Few developers talk about doing the right thing.
They talk specifically about sustainability and lower energy use, or healthier interiors and more human work environments, with more sunlight and designs to help casual interaction.
Engineer-businessman Dennis Cuku talks about these features, too, when discussing his new net-zero energy-consuming office building in Edmonton, which roughly creates as much energy as it uses. “On a day like today,” he said on a recent sunny day, “when there’s no way we can possibly use all the electricity that the roof is generating, the neighbouring community uses it.”
But he also steers the discussion back to ethics and obligation: “It’s the right thing to do. If it’s possible, and you don’t do it, then that’s ignorance.”
He takes his eco-goals personally, as co-owner, with business partner and former spouse Christy Benoit, of the 30,000-square-foot Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce, on the far south side of the city.
Commercial real-estate developers have been steadily going greener for years, with cleaner ventilation, better water and energy efficiency and better use of recyclable materials.
But the movement often seems propelled by larger projects: major developers answering the demands of major tenants, such as banks and large corporate tenants.
LEED Gold is the environmental certification standard most large office developers in Canada now aim for, said Thomas Mueller, president and chief executive of the Canada Green Building Council, an industry-led organization promoting pro-environmental certification and building practices.
What’s less common are small, privately constructed offices, trying for top-level LEED Platinum designation and net-zero energy consumption. Yet, as with the Mosaic Centre, this is where much of the innovation and risks are taking place.
“Net-zero buildings are still unusual. It’s because of the cost to get to a net-zero performance, whereas you can go for a LEED Gold performance, where the business case for those buildings is proven,” Mr. Mueller said. “With a net-zero building, it’s advanced technology, and there’s a cost associated with it. These buildings are still rare.”
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