Eco-friendly buildings earn national recognition

Lasia Kretzel, Centretown News

Lasia Kretzel, Centretown News

The World Exchange Plaza and 250 Albert St. both received 2010 Office Building of the Year Awards because of their green innovations.

Two Centretown office towers – the World Exchange Plaza and 250 Albert St. – have won national awards of excellence for design and operation from the Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada.

The wins were due in part to eco-friendly innovations including an advanced storm water capture system and upgrades that enhance energy conservation.

The two Albert Street buildings are separated by less than half a kilometre and were able to capture two of the 10 nationally distributed awards.

The winners were selected from a pool of more than 2,000 members of the commercial real estate industry.

The members collectively own about 500 million square feet of office space across the country.

Both of the office towers being located on Albert Street is largely a coincidence, says Dean Karakasis, executive director of BOMA Ottawa.

"The fact that they are so close together, on the same street, in a national competition is just a fluke," says Karakasis.

 "The awards reflect significant accomplishments for those buildings and the way they are operated and the benefits they provide to the community,” he says.

Eligible buildings from across Canada were judged on several factors.

 Judges considered operating expenses, property management and maintenance, environmental programs and energy conservation, safety procedures, tenant satisfaction, architectural appeal and community relations.

Excelling in several of these categories, the World Exchange Plaza has received recognition as Canada’s most outstanding office building in the 500,000 to 1 million square foot category.

The plaza houses several tenants including the Mexican embassy, RBC Dominion Securities, and Microsoft Canada.

Notably, in 2009 the building installed a grey water recovery system on its roof that captures storm water to operate the building’s internal cooling towers.

It’s estimated that the system will save 1.6 million litres of water each year that would otherwise have been drawn from the city’s drinking water.

The water capture system is the only one of its kind in the city and expectations are high for the large-scale apparatus.

The system is located on the roof of the World Exchange Plaza, which occupies an entire city block between Metcalfe and O’Connor streets.

“What they have done is great,” says Ottawa Riverkeeper Meredith Brown. “We don’t often look at grey water as a resource, but it certainly is. If more businesses could look to solutions like that, we’d all be better off and there would be far less strain on our water reserves.”

The system comes at a time when Ottawa’s sewage treatment system has been overwhelmed in recent years during large rainfalls.

The water system will also provide the benefit of reducing water pollution.

 The system captures rain and melted snow from the roof that would otherwise fall onto the streets and make its way into the municipal water treatment cycle.

At the corner of Bank and Albert streets, 250 Albert St. has also received national recognition, in this case for being the best renovated building in 2010, following an overhaul which has transformed the property.

“We did what is called a mid-life retrofit of the building,” says Arthur Tallis, the property manager of the 24-year-old office tower.

Begun in 2007, the renovations of the building totalled $8 million to upgrade a space vacated by the International Development Research Centre.

The 14-storey building is currently occupied by several tenants, the largest being Revenue Canada, Elections Canada and the National Judicial Institute.

In addition to significant upgrades in telecommunications and washroom accessibility, the building also underwent a notable transformation that has made it more environmentally friendly.

 Improvements were made to heating and air conditioning that  led to increased energy conservation.

“The upgrades to this building will sustain this facility into the foreseeable future,” says Tallis.

Steps have also been taken to make the lighting in the building more efficient with the instalment of an automated lighting system.

“The main lighting system is controlled by an automated time schedule and individual rooms throughout are equipped with occupancy sensors,” says Tom Haddock of Morguard Investments, the company that manages the building.

The award comes two decades after the building had previously been recognized on the national scale in 1990 for being the best building in the downtown core category.