Version: BREEAM In-Use Version 6
Developer/ Client: WashREIT
Assessor Organization: UL Verification Services Inc
About the Project
In April 2021, the Washington, D.C.-based firm WashREIT (NYSE:WRE) announced the expansion of its Green Bond Framework for eligible green projects, including eight multifamily assets acquired in 2019. As outlined in this framework, WashREIT set out to achieve BREEAM In-Use Very Good certifications for the majority of these assets.
The firm allocated the majority of proceeds to assets that were slated to achieve BREEAM certification as part of a multipronged approach for addressing energy efficiency, water efficiency, and renewable energy projects across its portfolio… Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, WashREIT’s commitment represents a part of the booming green bond market, which exceeded $1 trillion globally by the end of 2021.
The assets’ certification process was led by an independent third-party assessor UL, a global safety science leader. UL’s role was critical to WashREIT’s achievement of safety, security and sustainability goals across the portfolio, as the assessor provided third-party verification of each building’s sustainable quality and ESG performance.
“We’re focused on existing Class B assets – and historically, this asset class has lacked in sustainability investments. But residents and investors alike care about sustainability,” said Paul McDermott, President and CEO of WashREIT. “As we work with BREEAM, our goal is to create opportunities for the industry and other operators to also find ways to invest in sustainable improvements and achieve ESG certifications for their assets.”
While pursuing BREEAM In-Use residential certification, the age of some of the assets presented challenges around gathering building lvl drawings and construction details, which are needed to document various credits accurately. Along with their age, the nature of multifamily units also created difficulties surrounding the creation of inventories for all heating, cooling and hot water systems — which have been replaced as needed and varied significantly in efficiencies at each building. Similar challenges were faced around water fixtures, as well. Ultimately, the inability to acquire community lvl energy and water consumption data also prevented WashREIT’s projects from pursuing Management Performance Certification.
Solutions, Benefits & Next steps
This certification initiative launched on the heels of WashREIT announcing a new energy consumption reduction goal of 20% by 2025, below a 2015 baseline, mitigating the portfolio’s impact on climate change.
Four of the eight properties that pursued certification achieved the Very Good Rating under Asset Performance. Pursuing BREEAM certification prompted an effort towards comprehensive inventory creation and digitization of existing building drawings. The project teams were also successful in reviewing and improving upon the existing recycling infrastructure, tenant outreach and communication.
The BREEAM certification provides a comprehensive standard for achieving sustainability across the lifecycle of a project. BREEAM In-Use Residential certification provided an assessment method to measure, evaluate and reflect the performance of residential assets against best practice in an independent, cost-effective and robust manner.
Is there anything that multifamily/ residential real estate professionals in particular should be aware of when it comes to sustainability and ESG?
Sustainability and ESG should be looked at from the perspective and experience of day-to-day occupants, with consideration for how design and infrastructure decisions impact every resident’s health and well being, as well as their environmental footprint. Ensuring good indoor air quality by incorporating CO, CO2 sensors, humidity sensors and good ventilation were key solutions implemented by WashREIT, in addition to providing efficient equipment and water fixtures. Applying sustainability practices common in commercial office spaces does not fully translate to a residential community (such as recycling infrastructure and transportation amenities), so that strategy should be avoided. Multifamily professionals should instead focus on gathering feedback from their communities’ residents and property management; this would go a long way in crafting a sustainability and ESG strategy that really works in a residential setting.
“This is a momentous achievement for the US REIT market to recognize the caliber and rigor of the BREEAM certification program, particularly for WashREIT’s multifamily assets in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area”, said BREEAM Director Shamir Ghumra. “The challenge in meeting a Very Good certification, which represents the top 25% of BREEAM certified assets, demonstrates an important next step in WashREIT’s commitment to benchmarking, verifying, and sharing sustainability best practices across their portfolio. We applaud WashREIT as a trailblazer in the U.S. for this high-performance investment.”
WashREIT owns and operates uniquely positioned real estate assets in the Washington D.C. market. Backed by decades of experience, expertise and Our portfolio of 43 properties includes nearly 7,000 multifamily apartment units and approximately 3.4 million square feet of commercial space. Our shares trade on the NYSE and our company currently has an enterprise value of approximately $3 billion. With a track record of driving returns and delivering satisfaction, we are a trusted authority in one of the nation’s most competitive real estate markets. To learn more, please visit washreit.com.
BREEAM is the world’s leading sustainability assessment methodology for masterplanning projects, infrastructure and buildings. It recognizes and reflects the value in higher performing assets across the built environment lifecycle, from new construction, through performance in operation, to refurbishment. BREEAM does this through third party certification of the assessment of an asset’s environmental, social and economic sustainability performance, using standards developed by BRE. This means BREEAM rated developments are more sustainable environments that enhance the well-being of the people who live and work in them, help protect natural resources and make for more attractive property investments. Learn more at www.breeam.com.
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