The Sun Life Canadian headquarters in Waterloo, Ont., is proof that an old building can learn sustainable new tricks.
The 227 King Street South property, which incorporates a historic structure from 1912, is one of four commercial buildings receiving 2021 Energy Star Canada awards for reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
The key to the building’s continuing energy savings is the building automation system running the HVAC systems, said Vineet Kochhar, Sun Life’s senior vice president, insurance solutions.
“Having a BAS system allows simple customization of operation schedules to turn systems on or off, as well as monitor and change system temperatures to maximize comfort of employees,” Kochhar said.
The building, which includes the original 1912 structure and several additions between then and 2016, has been continually upgraded with energy efficiency in mind, says Kochhar.
In 2020 Sun Life also instituted an LED lighting retrofit throughout the building. All exterior lights are now LED and about 60 per cent of the interior lighting is completed.
The LED project saved 652,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year.
The sprawling 800,000-square-foot structure, which includes an 18-storey tower completed in 1986, was owned by Sun Life until 2014, when it was sold to Vancouver-based Concert Real Estate Corp. Sun Life is still the sole tenant of the building, which is the Canadian headquarters for the insurance, wealth and asset management firm.
Sustainability improvements increase energy efficiency
The most recent building addition in 2016 was a generator house for power back-up.
Kochhar says the cost of sustainability improvements can increase the cost of standard upgrades and equipment replacement by up to 15 per cent.
For instance, all motor replacements are more efficient because the technology has changed so replacements do not cost extra. But more energy efficient windows cost 15 per cent more than the alternatives.
Some improvements pay off more quickly than others, he says.
“The LED lighting retrofits will provide a payback of fewer than two years, but something like a window replacement will take longer to see a payback.”
Concert Real Estate, Sun Life support Paris Accord
Kochhar said the firm supports the commitments of the Paris Accord to reduce global carbon emissions.
“One aspect of our multi-pronged approach to tackling climate change involves reducing the climate impact and strengthening the resilience of our own operations around the world, as well as the properties that we own in our investment portfolio.”
Sun Life plans to reduce its corporate and real estate carbon emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, said Kochhar.
“Sustainable infrastructure — including sustainable and green buildings — plays a key role in our focus on advancing sustainable investing,” he added.
Sun Life’s portfolio value of renewable energy projects as of Dec. 31, 2020 was $9.7 billion.
“In Canada, we are one of the biggest financiers of private, sustainable infrastructure. This year, we announced our commitment to $20 billion in new sustainable investments over the next five years in assets and businesses that support the transition to a low-carbon and more inclusive economy, including sustainable buildings.”
The Sun Life building was among the top recipients to achieve the highest Energy Star score, according to a statement from Natural Resources Canada, which partners with private industry to administer the Energy Star program. The score compares energy consumption against similar Canadian buildings.