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North America’s Most Sustainable Telecommunications Company Plan’s New LEED Platnum Headquarters

As North American telecommunications companies go, it is hard to find a company with better sustainability cred then TELUS. The firm made the decision to reduce its environmental footprint about 9 years ago, before sustainability was cool and embarked on a now decade long journey to lower it’s impact on the environment.

..everything from diesel generators and chemicals to batteries and pole storage. “As an incumbent telecommunications company, we’ve been around a long time, so we have older infrastructure in some areas,” says Joe Pach, Telus’s environment director. “We recognize the risk that that represents to us, so we’ve embarked on a program to upgrade these systems.  In the past, we have had people say to us, ‘Why are we even doing this? They’re not.’ [But] we can’t take that approach, because the risk to the company in terms of its public profile … is greater to us than the monetary risk of, say, a fine … TELUS wants to send a very clear signal to the investment community that we are a very well-managed company.” And there’s no better way to do that than taking care of all the small, green details. S.

It is all well and  good for a company to say that . it is a green company but the proof is in the details and TELUS has those to back it up.  TELUS has been ranked among the world’s leading companies on the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index for the past nine years. It is the only North American telecommunications company to make the list and one of only 11 Canadian businesses across all sectors included on the global index.S.

As part of its ongoing efforts TELUS has also being upgrading its corporate offices, Known as TELUS Houses, 3 so far have been renovated or constructed,  TELUS House Toronto and Ottawa were awarded LEED Gold, and TELUS House Quebec LEED Silver. For its new National Headquarters in Vancouver the company is aiming for LEED Platinum.  The $750-million, one-million square foot project will radically transform an aging downtown block into one of the most technologically and environmentally-advanced sites in the world

In the Company’s own words:

The million-square foot, $750 million project will see almost the entire block of prime downtown real estate bounded by Georgia, Robson, Seymour and Richards rebuilt into one of the most technologically and environmentally-advanced sites of commerce, employment and living in the world. It will create half a million square feet of much-needed new office space available for multiple tenants and 500 new residential units, all setting new standards for environmental sustainability. The 22-storey signature office tower will be the first building in Canada built to the new 2009 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum standard and the 44-storey residential tower will be built to the LEED Gold standard.

“TELUS Garden will exemplify the TELUS brand and be a truly amazing destination for our team members, the community and the city,” said Darren Entwistle, TELUS president and CEO. “Our vision is that TELUS Garden will be a beautiful and unique location where leading-edge technology, urban living, environmental sustainability and tomorrow’s work styles are elegantly integrated into a vibrant community. This development, which will inject millions of dollars into our economy, will highlight TELUS’ advanced communications technologies and environmental innovation in a way never before seen. TELUS Garden will be a breathtaking place to live and work, an architectural icon that will consume 30 per cent less energy thanks to its responsible, leading-edge design. It will be a celebrated urban oasis that is literally alive with plant life and showcases our great province’s arts and culture.”

The landmark development reinforces TELUS’ commitment to the City of Vancouver, and will make a significant contribution to the city’s goal of becoming the greenest city in the world. Once complete, TELUS’ new headquarters will be unique in North America, featuring 10,000 square feet of green roofs providing organic produce for local restaurants, two elevated roof forests, British Columbia artwork, LED lighting on the western façade projecting programmable coloured images on to fritted glass, and media walls where cultural events such as symphony concerts can be broadcast to the public.

“The fact that TELUS is choosing to build a new national headquarters in Vancouver is a great vote of confidence in our local economy,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Their proposal to build to LEED Platinum is extremely ambitious and sends a signal that in Vancouver, going green is good for business and the environment. I’m very excited that they are investing in Vancouver – we’ve worked hard to build a competitive climate for business, and when companies like TELUS choose to expand their presence it is great for creating new jobs and economic spin-offs in our city.”

TELUS has partnered with Westbank to lead the project, and has engaged Henriquez Partners as the architect that is designing the iconic development. TELUS will fund its share of the development predominantly through leveraging its existing real estate holdings in this block, coupled with the sale and lease of space in the new buildings. The investment is consistent with TELUS’ overall capital expenditure target for 2011 and longer term capital intensity goals. TELUS has just entered into an agreement to purchase the city-owned parkade at the corner of Georgia and Richards, consolidating the entire block, other than the Kingston Hotel, to create a unified development.

While I don’t envy guests of the Kingston Hotel during construction, when the dust settles the hotel will be better situated between two cutting edge and lively buildings instead of a pair of park aids. As an observer of the development landscape here in Canada I have been watching with interest to see what TELUS would decide to do after the company announced it was considering a new Headquarters. In Keeping with its previous property investments in Toronto, Ottawa and Quebec City, TELUS once again delivers an office building that looks forward and sees a city where “the future is friendly.”

On the Board Walk – Vancouver

The board walk at the Vancouver Olympic VillageA surprise trip to Vancouver found me checking out the new residential district left by the Olympic Village. Take a look at our image gallery if you haven’t had the opportunity to see it yet.

Roof Clothed in Green

Vancouver’s 6 Acre Living Roof – Growing Cities Series from Dave Budge on Vimeo.

The roof of the Vancouver BC Convention Centre is covered with over 2.5 hectares (6 acres) of native grassland. Usually closed to the public, here is a tour and interview with the landscape architect of the project, Bruce Hemstock.

Construction began in November 2004 on the Vancouver Convention Centre Expansion Project (VCCEP), a 340,849 ft² (31,665 m²) expansion. The new structure was built on the waterfront beside Canada Place, with 60% on land and 40% over the water. The architect for the expansion was DA/MCM + LMN Architects.

