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CF embarks on $9.5M decarbonization of Vancouver properties

Retrofits of Pacific Centre and Waterfront Properties expected to be complete in 2026

Jesse Gregson, Cadillac Fairview’s vice-president of office operations for Western Canada, speaks at an event announcing the $9.5-million decarbonization of Pacific Centre and Waterfront. (Courtesy Cadillac Fairview)

Cadillac Fairview has committed to a $9.5-million decarbonization project at its Pacific Centre and Waterfront Properties in Vancouver.

Managed by Toronto-headquartered Cadillac Fairview on behalf of co-owners Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan (Cadillac Fairview's owner) and Investment Management Corporation of Ontario, the properties are cornerstones of its Vancouver office portfolio.

Heat recovery retrofits are key to the decarbonization of Pacific Centre and the Waterfront Properties, according to Jesse Gregson, Cadillac Fairview’s vice-president of office operations for Western Canada.

“We implemented our first heat recovery project back in 2014 . . . From our perspective, we look at it as a sustainability leadership opportunity . . . The projects that we’ve been embarking on now are, in terms of the scale of the project, they’re larger, more ambitious,” Gregson said in an interview with Sustainable Biz Canada.

The upgrades are expected to cut 3,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year when complete, marking a significant step toward Cadillac Fairview’s 2030 and 2050 emissions reduction targets.

Retrofitting CF’s Vancouver buildings

Pacific Centre measures over two million square feet across eight office buildings and a shopping centre. Waterfront Properties, located three blocks away, totals approximately 1.2 million square feet of commercial space across four buildings.

The retrofits will cover approximately 2.3 million square feet of office and commercial space in Pacific Centre, and the 395,000-square-foot Granville Square at Waterfront Properties.

In November 2022, the CAGBC certified seven of the office buildings at the two properties under its Zero Carbon Building – Performance certification, followed by another four in August 2023. Cadillac Fairview did not pursue certification for The Station building at Waterfront Properties, though it may consider it in the future.

Gregson said achieving the certifications meant implementing long-term greenhouse gas emissions reduction plans for the buildings. The retrofits flow out of those long-term plans, he continued.

Heat recovery is the most important part of the decarbonization, according to Gregson. Waste heat from the building’s operations are captured and channelled to other building systems using heat recovery chillers and piping, reducing the need for additional outside energy.

Once the upgrades are complete, the buildings can reduce gas-generated steam consumption and thus their overall greenhouse gas emissions.

The retrofits are to be complete by October 2026. In addition to the emissions reductions, energy savings are anticipated to be 53,000 gigajoules per year.

“Those are very substantial reductions in both (greenhouse gas) emissions and energy use,” Gregson said. “They do have a significant operating cost savings aspect as well. Not only are we reducing emissions and energy consumption, but we are also reducing the operating costs for these properties in the long run.”

The investment for the retrofits is approximately $9.5 million, according to Cadillac Fairview, with $1.5 million contributed by the Canadian government’s Low Carbon Economy Fund, and potential incentives from FortisBC and BC Hydro.

The government funding ensures the project is economically viable, Gregson said.

Learning from the retrofit

A notable challenge for Cadillac Fairview with its decarbonization effort was solving the puzzle of the limited space in the buildings, Gregson explained.

To follow through with the retrofits, a heat storage facility and heat recovery chiller equipment in a mechanical room are needed. But most existing buildings do not incorporate space for a heat storage facility, and heat recovery chiller equipment is also not installed in most mechanical rooms. There also must be a new piping system.

A work-around for Cadillac Fairview was tasking the engineers to design the retrofits to fit into tight spaces.

A similar problem was raised by KingSett Capital in its decarbonization of the historic Fairmont Royal York hotel in Toronto.

Meeting Vancouver’s and Cadillac Fairview’s carbon target

The decarbonization efforts will result in reductions that exceed Vancouver’s carbon reduction guidelines for existing large commercial and multifamily buildings, Gregson said.

The municipality has pledged to halve carbon emissions from buildings within its jurisdiction, from a 2007 baseline, by 2030.

Cadillac Fairview’s goals are a 35 per cent greenhouse gas reduction (for Scope 1 and 2) by 2030 from a 2017 baseline, and a 2050 net-zero target. The Vancouver retrofits are a “substantial step toward” those internal targets, Gregson added.

So far, Cadillac Fairview has slashed its greenhouse gas emissions by 19 per cent since 2017, according to the company’s website.

“Cadillac Fairview has been listening to the City of Vancouver and also providing input over the years,” Gregson said. ”I think right now what we’re seeing is that the industry and City of Vancouver are working in step to achieve these goals.”

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