LEED Gold the New Standard for Oxford

Fresh off the announcement that its RBC WaterPark Place office building in downtown Toronto will become the city’s first LEED Platinum tower, the cutting-edge developer said it has set LEED Gold as its starting point.

“We have established LEED Gold as our minimum target for any new building,” said Mark Cote, Vice-President of Development with Oxford Properties. “Based on the specifics of any new project, we are looking very carefully at introducing enhanced features that would result in a more energy efficient and sustainable project,”

That’s a road that Oxford went down with the WaterPark Place tower with its lead tenant RBC. The companies, along with co-owner CPPIB, discovered during the design process that they could raise the building from Gold to Platinum status with a few enhancements, giving the project a unique status in Toronto. At least for now.

Cote believes that other developers are going to have to aim for at least LEED Gold going forward as well. “I think it has effectively become the standard for new office buildings,” he said. “Certainly from what we are seeing, across the country, in virtually every market, LEED Gold has become the standard.”

RBC WaterPark Place was “far past” LEED Gold status thanks to state-of-the-art building design. What pushed the office tower from Gold to Platinum was a focus on energy efficiency and the design of the mechanical plant. A key change was to redesign the mechanical system to accommodate a dual duct ventilation system that allowed for the separation of ventilation air from heating and cooling. “It provides the air where you need to provide it” – where people work – and can be flowed at lower rates to places people are not, such as storage.

The other game changer for the building came when Oxford worked with deep water cooling supplier Enwave to extend its system (which sounds paradoxical), to the city’s fast-developing waterfront. “Enwave hadn’t until now had the infrastructure until now had in the infrastructure in place to connect the buildings in that area to their system.”

Other tweaks include going from single to dual flush toilets and high-tech air filters. “There are a number of additional measures that were taken to achieve LEED Platinum.” Glass fins on the outside of the building, which will cut cooling requirements by reducing the amount of sunlight that enters while maintaining a bright interior office space, were an early feature of the tower.

Another Oxford Platinum Tower for Hog Town?

Cote said the developer has learned some lessons from the WaterPark experience which it intends to utilize on its next downtown Toronto building, slated for 100 Adelaide West. “It is our stated objective to target (LEED) Platinum” with the new Toronto project.

The National Post said the proposed building would be similar in size to the 900,000-square-foot WaterPark Place. A new tower in the downtown business core would put it in competition for tenants with Brookfield Office Properties’ planned second tower at the Bay Adelaide Centre, set for completion in late 2015 or early 2016.

“We haven’t completed our designs so I can’t say that we are necessarily going to match what has been done for WaterPark, but it is going to have a lot of the same characteristics,.” Cote said of the tower. Given that the proposed building is within Enwave’s service area, deep water cooling is all but a given for the tower should Oxford go ahead with it.

A History of LEED Firsts

Although Cote and Darryl Neate, Oxford’s Director of Sustainability, both stressed that the developer is looking at building performance rather than LEED designation, tenants are increasingly coming to understand the construction benchmark.

Oxford is as big a fan of the LEED rating system with a strong track record of support,” said Neate. “The first LEED EB building, multi-tenant in Canada (MetroCentre Tower Toronto) was ours. The first bank tower LEED EB complex was ours (Royal Bank Tower). The first in Western Canada LEED EB, Canterra Tower (Calgary) was ours. There is a history of support for the LEED standard…but what I do see happening across the market, not just at Oxford, is the focus on performance first and foremost – as well as the LEED certification.”

Oxford has also developed more building product over the past five years than any other developer in the country, the company said.

The key building performance measures that Oxford considers include energy use (ekWh/ft2), water use, indoor air quality standards, and waste diversion rates.

“Oxford Property Group Website: 21.9% reduction in green house gas emissions, resulting in Oxford meeting Target 2012”

In the Oxford Pipeline

The developer currently has three properties under construction: WaterPark Place in Toronto, 1021 West Hastings in Vancouver and The Leadenhall Building in London’s financial district. Vancouver’s West Hastings (also known as the MNP Tower) will be built to LEED Gold and has notable design features such as triple glazed windows and a VRF (Variable Refrigerant Flow) mechanical system which is widely used in Asia. The combination of the two features allows Oxford to eliminate perimeter heating in the building. “It was a very efficient way to achieve the overall energy delivery for the building,” said Cote.

Oxford has three additional building in the development pipeline: the LEED Platinum building on Adelaide West in Toronto and office towers for Calgary and Vancouver.

The developer said that it continues to evaluate current and next-generation technologies. One of those is “chilled beams” HVAC systems for heating and cooling and the incorporation of integrated solar photovoltaics in buildings. “The (solar) technology is just starting to reach the point where it is something that we feel might make sense for us to incorporate,” said Cote.

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