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Brookfield Secures WELL Health-Safety Rating For 200M SF Portfolio In Bid To Bring Back Workers, Shoppers

Major landlord Brookfield Properties' office and retail portfolios in North America have achieved the International WELL Building Institute's WELL Health-Safety Rating.

Brookfield Place New York

The office portfolio includes almost 100 buildings totaling more than 75M SF, which Brookfield says is the largest office portfolio ever to achieve the rating. The company's retail portfolio includes 114 shopping centers totaling about 125M SF.

"The WELL rating is a perfect way for us to communicate to the larger public," Brookfield Properties Managing Partner Bill Powell told Bisnow. "Anyone who is a guest at one of our properties will be able to see that we subscribe to the highest level of health and well-being. That's why we pursued the designation."

The Health-Safety Rating existed before the coronavirus pandemic, but the spread of the virus has given extra impetus for building owners such as Brookfield to communicate their efforts to keep their buildings safe, Powell said. 

"We'd already upgraded our properties extensively since the onset of the pandemic and didn't need to do more to achieve the rating," Powell said. "In fact, by most measures, we go beyond what's required for the designation." 

In New York, Brookfield Properties workers came back to their offices at 30% capacity as soon as the state of New York allowed the company to do so, and Brookfield then began incorporating its updated building health and safety protocols, Powell said.

"We've been sharing those protocols with our tenants ever since last July, helping them craft their own return-to-work program using what we've learned by being back at work," Powell said.

"We've started seeing a very steady increase in the number of people coming back to our buildings," Powell said. "We expect business at our properties to be pretty close to normal by September because there's a strong incentive to come back.

"Most of our properties are in urban centers, with tenants that include financial, law and consulting firms. They recognize the efficiencies of working from home, but also the lack of collaboration and spontaneous conversation. It's impossible to be a mentor to somebody on a Zoom call."

The process of receiving the WELL Health-Safety Rating took about five months for Brookfield, Powell said, including detailed review of the company's operational procedures and on-site visits to interview property management teams.

About 1.8B SF of commercial properties have WELL ratings. A WELL Health-Safety Rating involves meeting a number of third-party-verified criteria involving cleaning and sanitization procedures, enhanced ventilation and particle filtration, water quality management and emergency preparedness programs, among others. 

IWBI has seven pillars that the organization uses to define the wellness of a building: light, comfort, nutrition, fitness, water, air and mind. Good air quality and natural light are important considerations, according to IWBI, including a building's air filtration systems and window design. Also important are buildings that offer healthy food, opportunities for breaks between meetings and educational programs for tenants.