LEED certification put energy efficiency on the radar of office tenants making lease decisions, and WELL building standards are starting to measure how workspaces can affect the health and fitness of employees.
Now comes WiredScore, a New York City startup that seeks to set the industry standard for rating reliable, robust Internet service. The company has conducted audits and certified more than 80 office buildings in Greater Boston, including Newton-based National Development’s entire portfolio. Needham-based Bulfinch Cos. last week announced Wired Certified Gold certification for six office buildings in Boston, Needham, Newton and Waltham.
“We get asked the question all the time recently: `What is the basic infrastructure and what is the potential for additional connection points or services?’” said Andrew Gallinaro, a senior vice president at National Development. “If we’ve recently acquired a property, we’re constantly scrambling to find the information. To have this all available in a neat package is a time-saver for us and tenants.”
Redundancy and a variety of available service providers rank near the top of tenants’ wish lists, Gallinaro said.
After stints in business consulting, Arie Barendrecht co-founded WiredScore in 2013 with Jared Kushner, the New York real estate mogul and adviser to President Trump. WiredScore formed a public-private partnership called WiredNYC with the New York City Economic Development Corp. and promptly signed up more than 150 buildings owned by big landlords including Tishman Speyer, Vornado and Jamestown Properties.
“When you’re developing an industry standard, to have the mayor of New York stand behind you and say this is the endorsed by the city is critical, particularly in real estate where credibility is integral to convincing landlords to introduce a brand-new concept,” Barendrecht said.
As is typical in real estate, timing was critical. Just a year earlier, Hurricane Sandy swept through the city and awakened landlords to the vulnerability of commercial buildings. Along with such factors as connectivity speeds and choice of Internet providers, WiredScore assesses buildings’ ability to maintain online connections despite utility outages and equipment damage. Some buildings, for example, have roof-mounted antennas enabling them to stay online if flooding takes out street-level cable connections, Barendrecht said.
Following an expansion into the United Kingdom in 2015, WiredScore has certified more than 750 buildings globally with a footprint of approximately 315 million square feet. In late March, it publicly released its first set of guidelines for architects and developers, intended as a how-to guide for new developments and retrofits.
As the first step in the certification process, a telecommunications engineer visits a property and documents the digital infrastructure. Clients also submit paperwork on telecom systems, and receive a report comparing their property to peer buildings with suggestions for upgrades.
Building owners pay an up-front fee for the 2-year certification based upon square-footage and whether they own an existing building, new development or retrofit. Average fees are $10,000 for a 300,000-square-foot building, Berendrecht said.
Boston-based Paradigm Properties can point to its Wired Certified Gold rating at CityPlace I, a 38-story tower in downtown Hartford and Connecticut’s tallest building. Although the tower is more than 92-percent leased, Paradigm anticipates that the rating will provide a competitive advantage in future tenant negotiations, President John Caldwell said.
“If you’ve got the best building in town, which we do, you want to make sure that you check all of the boxes,” he said. “Our brokers are certainly using it as a selling point.”