In-Use standard’s adoption.

This building, as the first office building with a verified score under BREEAM In-Use in the US, exemplifies the types of projects that BREEAM In-Use can serve. Efficient operations, a unique and connected location, great building design, use of outdoor space, and access to amenities all highlight the strengths of Three Ballston Plaza, in addition to great building management. Using BREEAM In-Use allowed the building management team to both formally recognize building efficiency achievements already in place and map out progress opportunities.

The Value of Using BREEAM

AEW’s primary reason for undertaking a BREEAM In-Use program at Three Ballston Plaza was to increase the number of assets in their portfolio that could be submitted to GRESB.

 “Our job is to find innovative solutions that offer added value to our real estate investors and using the BREEAM In-Use standard delivered that to Three Ballston Plaza,” says Anne Peck, Vice President at AEW Capital Management. “We are continually looking to raise the bar on the sustainability of our portfolio, and the outcome from completing the BREEAM process has been a much more efficient operations team and ultimately, a more efficiently-run building.”

The team initially thought the BREEAM In-Use scheme with no prerequisites might have been too light, but after going through the in-depth questionnaire and in-person assessor walk through, they realized that the standard is more rigorous than initial appearance and requires a greater understanding of the building and operations. Overall the standard is helpful as it was an approachable process to engage in, it was seamless to benchmark sustainability performance, and it translates well into achievable improvement measures to be completed on a regular basis moving forward.

 “The BREEAM rating system helped highlighted the high-performance aspects of this building that hadn’t been in direct focus before… things such as health and wellbeing, water, energy management, and ongoing maintenance. The onsite verification aspect of BREEAM reinforced the robustness of the certification for property management and the building engineer” – Bharati Bhosale, Healthy Buildings

Through the process of benchmarking sustainability in asset value and building operations using BREEAM In-Use, the building’s team learned, celebrated, and plotted a course for sustainability and health and wellness at this site.

Sustainability Highlights:

The BREEAM In-Use scheme benefited the project site in several ways, strengthening and formalizing already adopted best practices. For example, an added benefit was a more formalized communication mechanism between management and tenants, updated after going through the questionnaire. Additionally, while Legionella risk management strategies were already in place, extra measures have been added to the operations schedule regarding the fountain which is part of the tenant amenities. Lastly, a few proactive management strategies in place found a way of formal acknowledgement by their inclusion and recognition in a certification standard.

While the building is relatively standard for an office building in terms of lighting, HVAC controls and systems, the building’s use of indoor and outdoor space and available tenant amenities make this asset shine. The building management team takes pride in their use of standard scheduling and controls technology to run this facility as a high-performer with respect to energy and water performance.
The building is located close to Washington, D.C., within walking distance to a Metro station in Arlington, sited in a dense office area with many amenity options within walking distance of the office tower. Based on the building’s design and setbacks, there are terraces that offer ample access to outdoor spaces and daylight, and provide a nicely landscaped outdoor area for lunch breaks and outdoor-hosted activities such as yoga.

CO2 monitored and controlled
Policies and strategies in place to minimize VOCs
Regular inspection and maintenance of all systems to reduce Legionella contamination risk, by a competent third party contractor, in accordance with national standard
Third party used to collect and record occupant satisfaction
Procedures in place to address feedback and issues highlighted, targets are set and signed off at senior management or director level

Regular meetings or formal comms with occupants are conducted and any issues reported to management
Full set of O&M manuals available and accessible
Maintenance policies/procedures in place for building envelope, heating, cooling, ventilation, humidification and hot water, lighting
Proactive maintenance policy reviewed with the last year
Improvement targets set for energy, water and waste/recycling Energy reduction plans/procedures that include annual budgets for energy efficiency and reduction measures are in place. BMS monitored and/or certified by accredited third party auditor

Measures in place to minimize the rate of surface water runoff from site. All refrigerants have a GWP of less than 10 Secondary containment in place to minimize chemical pollution risk and checked regularly to ensure they remain effective. = Maintenance strategy includes light-liquid separators
Complaints procedures in place.

Water consumption is recorded and monitored.
Strategy in place to compare water consumption against asset targets and report on these internally and to management. Proactive maintenance policy to maintain water systems

Manned by security guard 24 hours a day
Emergency plans in place to deal with threats from all relevant natural hazards Emergency plans in place to protect people, property and the environment
Fire safety management that goes beyond life safety is in place.

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