Investing in the Future

Constructing a building is no small task; it requires both a financial investment and an investment of time. Building sustainable only adds to this challenge.

Adrian Conrad, COO, The Cora Group, knows this process only too well. He is one of Waterloo Region’s most recognized commercial developers and has taken his personal passion for a better, greener future and applied it to his developments. “I have always had an interest in building sustainable structures. There was a time when everyone was talking about it, but not enough people were taking action in the commercial development world. We saw an opportunity to lead the market; be the first and raise the profile of sustainability in Waterloo Region,” says Adrian.

Adrian and his team at Cora Developments were responsible for building three of the buildings located in the David Johnston Research + Technology Park. The Accelerator Centre, which opened its doors in 2005, is LEED certified and at the time of construction was home to the largest private green roof in Canada. Built in 2008, the innoTECH building received the first Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED), Gold Standard Certification for new construction in Waterloo Region. The CORA building is currently a candidate for LEED Gold designation.

So what does it really mean to build sustainably? There are a lot more considerations than one would first imagine, explains Adrian. “To start, it adds complexity to the building process. Your goal is to have a building that operates sustainably but you don’t want to contradict that goal by building in an unsustainable manner. Sustainability starts at the very beginning. For instance, you have to recycle all of your materials on a job site, and use materials in construction that are sustainable, such as more efficient energy systems. You need to think about implementing environmentally friendly features such as a green roof and grey water system. The interior materials we select, such as furnishings and carpeting need to be sustainable, so they don’t impact air quality. Even the way employees within the building around handle recycling and garbage comes into consideration if you want to strive for LEED certification. And the list goes on,” says Adrian.

For a developer like Adrian, there are also financial costs to building sustainably that must be factored into the business decision. On average, building sustainably is 10% more expensive than a traditional build, and when you are talking about a major development, such as those represented by the buildings at R+T Park, that can add millions to the cost of a project.

But for Adrian, investing in building sustainably is still the right thing to do. “An investment like this takes years to pay off. A tenant isn’t going to pay more per square foot because they are occupying a sustainable building. I do this because it is the right thing to do for our community and for Cora Development’s brand.”

It is not to say that building sustainably does not provide long-term business benefits. There is a significant payback on energy costs, which will only become more valuable. “Our buildings run at half the cost of a competitor’s buildings, and as energy costs continue to rise, we’ll be in a very good position,” says Adrian.

There’s also the added benefit of being more attractive to high quality prospective building occupants. “People, businesses and corporations are truly embracing sustainability as part of their culture; they know it is in the best interest of their business to behave in a sustainable manner. So our developments are very attractive to these kinds of companies,” Adrian explains. He points to the recent news that international professional services firm Stantec will be moving to R+T Park and into the Innotech Building. “We would not have won this prestigious new occupant if the innoTECH building had not been LEED Gold Certified,” he says. “That was a prime consideration for Stantec in their search for new office space.”

Stantec and its future R+T Park neighbours and the R+T Park itself have recently announced their participation Sustainable Waterloo Region’s (SWR) a Regional Carbon Initiative (RCI). “Lots of companies want to be part of a sustainable culture, but they don’t know how. The partnership with SWR will allow us all to tap into their expertise to raise the profile of sustainability across the R+T Park,” says Adrian.

“Building sustainably is an investment that takes time to pay off, but we do it because it’s the right thing to do. I have children, I want to leave something for them and their grandkids.”

The above article originally ran in the Spring issue of R+T Park Watch Magazine. Read the original  here.

Photo credit: Hilary Gauld Camillieri, One for the Wall Photography.