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Big upgrades earn Vancouver’s Bentall Centre CaGBC award

No longer is Vancouver’s multi-tower downtown Bentall Centre your “grandpa’s office.” Owners Huds...

IMAGE: The Bentall Centre office and retail complex in downtown Vancouver. (Courtesy Hudson Pacific Properties)

The Bentall Centre office and retail complex in downtown Vancouver. (Courtesy Hudson Pacific Properties)

No longer is Vancouver’s multi-tower downtown Bentall Centre your “grandpa’s office.” Owners Hudson Pacific Properties and Blackstone Property Partners have made extensive upgrades, leading to the complex winning the Canada Green Building Council’s (CaGBC) 2022 award for existing building operations.

“We’ve worked really hard since since Hudson purchased [the centre] in 2019, to make a lot of changes. The Bentall Centre had grown into this grandpa’s office image over the past few years,” said Shawn Punton, Hudson Pacific’s director of operations, during a webinar to discuss sustainability changes to the property.

“So Hudson Pacific is really putting a lot of effort, along with our partner . . . into bringing it up to today’s standards, and really competing with some of the new office products that are coming online in Vancouver and trying to make it a sustainable and healthy place.”

The Bentall Centre comprises four towers totalling 1.5 million square foot of office and retail shopping centre space in Vancouver’s financial district.

Purchased in a joint venture with Blackstone from China’s Anbang Insurance Group, Hudson Pacific owns 20 per cent of the complex and serves as operating manager. Blackstone owns the remaining 80 per cent and serves as managing partner.

Punton was joined on the panel by Nikki Stewart, Hudson Pacific’s property manager. The webinar was moderated by Daniel Beaudin-Hall, the CaGBC’s market engagement specialist for Eastern Canada.

Constructed between 1967 and 1982, the centre is broken down into 1.35 million square feet of office space and 150,000 square feet of retail. Major tenants include the Bank of Montreal, Deloitte Management Services, WeWork and CIBC World Markets.

Aside from the CaGBC award, the centre also won the 2022 NAIOP commercial real estate award for tenant improvement. It is LEED Platinum, Energy Star, Fitwel and BOMA BEST Silver-certified.

Bentall Centre improvements

In 2020, Hudson Pacific (HPP-N) built a new regional office at the centre. It enlisted the help of the Toronto-based climate advisory firm Manifest Climate — then known as Mantle 314.

The focus was on reducing embodied carbon, specifically through wall systems tile, carpet, T-bar ceilings and gypsum wall boards.

One example given involved switching carpet tiles, from Shaw Community Collection 5T321 Flat Weave to Interface World Woven WW880, which Hudson Pacific estimates saved five tonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide. In total, the company states it reduced the centre’s embodied carbon by 23 per cent from an industry-average baseline scenario — something Punton states was accomplished without a significant budget increase.

From 2020 to 2021, the centre has undergone HVAC and lighting reduction projects and had its boiler burners upgraded to high-efficiency — with the end goal being electrification. The owners have also begun a request for proposals on a sub-metering system.

“I think that it’s pretty well known, at least in the sub-metering industry, that if you sub-meter tenants’ spaces, and they can see their consumption and they feel the cost of it, they will reduce their consumption,” Punton explained. “It’s been proven time and time again.”

Waste diversion, water reduction efforts

He mentioned moving to a “smart building-type setup” down the line.

The centre currently has a 76 per cent landfill diversion rate and is on track to reach 90 per cent by 2025. Part of that has come from its work with the local Binners’ Project, a fee-for-service waste sorting program where ‘binners,’ often homeless or otherwise marginalized individuals, can sort through waste for reusable or recyclable containers.

The Bentall Centre also downsized its water features by 70 per cent.

“With our water conservation efforts, using our low-flow fixtures throughout the centre has really been something that has started quite a while ago, we’ve begun installing leak detection devices in low points around the centre,” Stewart said. “This is definitely something that we’ve identified as an area for us to expand upon in the coming years.”

Hudson Pacific is also developing a 450,000-square-foot hybrid mass timber office and retail space at the Bentall Centre campus. It will utilize up to 30,000 square foot floorplates and 21,000 square feet of terrace and porch space, along with lockers for over 700 bikes.

It is also adding additional sustainability criteria to its leases, including the sharing of energy data and implementing charges on additional HVAC requests from tenants.

Hudson Pacific’s goals

Founded in 2006, the Los Angeles-headquartered REIT went public on the NYSE in 2010. Including land under development, Hudson Pacific manages over 21 million square feet of real estate across Los Angeles, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Seattle and Vancouver, as well as over 60 sound stages in Los Angeles and London.

It counts Netflix, Uber, Google and Amazon among its clients.

Originally, the company planned to achieve carbon neutrality across its portfolio by 2025; it accomplished this goal by 2020. According to Punton, this was due to a mix of energy efficiency, on and off-site renewables and carbon offsets.

“I think being a REIT kind of makes us a little bit more open,” Punton said. “We have a lot more interest in pushing these types of sustainability goals, because we want investors to want to be a part of us and have our company in their portfolio.”

In 2021, Hudson Pacific was given a five-star rating by the investor-led ESG assessment organization GRESB for the third consecutive year. As of the end of 2021, 82 per cent of its office portfolio is LEED certified — 98 per cent of which is at the Gold or Platinum level —  and 71 per cent is Energy Star certified.

For the future, the REIT plans to engage in retro-commissioning and energy audits, formalize processes for implementing efficient technology and create a plan to decarbonize its buildings.

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