True North Commercial REIT has achieved another sustainability benchmark for its class-A office tower at 5775 Yonge Street in Toronto, earning the Energy Star Certification from Natural Resources Canada.
The certification indicates the 18-storey building, which was completed in 1990 and acquired by True North in 2018, is operating in the top 25 percentile of commercial buildings for energy efficiency.
It’s not the first certification for the property, which has already received LEED Gold and BOMA Best Level 3 certifications.
“This property has been energy certified for the past three years with progressively improved scores,” said Melanie Amaral, director of asset management at Starlight Investments and True North.
True North was established in 2012 and is part of Starlight Group Property Holdings Inc., which acts as its asset manager. Starlight is a Toronto-based commercial real estate and asset management company that manages over $20 billion of direct real estate and real estate investment securities.
The commercial and multifamily real estate giant has over 70,000 multi-residential units and eight million square feet of commercial properties spanning Canada and the U.S.
The Starlight, True North relationship
“What helps True North is definitely that we have the Starlight platform, so we can work with those same platforms, expertise and knowledge from the greater group of the company,” said Amaral.
True North owns and operates 47 properties comprising nearly 4.8 million square feet in urban and secondary markets across Canada. The 5775 Yonge class-A building also features 274,200 rentable square feet with 371 underground parking stalls and direct underground access to the Finch TTC Station.
Amaral said True North is increasing its emphasis on energy efficiency and sustainability across its portfolio.
“We’re trying to bring our properties to be more environmentally conscious and functioning more efficiently for cost savings for environmental aspects,” she said.
Whether it’s retrofitting older buildings and bringing them up to modern standards in line with Environment, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) principals or certifications, or new developments being built to these elevated standards, there is a desire to look at real estate from multiple perspectives. It’s being done by True North, its parent Starlight, and many other REITs and commercial real estate owner/operators.
“Historically developers were looking at that bottom line number, but now we’re looking for the equitable balance at the end of the day,” she said.
During the past year Starlight achieved BOMA or LEED certifications for four more of its properties, was recognized as a Gold BOMA Canada company, and earned the BOMA Toronto Earth Award for its Paisley Square multifamily complex in Guelph
“We’re now looking at the social impact or implications and the environmental implications a lot more than we were historically,” Amaral said. “It’s been a major change in the past 10-15 years.”
Moving forward with sustainability efforts
Amaral is no rookie when it comes to understanding shifts in the real estate sector, she’s got over two decades of experience in the industry. She previously served as the director of retail property management for Canadian Real Estate Investment Trust, and during her 23 years working out of Toronto has also worked for boutique real estate firms.
Amaral said True North tracks a wide range of data about energy, usage and other facets of its properties.
“At the end of day, people will look at cost, but we’re tracking our carbon footprints, how we work with our community and with our tenants and to look at ways to improve our buildings,” said Amaral.
Amaral said sustainability will be a factor moving forward in any acquisitions or developments True North will undertake.
“We are looking for quality assets all the time, so we are looking at assets right now that have these ratings or properties that we can bring to have these ratings,” she said. “We definitely have a goal to keep certifying and expanding our certification.”
Among its existing assets, True North is constantly evaluating performance and prioritizing upgrades and programs.
“We’re continuing to look at what type of building improvements we can make, green leases we can do, and working with our tenants on environmental improvements or wellness improvements,” Amaral said. “We definitely would like to continue to stay as a leader and stay on top of all these initiatives and all these programs.”