Cadillac Fairview (CF) has achieved Zero Carbon Building certifications for performance across seven of its office buildings in Vancouver, spearheading a sustainability push as the city implements stricter greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations for the built environment.
The real estate investor was certified by the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) across its four Pacific Centre Office locations and three Waterfront Properties.
Its $42 billion global portfolio includes 3.3 million square feet of office space in Vancouver, which is its largest footprint in office space.
The Pacific Centre Office complex covers 2 million square feet of real estate with eight office towers and a shopping mall. CF received certifications for its 777 Dunsmuir, 885 West Georgia, 609 Granville and 700 West Georgia buildings.
Just three blocks away, CF also received certifications for its three Waterfront Properties: 200 Granville, 200 Burrard and 250 Howe.
“In talking to the marketplace and our colleagues in the market and other landlords, I think we really wanted to demonstrate that Cadillac Fairview’s leading the way and we are leading in on zero carbon certifications in real terms,” said Lillian Tummonds, vice president of office operations at CF.
“Getting the certifications validates the journey that we’ve been on with respect to implementing technologies and looking at how our buildings are operating.”
The CaGBC’s ZCB-Performance certification
Achieving the certification requires meeting the standards for carbon and energy, which is verified through annual building performance evaluations using data from utilities and other sources.
For carbon, it means achieving a zero carbon balance, providing proof of purchase for renewable energy certificates and carbon offsets, offsetting refrigerant leaks and embodied carbon, among other categories.
For energy, the building must report its energy use intensity and seasonal peaks, along with an airtightness category if it is certified as a Zero Carbon Building – Design.
How CF achieved zero carbon in its Vancouver office buildings
At its 777 Dunsmuir building, CF broke ground literally and figuratively by implementing what Tummonds says is the first North American occupied office building with a geoexchange system.
Commissioned in 2014, it drilled 30 boreholes 400 feet underground to collect the building’s rejected heat and retain it until needed. The goal was to “look at the reduction of relying on steam over time” to reduce its carbon emissions. Though it was received skeptically back then, Tummonds said it was completed because it was "the right thing to do" and to test out the feasibility of the technology.
It is said to reduce carbon emissions from heating energy by 85 per cent — equivalent to 900 tons of carbon dioxide — and ended up reducing steam consumption by 75 per cent.
At its 609 Granville location, CF undertook a “massive redevelopment” that reglazed the exterior of the building for optimal energy performance.
Across its other offices, CF installed heat recovery chillers and other capital projects to reduce GHG emissions. Tummonds said while there wasn’t anything particularly unique about this, it displays CF’s commitment as they are expensive and take time to implement.
“A big component of our office properties in Vancouver achieved the zero carbon certification,” Tummonds said. CF plans to achieve zero carbon certifications for the remainder of its buildings in Vancouver “in the next year or so.”
The company committed to net-zero by 2050 across its Canadian portfolio. Tummonds said it was important for CF in its role as building owners and landlords because the industry has a large footprint.
Running ahead of regulations
CF achieved the certifications in a year when the Vancouver City Council passed the 2022 Annual Greenhouse Gas and Energy Limits Bylaw in July. A carbon pollution limit of 25 kgs of carbon dioxide equivalent per square meter per year for office space is set to begin in 2026.
A separate move to promote zero-emission buildings mandated a target of cutting carbon pollution from large existing office and retail buildings by 40 per cent by 2030.
Vancouver’s regulations are “leading the way” in Canadian marketplace, Tummons said, with an “intense focus” to meet the targets.
Tummonds said the laws were not driving CF to implement its sustainability changes because the company was ahead of the curve with some of its initiatives like the geoexchange system in 777 Dunsmuir.
CF is ahead of the 2030 deadline for office pollution, according to Tummonds, but she added the company wants to “overachieve if we can.”
Case studies and an ugly building
CF will next explore how it can help landlords and building owners through case studies to galvanize the industry to work toward reducing carbon emissions.
CF will write a report about a project at 725 Granville. Once a shopping centre occupied by Eaton’s and Sears, it was an “ugly” building with infamous white walls of precast concrete. It was redeveloped significantly, and CF is embarking on an embodied carbon case study in partnership with BOMA BC.
With the certifications, Tummons said it demonstrates “we have a strong desire to reach zero carbon or reduce our carbon emissions through practical, real projects” versus buying carbon offsets to achieve certifications.
“We really are leading the way with respect to putting in actual, capital projects in our buildings with the mind of reducing our carbon emissions.”