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What We Learned: Thoughts on Winning the International TOBY Earth Award

By Rick Pospisil, RPA

Property Manager, FBI Chicago Regional Office

As property managers, we are charged with preserving and enhancing the owner’s asset and serving the needs of our tenants. Getting recognition from our peers is the ultimate compliment and a true reflection of the hard work, energy and passion we bring to the job every day.

In June, the FBI Chicago Regional Headquarters had the good fortune of earning the International TOBY in the Earth Award category, BOMA’s highest honor recognizing environmentally sustainable property management. The building won over six other outstanding, well-managed properties located throughout North America. It truly was a magical moment for the USAA Real Estate team  when our property was announced during the BOMA International Conferencein Washington, D.C.


Rick Pospisil, RPA, Property Manager at FBI Chicago Regional Office; Brenna Walraven, Executive Managing Director of USAA Real Estate Company; and Michael Cornicelli, Executive Vice President of BOMA/Chicago at the International TOBY Awards Gala

Through August 31, the local, BOMA/Chicago TOBY competition is open to all Building Members interested in taking on the challenge. Reflecting back on last year’s TOBY application process, here’s some advice for fellow property managers to consider:

  • Make it a Team Effort. Every member of the USAA Real Estate management team participated in our entry. Our team was led by me and included the chief and assistant engineer, our property assistant, the journeyman engineer and the cleaning supervisor. We felt it was critical to have everyone involved and on the same page. Plus, we maintain that staff is more committed and will take more pride if they know from the onset that they’re part of the process.
  • Establish a TOBY “Situation Room.” To prepare for the onsite judges visit, we reserved a separate conference room that had everything we wanted to highlight and showcase, plus enough room for the judges and staff.  On the conference room table, we neatly arranged binders containing cleaning records, supply purchases and MSDS sheets of products and cleaning equipment. Several pieces of cleaning equipment were positioned in the room; each had spec sheets attached that reflected low decibels and low HEPA filters.
  • The Clock is Ticking. Allow for sufficient time to complete the online application and prepare for the onsite visit. Gear up for a lot of hard work, but as noted above, involving the entire staff will help spread the work load and contribute to the sense of camaraderie.
  • Little Things Mean a Lot. We went out of our way to creatively and clearly showcase the FBI Chicago Regional Headquarters in the best possible way. For example, we systematically reviewed every judging category requirement and prepared binders that included every piece of information requested. Each binder had a clear table of contents and included a professionally-shot photograph that related to the contents.  If your property does advance to the Regional and International competition, the judging gets much tougher and small details will play a major factor.

FBI Chicago Regional Office

We think about sustainability every day in our building, and we promote the concept as much as possible to our tenants. In fact, our building was the first in the world to earn the Platinum Level LEED EB O&M from the USGBC. Earning the Earth Award justifies our commitment to the environment as well as our tenants. During each TOBY victory, we celebrated with our entire building.

Winning a major award has a positive effect on the entire company. I hope our TOBY will motivate other USAA-managed office properties to enter the process and compete. My staff worked hard throughout the process, and frankly I was relieved that their efforts really paid off in the end. What’s more, the FBI was thrilled, since the Earth Award marked the first time any FBI property captured a TOBY award of any kind.

I’d welcome thoughts and comments from other BOMA/Chicago Building Members that have advanced through the local, regional and international TOBY competition.  Your property can, too. Take the TOBY challenge and try.