“It’s a piece of financing that represents the capital going into the building and of the efforts we’re undertaking,” said Jamie Cooper, portfolio manager at Dream Impact Fund, in an interview with SustainableBiz.
The loan is part of a growing trend within the financial industry to provide a new lending product based around combating climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Green loans are part of HSBC’s pledge to commit US$100 billion of financing to companies and projects which are supporting sustainability.
In the real estate sector, the loans are available to businesses to upgrade or develop their workplaces to a low-carbon and climate-friendly environment. Cooper said being able to access this type of funding provides independent affirmation the work going into the Sussex Centre project supports Dream’s sustainability efforts.
“It’s a signal on Dream’s commitment and third-party verification that the work going into the building is both genuine and legitimate,” he said.
The buildings are co-owned by Dream Office REIT and Dream Impact Trust.
Dream and the Sussex Centre
The Sussex Centre was built in 1989 and comprises 651,000 square feet in two office buildings and a podium. The buildings at 50 and 90 Burnhamthorpe Road are already certified BOMA Best Gold and LEED Silver, but Cooper said the plan is to re-certify the site as LEED Gold.
“It makes a ton of sense, because the work we’re doing in the building is focused on lowering the carbon and energy footprint,” he said.
While sustainability has always been part of Dream’s core beliefs as a company, ranging from environmental concerns and energy efficiency, Cooper said Dream is also putting an emphasis on the social considerations of its buildings.
He added the COVID-19 pandemic has put the onus on property managers to ensure they are not only providing a building, but a livable building for office workers.
“We are in the service industry,” Cooper said, “so we have to provide our tenants with a desirable space.”
Some of the changes slated for Sussex Centre include the installation of charging pods for electric vehicles and end-of-trip facilities for bicycle commuters, including storage and showers. The desire to encourage different modes of transportation is part of the noticeable shift within North America, Cooper said.
“We’re really trying to encourage people to bike by providing them the amenities and the services that they need so they can show up to work and be ready for the day.”
The company also intends to improve its water efficiency by installing low-flow toilets, fixtures, and leak detection technology in the washrooms and main electrical/mechanical rooms.
Cooper said more specific information on sustainability goals would be available in May.
“Sustainable doesn’t mean just the environment,” he said, “it means doing things economically and other things that can balance the equilibrium.”
Dream’s additional projects
The Sussex Centre project is not the only green investment by Dream Impact Trust.
It is also a major investor in Zibi, a 34-acre, mixed-use development in Ottawa/Gatineau which will include about 2,000 housing units as well as significant commercial, retail and other spaces; and the West Don Lands in Toronto, the purpose-built rental LEED Gold community which will also comprise about 2,000 housing units.
Cooper said it’s important for him to be involved with a company invested in trying to create social and environmental change.
“Being at a place where you’re surrounded by people who share the same views and are motivated to do the best work for people and the planet,” he said.
With the new green financing options, Cooper said it can be both economically and environmentally advantageous to upgrade an existing building rather than trying to tear it down.
“Retrofitting existing buildings to make them relevant and leasable today is really much more energy efficient than knocking them down and having to build a new building,” he said.
Cooper said Dream intends to continue to be a leader in the sustainable real estate sector, which will only grow in the future.
“A lot of the new construction that we’re doing, we’re building to very strong environmental standard,” he said. “And then on the income property side, we’re making a concerted effort to improve our buildings.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was amended to correct an error in Jamie Cooper’s name. SustainableBiz.ca apologizes for the error.