The Commerce South Office Park – Building B in Edmonton, which has implemented numerous energy-efficient initiatives over the years, is the winner of the Commercial Building of the Year of the 2021 ENERGY STAR Canada Awards.
The awards are given for advancing energy efficiency, and recognize organizations that have demonstrated excellence in offering Canadians the most energy-efficient products and technology available on the market.
At the time of the award, its building occupancy was 97 per cent.
Ailey Roberts, senior manager of sustainable investing for BentallGreenOak, said the award recognizes the top energy performers in Canada.
“With this property, Commerce South Office B, they had a score of 100 out of 100 points. Absolutely one of the top buildings in Canada to receive that score, which means it’s amongst the highest-energy-performing buildings in Canada,” she said.
“It is an incredible recognition of our overall sustainability and energy performance and recognition of being a leader in ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) within Canada, so it’s exceptional to be recognized in this respect.
“It certainly speaks to the incredible hard work of our property management and operations teams that are really doing all the work on the ground every day to manage such an efficient building. Absolutely all credit goes to them in terms of receiving the award and all of their hard work.”
Commerce South’s energy-efficiency efforts
Sean Graham, vice president of property management for the Alberta region for BentallGreenOak, said changes to the older building have taken place over a number of years.
“It’s not one thing in the last couple of years that was done. As sustainability became important in the world, this building followed most of our buildings in Edmonton and across the country. It started with going from fluorescent lights or incandescent . . . to T8 lighting and T12, now to LED lighting,” said Graham.
“Two years ago, we retrofitted the building with LED lighting. So there’s lots of efficiencies there. And I think two years before, we re-did the glazing on the building so the curtain was changed on the building to high-efficiency glass as well.
“In between those years, from the late ’80s, ’90s we started making sure that the building’s systems were updated and upgraded so that it could be fine tuned to the operational hours of the tenants, to the demands of the outside environment, what’s going on, how hot or how cold it is.”
Savings come from not running systems at full capacity on a 24-hour basis, but using them when and where required.
“When those buildings were built, utilities [weren’t] a big deal. What they cost was cheap. Just let it run the way you go. But as sustainability becomes more important, and at the same point helps to drive operating costs down, which helps attract your tenants, it’s just part of what we do every day.”
Wawanesa insurance used to be the building’s anchor tenant, but has recently moved from Building B to Building C at the property. Cole Engineering is one of the larger tenants today, as well as a dental office.
ENERGY STAR and the awards program
Natural Resources Canada, which hands out the ENERGY STAR Canada Awards, said the recognition can inspire Canadians to think differently about how energy is used every day.
ENERGY STAR Canada is a voluntary partnership between the government and more than 1,000 organizations working to use natural resources more wisely through greater energy efficiency. Behind each ENERGY STAR label is a product, home, building or industrial facility that is certified to use less energy, reducing emissions that contribute to climate change.
In 2020, ENERGY STAR-certified products saved enough energy to power over 392,000 homes for a year — the equivalent of removing about 825,000 cars from the road, said the government in a news release.
“When you see the ENERGY STAR label, you know it means energy savings. It saves money on energy bills, helps consumers and businesses make informed decisions, and lowers energy use. This year’s winners are building a more sustainable, energy-efficient and prosperous future,” said Seamus O’Regan Jr., minister of natural resources, in a statement.
When the ENERGY STAR program came to Canada in 2018, Roberts said BentallGreenOak quickly grapsed its significance as a tool to help promote sustainability and energy efficiency of its buildings.
“I think everybody knows the ENERGY STAR label when they look to their oven or their microwave or fridge, washing machine, to know that it’s an energy-efficient product. But they’ve applied this to buildings which helps our tenants and our users or our occupants understand that this building is also energy efficient so they can make that association,” said Roberts.
“There’s a lot of different certifications out there in the market and they may not necessarily mean a lot of things to everybody, so this certification was a very reputable brand and helped to demonstrate that high-energy performance to our occupants who at the end of the day are the ones benefiting from it.
“From an ownership perspective, the certification program and the objective of the certification very much aligns with Sun Life’s sustainability goals and objectives. Sun Life has a very long track record of sustainability and supporting these initiatives from many, many years ago. ”