Building for the future: How certifications embrace change to remain relevant


Our industry is engaged in an important dialogue to improve sustainability through ESG transparency and industry collaboration. This article is a contribution to this larger conversation and does not necessarily reflect GRESB’s position.

Certifications play an important role in the real estate industry, serving as markers of quality, sustainability, and operational excellence. Certification bodies, in general, are a force for good, helping to advance critical topics through the regular evolution of their standards, market engagement, and research and development.

How do certifications ensure they remain effective?

Certifications must become leading indicators to enable landlords to understand how landlords can maximize their building’s potential and how their design and operations compare against the rest of the market. This is achieved by setting globally applicable standards for building performance executed by impartial and independent rating schemes.

Certifications and the standards that underlie them do not achieve any value without their practical application to buildings. It is the responsibility of the certification bodies to educate practitioners and the market, which is greatly enabled by the delivery of a recognized accredited professional program. This program should not only extend the reach of the certification but also ensure that it becomes an integral part of building design and operations rather than simply a supplementary consideration.

Evolving standards

As user expectations of buildings continuously evolve and technology advances, certifications must evolve too. User research and insights from a global community of stakeholders, including investors, landlords, occupiers, solution providers, and industry experts, are key to the success of any certification review.

Key themes will emerge from this cooperative market research, helping the certification bodies create updated standards. This will ensure certifications continue to provide the foundation for the market to evolve, embrace new technologies, and meet users’ changing expectations.

For example, in 2023, WiredScore updated both of its main standards following consultation with the market on two key themes: the enhanced alignment with ESG goals and a greater emphasis on return on investment (ROI).

Enhanced alignment with ESG goals

WiredScore strengthened how it assesses the resilience of internet infrastructure in the face of emerging risks, such as climate change. Moreover, its improved mapping of criteria to ESG goals enabled decision-makers to make more informed choices about achieving their goals.

Greater emphasis on ROI

The macroeconomic climate continues to impose budgetary strains, forcing investment consolidation into core smart technology features that truly drive value. As a result, WiredScore streamlined the SmartScore scorecard, allowing landlords to deliver a higher return on the metrics that matter most to their occupiers and investors.

How should certification experience be optimized?

When it comes to improving deliverability, certification bodies should aim to streamline the certification process without compromising their commitment to quality standards. This enables buildings to become certified more efficiently and effectively while still unlocking the certification’s full potential.

It is also important that the process is streamlined for both the development and occupation lifecycle stages of a building. Generally, these lifecycle stages will be qualified by different certification measures. However, ensuring a smooth transition from assessing building design to building performance delivers great value to all stakeholders involved.

Finally, ensuring ever-improving criteria-level guidance, using feedback from landlords, accredited professionals, and industry experts, and optimizing certification assessment tools ensures that participation in the certification process itself is as rewarding as the benefits of completing it.

Embracing technology for ESG excellence: A certification success story

In the face of increasing environmental and societal challenges such as the digital divide, health, wellness, and cybersecurity, technology’s role in building management has become crucial. Real estate has certifications adapted by integrating smart technologies to meet new ESG targets, such as achieving net-zero carbon emissions.

Consider the example of 40 Leadenhall in London. The building, which totals 900,000 square feet of commercial space, aims for sustainability and a design that is focused on multiple ESG criteria.

Given its size, relying solely on human intervention was not practical. The building management, motivated to achieve SmartScore certification, used smart technology to serve its sustainability goals. By implementing advanced Building Management Systems (BMSs) and Energy Management Systems (EMSs), the building ensured effective control of power, lighting, heating, cooling, and ventilation. In addition, the building optimized data analysis, enabling an accurate performance review and the ability to set a benchmark for building sustainability.

This case study exemplifies the broader movement within the real estate industry toward integrating advanced technologies to meet emerging ESG challenges. It highlights the certification bodies’ pivotal role in driving change by updating their standards to reflect the importance of technology in achieving sustainability goals, thus ensuring their relevance in an ever-evolving landscape.

This article was written by Sanjaya Ranasinghe, Global Director of R&D at WiredScore.