The building, now known as the West Building, opened to the public on April 4, 2009. It effectively tripled the capacity of the convention centre. The West Building features a “living roof” featuring native plants, and an apiary. The building will host the international media and broadcast centre in the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics. Connecting to the new centre will be The Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel. Wiki

Built over land and water, with floor-to-ceiling glass throughout that treats guests to phenomenal harbour and mountain views, the new West Building is a masterpiece of design, inspiration and sustainability. The building makes a commitment to green technology that can be found in every corner: the “living roof,” seawater heating and cooling, on-site water treatment and even a fish habitat built into the foundation.

More From the Vancouver Convention Centre


Neighbourhood News: Tuesday June 30th

A Tale of Two Cites

Its a tale of two cities and two ways of designing them Seattle and Vancouver are both considered to be good urban models, each with their own issues, but overall they are design and planning styles that many other cities seek to emulate. In this addition of neighbourhood news we take a look a a set of media where spokespeople from either city spoke out in favour of the other.


The Great Vancouver vs. Seattle Debate

Is the civic grass greener on the other side of the border? Two urban experts each make the case for the others’ home town.

By Knute Berger

Two of the region’s civic heavyweights squared off at the Seattle Public Library on June 18 to settle the issue about which of Cascadia’s two biggest cities has the best built environment, Seattle or Vancouver, BC. It was a rematch of a debate conducted earlier in the week in Vancouver, sponsored by VIA Architecture, which has offices in both cities.

Making the pro-Vancouver case was Seattle’s Peter Steinbrueck; arguing for Seattle, Vancouver’s Gordon Price. Both are devoted sustainability advocates, both have spent years on their respective city councils. Steinbrueck is an architect who has taught at the University of Washington; Price heads up Simon Fraser University’s City Program and writes and lectures about urban planning. The shorthand introduction that Seattleites could relate to: “Gordon Price is the Peter Steinbrueck of Vancouver,” said moderator C.R. Douglas. Let’s just say the debate was between two apples arguing about which town had better oranges.


The debates focused on the positives of each city, and tended to prove the adage that the grass is always greener on the other side of your neighbor’s fence. Instead of rehashing (you can find one or both debates on Twitter feeds, a webcast and the Seattle Channel), I thought I would digest it by providing a list of the “pros” for each city that came up, with Steinbrueck mostly speaking for the Vancouver side of the equation and Price for the Seattle side. And then a couple of summary “con” comments on major downsides.

The gist for architects, planners, policy-makers, and citizens is that, as Robert Burns said, seeing ourselves as other see us is a gift that helps us question cherished assumptions.

Seattle urbanophiles, for example, love to tout Vancouver’s skinny towers as the end-all of downtown living and something to emulate. Price, on the other hand, found much to envy in Seattle’s risk-taking architecture and individualistic neighborhoods, and much mediocrity in Vancouver’s look-alike high-rises. READ MORE

Via Architecture

David Suzuki on Gateway, The Province of BC's Highway Expansion Project

hwy1_congestionIn numerous urban areas around the world planners are trying to figure out what to do with the freeways and expressways that are currently causing problems in their cities, think San Francisco and Toronto, and Boston’s Big Dig project. In light of all this, it makes the Province of British Columbia’s Gateway project to improve the movement of goods, and people around Vancouver and the lower mainland baffling. 40 years ago the city decided not to build any urban expressways and this has long been credited as part of why the city is listed as such a great place to live and made the city a case study for planners around the world on ‘what works.’

Of course anyone who has tried to get from inside the city out to the south eastern communities can attest to the fact that the gridlock highway 1, the only major highway out of town is insane. Something I experience first hand back in 2006 when I took a trip from North Vancouver to Mission to meet my future In-Laws. The pro side of the debate may that here is a certain illogic to making no improvements since the two lane highway currently servicing the area is seriously inadequate to handle the amount of traffic it sees. One may wonder if a highway shouldn’t be buit or expanded when to the naked eye it looks obvious that its needed.

But then again is the answer really more highway infrastructure? Are there other alternatives that could be explored? David Suzuki makes a case for why the new Gateway plan sucks.

Taking a wrong turn on traffic planning: The Gateway Project will add roads and bridges and cars, cars, cars

Vancouver Sun
Monday, March 6, 2006
by Dr. David Suzuki

More than 40 years ago, when I was a young geneticist eager to make my mark in the world, I took a job as assistant professor of Zoology at the University of British Columbia.

I could have started my career anywhere, but I came back to my birthplace because the city offered a quality of life that I felt was unparallelled.

Part of that quality of life is geography and part of it is weather, but a big part of it is due to the choices we made about what kind of city we wanted to be.

Back then, building massive freeways through the heart of a city was considered the modern thing to do. It was hoped that these freeways would allow for the easy transportation of goods and people in and out of the community. It didn’t work out that way. Today, cities such as San Francisco are tearing down these freeways because they made traffic worse and led to urban sprawl.

The decision to avoid freeway expansion was not an easy one. It wasn’t politically expedient. Many people wanted a freeway to “ease congestion.”

But planners and politicians of all political stripes made a brave decision not to build a freeway through the city. Today, urban planners come to Vancouver from all over North America to see what we did right and Vancouver is routinely listed as one of the most livable cities in the world.

All this history makes the proposed Gateway Project especially strange. The plan proposes to twin the Port Mann Bridge and greatly increase traffic into Vancouver. Essentially, it’s an old-school, 1950s-style urban planning model plopped into 21st century Greater Vancouver.

What feature of this project will, in 40 years, bring community planners here from all over North America to marvel at our foresight?

Continue reading David Suzuki on Gateway | GATEWAYSUCKS.org