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“It’s important to think about these issues. We are a long-term investor and we want to future-proof our buildings, whether that means from increases in utility rates to climate regulations. Sustainability is about preparing our buildings for the future, which is in our best interests as an investor, and our members and pensioners.” – Derek Billsman

 


 

Derek Billsman

Recycling boxes of different hues are ubiquitous across Canada, but they didn’t arrive overnight. Rather, their use evolved as residents became more attuned to environmental sensibilities.
Much the same can be said about the ‘green’ evolution of office development in urban centres, reaching the point where it’s no longer unique to work in an office tower that offers a range of sustainability features, from recycling to solar panels on the roof.
“We are definitely seeing, particularly with office space, that being in a green building, most likely a LEED gold building, is becoming more prevalent … a kind of minimum requirement for tenants in large urban centres, and increasingly in the suburbs and secondary markets as well,” Derek Billsman told ARIA recently.
Billsman, the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan’s (HOOPP) real estate management and sustainability director, continued that green development typified by a LEED rating (there are four: certified, silver, gold and platinum) also delivers value for investment.
“It’s important to think about these issues. We are a long-term investor and we want to future-proof our buildings, whether that means from increases in utility rates to climate regulations. Sustainability is about preparing our buildings for the future, which is in our best interests as an investor, and our members and pensioners.”
Part of that evolution is one of HOOPP’s own green initiatives, the Leadership in Environmental Advancement Program (LEAP) Awards. Started in 2012, it recognizes the top sustainability achievers in the HOOPP real estate portfolio, explains Billsman.
“HOOPP has been tracking energy, water and waste data and other sustainability metrics for a number of years and we wanted to not only track and aggregate all this information, we wanted to specifically call out and reward those who were performing particularly well.”
A related conference grew alongside the awards, held this year June 8th at HOOPP’s new home, 1 York Street in Toronto. The theme of the 2017 conference was, Evolution: Building a Smart Future.
“Our Canadian and international business and management partners were coming to the awards, and the conference was a good opportunity to get them together to talk about real estate sustainability successes, challenges, trends and innovations … to share best practises, and learn from each other.”
The theme of evolution was considered particularly relevant given the rapid pace of change in the industry, ranging from technology to climate regulations, says Billsman. The conference offered a keynote address by Dr. Chris Pyke, chief strategy officer for Aclima, discussion panels and presentations on sustainability issues.
Pyke discussed the evolution of green buildings, and how part of that growth was the addition of performance data to green certificates, providing tenants with a greater degree of transparency about a building’s sustainability footprint, says Billsman.
“He was really talking about what happens when this information becomes more transparent to your tenant … and what that means for landlords.”
The panel discussion, The Evolution of Buildings: Technology in Action, looked at the technological transformation the real estate sector is facing. It reviewed current and emerging technologies that could be useful in improving the sustainability performance of buildings.
Brett Phillips, Unico Properties’ director of sustainability real estate and renewable energy, discussed the advantages of creating their own internal solar company, how it creates value for owners and tenants. An additional panel discussion was on landlord/tenant collaboration efforts.
“We had some tenants on the panel who addressed what they were looking for from a sustainability perspective, including lower operation costs and what needs to happen from a landlord/tenant collaboration perspective. A more collaborative approach is a huge factor when it comes to how much energy, water and waste a building uses and produces,” says Billsman.
The greening of buildings is not restricted to large urban centres, occurring in smaller communities as well as owners and tenants develop a greater understanding of the benefits delivered by such development. It’s a work in progress, with investors like HOOPP making sustainable development a core part of an investment strategy.
That commitment is detailed in HOOPP’s report, Our Evolving Approach to Sustainability, which identifies the fund’s strategy as being multi-dimensional. It focuses on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors spanning the “real estate life cycle, from acquisitions and developments to day-to-day operations and capital planning,” the report states.
Sustainability highlights from 2016 include reduced energy consumption, a smaller carbon footprint, and 13 per cent more waste diverted from landfills.
As might be expected, the new home at 1 York Street was built with sustainability in mind. Its environmental stats include:
• Wood used in construction was exclusively Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified
• Ninety per cent of construction waste was sent to recycling facilities
• Enwave’s Deep Lake Water Cooling System is in use for the building
• A Photovoltaics (PV) solar panel array is installed on the roof.
“It’s a well connected location, a pedestrian-friendly site. We have over 300 parking spaces for bikes, it’s directly connected to Union Station, has nine EV charging stations and 12 car-share spaces as well,” says Billsman, who adds “all of this is going to help 1 York achieve its LEEP platinum certification for which we are currently registered.”
In the end, it’s all about the promise to deliver pensions, and the greening of buildings helps to make that promise sustainable.
“By owning assets that are going to be relevant in the future, we are protecting the value of those assets. It’s about a long-term approach … continuing to attract tenants and that helps pay for pensions.”

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