International standards: development of IPMS

Inception to implementation

22 May 2018

With IPMS now being widely taken up by the private and public sectors alike, Alexander Aronsohn reviews how they were developed

The International Property Measurement Standards Coalition (IPMSC) was originally founded by 13 not-for-profit organisations that met at the World Bank in May 2013 to discuss the global issue of varying measurement practices for buildings, in and across world regions. The coalition noted that there are many different standards in use around the world, commenting that 'Multiple standards [are] not standards at all!'

The coalition further observed that space measurement is vital, as it acts as a basis – or at the very least a vital component – for many fields, such as architecture and engineering, as well as chartered surveying and most of its specialisms, including agency, building surveying, construction, development, facilities management, quantity surveying and valuation.

In July 2013, the IPMSC selected real-estate experts from around the world to form the Standards Setting Committee (SSC), which would develop global standards for property measurement across all building classes; its members include academics, real-estate fund and asset managers, valuers and specialists in development and construction. The SSC, which initially comprised 18 such technical experts from 11 countries covering 47 different markets, acts independently from the coalition.

Furthermore, to formalise the support of property measurement users and practitioners, the IPMSC created the voluntary status of 'IPMS Partner' for commercial entities. Such partners are listed on the coalition’s website and will be identified through their work as leaders in the adoption of the standards. They are organisations that have registered their support in establishing IPMS across all property markets in which they operate, and they include investors, corporate occupiers, property advisory firms and developers. These organisations committed, in principle, to the use of IPMS once launched, and were identified as early adopters at the forefront of international best practice.

Current developments

Since May 2013, the IPMSC has grown to 87 organisations, with the shared aim of harmonising national property measurement standards through the creation and adoption of agreed international standards for building measurement. The IPMSC not only covers every world region but also works across specialisms. Examples of this in the UK include the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Royal Institute of British Architects, both of which are as committed as RICS to the adoption and implementation of IPMS among all their members.

These organisations, like the other coalition members, not only recognised local measurement-related issues but also that it makes no sense for their clients to have to deal with multiple varying measurements for the same property. Moreover, with new technological developments such as increasing use of building information modelling and advanced measurement equipment, the harmonisation of measurement standards across all disciplines has moved closer to reality. This in turn will create more transparency and reduce risks across all markets.

The coalition organisations have also been busy ensuring that IPMS are incorporated into their existing measurement standards, recent examples of which include:

CEN, the European Committee for Standardization, is in the process of incorporating IPMS into EN 15221 – 6, the European Standard for Area and Space Measurement in Facilities Management, which applies to all countries in the EU. IPMS have also been mentioned in an official document from the EU’s Joint Research Centre to support a new European Commission scheme for sustainability performance of buildings.

The SSC has been extremely active, going through a number of changes in recent years. Many of its members have had their terms renewed on expiration, and new members have been elected to expand the diversification, technical skill sets and global experience as new IPMS are published for all skill classes, so it now comprises 21 members with global experience in close to 100 countries.

An example of the calibre of the new members is Claudio Bernardes, who in addition to being a successful engineer is Past President of Brazilian real-estate syndicate Secovi and the Dean of Secovi University. Another is Dario Trabucco, Research Manager for the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, which is a global organisation with more than 800,000 members.

Standards publication

The IPMSC has been extremely busy over the past few years, and has already published the following standards, all of which are freely available to download on

Before publication, all of these have been through two rounds of consultation, with a consultation document open for three months for comments and an exposure draft for a further two. Moreover, as part of a transparent standard-setting process, the SSC has published consultation feedback documents containing all comments received, together with its response and any resulting amendments made. IPMS have also been translated by coalition members into various languages including Bulgarian, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

The coalition noted that there are many different standards in use around the world, commenting that 'Multiple standards [are] not standards at all!'

The SSC is currently finalising the IPMS Retail Buildings consultation document, which will be made available during the second quarter for 2018 for comments over a three-month period. Depending on the responses received, the SSC is also aiming to issue a further exposure draft, before finalising the standard during the final quarter of this year or the first quarter of 2019. It has also begun work on harmonising IPMS across all building classes and drafting a mixed-use standard, which will incorporate other building classes such as hotels and hospitals or medical centres.

Adoption and implementation

It is perhaps in adoption and implementation of IPMS by the partners that the most recent progress has been made. Over the past few years, more than 300 partners have committed to the adoption and implementation of IPMS including government signatories, advisors and consultancies, corporate occupiers, data providers, developers and contractors, investors, measurement companies and universities and institutions. These include:

Serviced office providers such as Bruntwood have likewise adopted IPMS measurements for all their properties, as have BNP Paribas and GlaxoSmithKline. The latter is having a portfolio of properties in France, Switzerland and the UK measured to IPMS to enable effective benchmarking and facilities management. Royal London Asset Management has also requested that all its properties be measured according to IPMS.

One of the most recent examples of this is Shanghai Tower, which has recently been measured to IPMS and at 632 metres (2,073 feet) is the world’s second tallest building by height to architectural top. In fact, a leading investment building consultancy firm has advised us that it now provides all its measurements, whether requested or not, on a dual reporting basis including IPMS, to prepare for these becoming the de facto measurement standard and thus futureproof clients’ measurements.

Government signatories that have committed to the implementation of IPMS include the following:

  • Ajman Real Estate Regulatory Agency;
  • Bahrain government;
  • Dubai government’s Land Department;
  • Housing New Zealand;
  • Cayman Islands government’s Lands & Survey;
  • Jamaican National Land Agency; and
  • UK government.

Finally, IPMS together with the International Ethical Standards and International Construction Measurement Standards are currently being incorporated into the Qatar national standards and also Abu Dhabi standards, with talks on the former at a fairly advanced stage. In a UK context, the Welsh government is using IPMS for both sales and facilities management.

Alexander Aronsohn is Director, Techincal Standards, at RICS

Further information