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GWLRA survey creates office tenant wish list

Canadian office tenants want more food options, and easier access to fresh air, fitness and welln...

IMAGE: GWLRA says the Vancouver Centre II office tower design will respond to the latest results of its internal worker/tenant survey. (Courtesy GWLRA)

GWLRA says the Vancouver Centre II office tower design will respond to the latest results of its internal worker/tenant survey. (Courtesy GWLRA)

Canadian office tenants want more food options, and easier access to fresh air, fitness and wellness, according to an internal survey by one of the country’s largest office providers.

GWL Realty Advisors (GWLRA) performs a survey of its Canadian tenants every three years to examine office design and building amenity preferences along with tenants’ commuting habits.

The real estate development, management and advisory firm canvassed the views of 3,701 office employees in six metropolitan regions in Canada. It asked tenants about amenities not currently available at their buildings which could possibly be implemented. The results help to guide changes to building design and portfolio management.

The most requested amenities by Canadian office tenants in GWLRA-owned buildings were coffee shops and outdoor seating areas, followed closely by convenience stores and fitness centres, as well as bicycle-end-of-trip lockers and showers.

The survey was conducted by Leger via an online questionnaire with management and tenants at 31 GWLRA buildings located in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax between Sept. 17 and Oct. 9, 2018.

GWLRA has a total of 67 office buildings under management in Canada.

Tenants seek new amenities

The surveys used to focus on elements such as building noise, cleanliness and general operations, said Wendy Waters, vice-president of research services and strategy, GWLRA.

“For the last three surveys, maybe four, we’ve been adding on additional questions to better understand how office users are thinking about their space (and) using their space,” she told RENX in an interview.

She said the results are helping to future-proof their existing buildings and improve the designs and amenities for future buildings, such as Vancouver Centre II, GWLRA’s 370,000-square foot office tower under construction with partners in downtown Vancouver.

“Maybe in the past an employer (has) been able to ignore some of those needs of their workers in their space, but not anymore,” she said, noting that Vancouver’s low unemployment rate is putting more power into the hands of prospective workers.

Transit, bike facilities, healthy food … 

Waters said having a transit-friendly location turned out to be another important factor for tenants.

Bicycle and end-of-trip facilities were also a common request for tenants in buildings that lack such amenities, she said.

Meanwhile, parking for cars is becoming less important in Canada’s largest cities.

“For Vancouver, 79 per cent (of respondents) at least occasionally take transit to work, and only 50 per cent — at least — occasionally drive a car,” Waters said. “This is all telling us that the trend toward bikes and having the end-of-trip (facilities) is growing.

“As we grow further with city infrastructure on cycling, we need to be prepared for that.”

Another major request was having food and beverage options in the building, including healthy food choices and other wellness options.

The most recent results are playing a role in the design of Vancouver Centre II. “(We’re) certainly looking at having a restaurant, (or) sit-down options,” Waters said.

Between 48 and 55 per cent of national respondents were interested in taking part in yoga at their building. The highest, at 55 per cent, was in Vancouver, while 52 per cent of downtown Toronto tenants requested yoga.

Overall, Waters said it appears the most sought-after amenity (for buildings that don’t have them) are fitness centres.

“Tenants won’t look at your building if you don’t have fitness,” she said. “That’s a big takeaway.”

Building sustainability

Sustainability and wellness is another important factor. Recycling, energy management, and composting were the initiatives which most resonated with tenants.

Vancouver Centre II, for example, will be LEED Platinum certified. The building will have 290 bike parking spaces, a fitness centre with its own outdoor space for stretching and yoga, as well as locations for tenants to socialize.

Buildings are  not just commodities anymore, Waters said. “There is a desire for a healthier experience.”

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