Green tenants focus on space efficiency and employee productivity

Leaders in the green real estate sector in Canada are pursuing employee engagement programs and better space utilization as a way to achieve both business and sustainability goals.
Executives from the Health Care of Ontario Pension Fund (HOOPP), Oxford Properties, Deloitte and RBC, all organizations with significant track records for greening their real estate, sat on a final panel at the recent Green Real Estate Conference in Toronto and touted the benefits of occupant engagement for their sustainability programs.
RBC's sustainability blueprint has been available to all bank employees for several years, said Nadeem Shabbar, RBC's Vice President of Corporate Real Estate.
RBC has a wide-ranging commitment to sustainability that includes sponsorship of its RBC Blue Water Project – a charitable program intended to protect fresh water. It participates in the Toronto Race To Reduce and runs an Earth Day Fair for its employees. The bank’s branches now compete to reduce their environmental footprint, a program that is beginning to reduce energy consumption and related costs in some branches, Shabbar said.
To entice its employees to pursue sustainability, the bank is “connecting behaviours to outcomes,” said Shabbar. The bank celebrates the results of green initiatives and gives points to employees that can be traded in for 'goodies.’
“Changing behaviour really comes down to a cultural change,” he said.

One York Street, a new 800,000 square foot, 35-storey, LEED® Platinum* office development in Toronto’s South Core developed by Menkes where HOOPP is both an owner and will be tenant.
HOOPP benchmarking its environmental footprint
HOOPP’s approach for engaging employees to achieve its sustainability objectives is more direct. The pension fund owns and manages a 36-million square foot portfolio valued at $6 billion. It is also a developer with projects that either meet or exceed the LEED Gold standard.
“We have benchmarked every building in our portfolio,” said Michael Catford, Vice President, and Real Estate Investment, HOOPP. “By benchmarking we have set standards. We are making pretty good progress. Managers have taken it to heart.”
Asked what incentive the employees have to participate in the program Catford replied, “They get to keep their jobs.”
HOOPP's recent developmentys include a joint venture LEED office tower in Toronto at One York Street.
Asked how much space he currently occupies, RBC’s Nadeen Shabbar said: “I have 35 square feet and that is what I sit in., and if you include circulation that goes up to 135 square feet that is essentially RBC’s standard.” RBC has also introduced an alternative work environment called ‘hot desking,’ a system of sharing desks, he said.
When you come onto a floor at RBC today there are 230 people who work on one floor that has only 150 desks. There are anchored as opposed to mobile workers. Those who need a desk are given one while other employees who have more flexibility can book desks or other spaces depending on their requirements. Those workers have “plug and play” technology, said Shabbar, “and that is working very well.”
RBC ‘walks the talk’ about sustainability
It is important that the bank “walk the talk” to retain younger employees, said Shabbar with reference to its sustainability program. “The younger people don’t want an office. They couldn’t care less if they have an office. They just want a “cool place to work so that means we have to invest in technology,” said Shabbar.
RBC is expecting to lease 600,000 square feet at RBC Waterpark Place from its owner, Oxford Properties, when construction is complete. RBC’s space in the building will be open concept with 135 square feet for each of the 4,000 people who will be working there. Some executives will work in the open while others will have their own offices of 150 square feet. These offices will double up as a meeting room and when the executive is traveling, their office will be booked for other meetings.
RBC, which occupies more than 22-million square feet of office space in 1,900 locations and 15 countries, plans to role out this new concept office format for 10,000 of its employees, said Shabbar.

RBC Waterpark Place in Toronto owned by Oxford Properties
Say goodbye to the window office
Deloitte in Toronto is also planning to reduce its per worker footprint by compressing several locations with a total of 520,000 square feet into one location with 420,000 square feet, said Sheila Botting, Senior Practice Partner, Client Cabinet & National Leader, Deloitte Real Estate. The company will shrink its per employee space utilization from 180 square feet to between 130 and 140 square feet.
It is Botting’s job to determine the office requirements for Deloitte’s 3,500 Toronto employees including veterans, baby boomers and many younger employees and to persuade them to buy into the new plan. What is occurring is a “paradigm shift in the way the office is used,” she said.
One challenge is the removal of the “big ego corner office,” a favorite perk that is shown to block natural light. Deloitte’s plan calls for executives to sit with their teams on the floor and a reorganization of workstations to place them closer to windows and daylight.
Access to daylight can produce in a 13% increase of employee productivity according a recent World Green Building Council study. “Offices on the exterior are almost a thing of the past,” said Botting.
Botting said employee productivity is higher in green buildings.
“They reduce employee absenteeism by 35%. Better ventilation can improve productivity by as much as 11% and temperature control 2.5%.” It reduces printing requirements and the shift in working styling improves communication, collaboration and churn is virtually free.
Deloitte is creating an office ‘campus’
“It is not a traditional office, like a cube farm it is more like a campus. We are creating a campus just like our kids who go into school and put their things into a locker and then they can move around,” is how Botting described the new Deloitte space. “It is happening in other places in the world. It is happening in Canada. It is an opportunity.”
Deloitte is leasing 419,000 square feet in the Brookfield Office Properties building under construction at the Bay Adelaide centre in Toronto. It is a 980,000 square foot, 43-storey LEED Platinum facility that Deloitte expects to occupy in 2015.
At Bay Adelaide, Deloitte is creating a downtown campus, explained Botting. “It is all about urban intensification and it is going to be revitalizing a key area with in the city.” The building will have a green roof, a Deloitte café and an historic precinct along Temperance St. that will host public events.
“As a tenant we have a responsibility to go green,” said Botting. For Deloitte sustainability has moved to the top of the list as a part of it real estate strategy. “Sustainability is main stream now – it’s no longer a nice to do“ she said.
Miles Keeping, Partner & Head of Responsible Property Investment, Deloitte Real Estate, said the key is involvement. “The real low hanging fruit is changing behaviors a little bit,” said Keeping. “It requires buy in and that can be difficult. Focus on how you can adjust behaviors in the building and you will get all kinds of dividends, financial and otherwise.”
The most powerful and convincing information for advancing the cause of green real estate is “empirical evidence that productivity works better in green buildings” Keeping said in his concluding remarks at the conference.

Industry Events