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Nutrien Tower achieves rare LEED Platinum certification

Saskatoon building is one of four in Canada to achieve this milestone

The Nutrien Tower was certified LEED Platinum for interior design and construction for commercial interiors. (Courtesy Bob Holtsman, Nutrien)

Nutrien Tower in downtown Saskatoon has become part of an exclusive club of Canadian buildings, achieving LEED Platinum certification thanks to the embodiment of sustainability in every aspect of its design, and within the company’s culture.

Fertilizer company Nutrien (NTR-T) is the anchor tenant of the 18-storey building, which became the first in Saskatchewan and the fourth in Canada to be LEED Platinum-certified for interior design and construction for commercial interiors.

It met the requirements set by LEED in areas including energy efficiency, materials selection and sustainable site development.

The benefits come not just from saving money through efficiency and reducing its climate impact, but intangible benefits like promoting the health and well-being of the people who work inside the Nutrien Tower.

“The certificate helps because it’s telling our people this was important to us, this is who we are,” Graham Canvin, Nutrien’s global facilities and travel senior director, said in an interview with Sustainable Biz Canada. “It makes a statement being our head office.

"Hopefully then it has a ripple effect out to all of our spaces.”

Highest tower on Saskatoon’s skyline

Saskatchewan’s tallest office tower at 88 metres, Nutrien occupies the ninth to 17th floors, covering approximately 130,000 square feet of office space. From its vantage point, Nutrien’s two nearby mine sites are visible.

Nutrien Tower was opened to Nutrien’s employees in November 2021. Its majority tenant status allowed Nutrien to be involved directing decisions on its design and choices with the tower’s owners: Regina-based Greystone Asset Management (now TD Greystone) and Saskatoon-based Victory Majors Development Corp.

Its LEED Platinum certification was acquired in Dec. 14, 2022 through a score of 80 out of 110, which Canvin said was accomplished by embedding sustainability into Nutrien Tower’s design.

There is a “triple win” from its LEED Platinum certification, he said, because Nutrien is taking action on energy usage, sustainability and for the people who work in the tower.

The certification was achieved by:

  • the location of the building and its access to transit, presence of bike facilities and surrounding density;
  • recycling construction materials and diverting construction waste from landfills;
  • choosing locally sourced wood products;
  • the water efficiency of its equipment;
  • the use of LED lighting with daylight harvesting to maximize natural light;
  • advanced energy metering;
  • enhanced commissioning; and
  • enhanced refrigerant management.

Approximately 135 tonnes of construction waste — 77 per cent of the total — did not end up in landfills. To reduce embodied carbon, the carpets are 100 per cent recyclable.

Canvin could not disclose a figure for the financial savings gained from achieving LEED Platinum, but said there are “significant” energy usage benefits.

Maintaining the health and wellness of Nutrien Tower’s occupants was addressed with moves to improve air quality by picking low-emitting adhesives and paint; ergonomic work desks; areas for employee relaxation; and softer lighting.

“We have a 15-year lease on the building,” Canvin said, “so that enabled us to invest in it because we’re going to see the benefit of it over that period.”

Nutrien also considered powering the tower with renewable energy, which is still under discussion.

Embedding sustainability within Nutrien

It was a test to hold the LEED Platinum certification, according to Canvin. Some aspects were not easy from the get-go. Nutrien Tower, for example, does not have the benefit of “fantastic quality transit,” Canvin said, which cost the building some points.

“Achieving LEED Silver with some thought, I think you can get there. Achieving LEED Gold, a lot of thought and effort has to go into every element of your construction program,” he said. “To achieve LEED Platinum, you have to start now with an objective to embody sustainability within everything you’re doing.”

A greater challenge than implementing energy and water efficiency or minimizing construction waste was infusing Nutrien with a sustainable mindset, Canvin said.

Central to this was getting Nutrien’s leadership on board to insert sustainability within the Nutrien Tower. Sophisticated leadership, Canvin said, is needed to see the bigger picture beyond energy or water savings.

The Nutrien team had to prove not just the bottom line, but outline the benefits to its employees by creating a better place to work. Collaboration with the building owner, service operators like janitors, and architects are also critical to LEED Platinum, he added.

The Nutrien Tower may inform the company’s other buildings on sustainability.

“As we go on through the building doing other alterations or modifications in the future, we take the same lens to look at those individual projects,” Canvin said. If there are elements of the building that are working well, the company will consider how it could extend those features to its office portfolio or other buildings.

Nutrien has a target of cutting at least 30 per cent of its Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 2030 against a 2018 baseline.

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