An All-in-One Audit: Measuring Building Performance at 540 West Madison and 300 South Riverside, Chicago

Companies used to choose office space according to location, rental cost, aesthetics, and amenities. These criteria are still important, but in a tenant’s market like today’s, tenants have additional demands: They now look for high standards of building performance. Owners can try to address these demands by pursuing LEED, WELL, WiredScore, or comparable certifications. But they haven’t been able to use a holistic rating system that measures multiple facets of building performance – including indoor air quality, telecommunications, and sustainability, all combined in one audit.

Until now. Dissatisfied with the status quo, engineering firm Syska Hennessy Group and real estate owner Third Millennium Group have developed a new, all-in-one audit of building performance. Here’s how they went about it:

Initial Steps

Syska compiled a team of experts in building automation systems, sustainability, and facilities management to conduct the audits and Third Millennium selected two properties to serve as the “test subjects,” 540 West Madison and 300 South Riverside, both in Chicago’s West Loop. 540 West Madison contains 31 stories and 1.1 million square feet, and 300 South Riverside contains 23 stories and 1.076 million square feet.

After many discussions, Syska and Third Millennium identified the following criteria for the all-in-one audit:

  • Occupant Wellness: Indoor air quality
  • Intelligence: building automation systems and telecommunications infrastructure
  • Sustainability: energy management, water usage, and recycling
  • Execution: workflows and use of metrics

Approach

Syska used a variety of methods to conduct the audit. The team reviewed data from air quality monitors and energy meters, and it evaluated building automation systems and integrations of systems and infrastructure. Another consideration was “execution.” Syska looked at the processes of the facilities team and examined documentation to determine if it was accurate and up to date. “We checked how steady the hands are of the people piloting the ship,” says Syska senior associate Christian Nazon. “This included reviewing the communications amongst each building department, management, engineering, janitorial, and security. We also looked at how each department communicated with vendors and monitored vendor performance.”

Results and Next Steps

Both buildings earned excellent scores (one A and three A-minuses for 540 West; two As and two A-minuses for 300 South) and Third Millennium has “scorecards” at hand to share with existing and prospective tenants. But despite the impressive scores, the owner is taking steps to improve the metrics. For instance, operations staff at both buildings are now tracking kilowatt hours and water usage more closely and reviewing recycling initiatives with tenants. “Although we aced the test, we want to continue the momentum,” says Celeste Villanueva, general manager.

Next Steps

Third Millennium plans to repeat the auditing process yearly. Syska looks forward to conducting the follow-up audits and plans to offer the service to other clients.

“The beta testing is done,” says Syska associate partner Tom Grimard. “Thanks to our collaboration with Third Millennium, we’re ready to change the status quo.”

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