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Telus Gardens is scheduled to open in fall of 2015, but tech reporter Gillian Shaw got a sneak peek at the distinctive and environmentally-friendly building.
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Telus employees are starting to move into the company’s new downtown headquarters, Telus Garden, which is being billed as one of the most sustainable developments in North America.

In all, 1,000 Telus employees will move into nine floors of office space in the $750-million, one-million-square-foot development that comprises a 24-floor office tower and a 53-floor residential tower at 575 W. Georgia. 

While workers are still wrapping up interior finishing on some floors, the move has started, with some Telus staff already working there along with other building tenants including Amazon and Vancouver law firm Bull Housser. 

“One thing that really excited us about this project in general is it provided an opportunity for us to really transform that entire city block,” said Geoff de Bruijn, Telus vice-president of corporate services and sustainability, who is managing the Telus Garden project. “If you were to look at that five years ago, there were a couple of parkades, an old underutilized White Spot building and then our existing facility. 

“If you look at what it was compared to what it is now, it’s a huge transformation and I think it is going to be a catalyst for further development in that area of Robson Street and Georgia as well.”

As the towers arose over downtown, skyboxes — boxlike spaces cantilevered over the street — have given the development its own distinctive look on the city skyline. The ninth-floor skybox offers workers an outdoor rooftop garden, with so-called “floating” meeting rooms in the floor below, all overhanging Seymour Street with a view down the corridor to Coal Harbour. There’s another floating meeting-room box on the Richards Street side.

But many of the features that have earned the development the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDS) Platinum rating and a reputation as state-of-the-art sustainable building are hidden inside the walls, or high on the roof.

More than 100 solar panels are lined up over the rooftop garden to capture solar power. A district energy system recovers waste heat from the building and Telus’s adjacent existing data centre to provide heating and cooling for both towers and to heat water.

The technology will result in an 80-per-cent reduction in energy demand for heating and cooling, said de Bruijn, compared to a building without such sustainability features.

Sun tracking systems automatically adjust blinds, to reduce the amount of heating or cooling needed and high-efficiency lighting systems have motion sensors to save power.

“It’s really designing your building systems to recognize what the needs are in any given point in time,” said de Bruijn. “Whereas in the past you would have your standard setting that clicks in at seven o’clock in the morning and cools down a little later in the day, this is much more dynamic throughout the day; it continually adjusts so that we’re really only providing the minimum amount that we need, for the requirements at any given time.”

While Telus occupies nine floors in the building, Amazon has eight floors, Bull Housser has 21Ž2 and Capstone Mining has one floor.

“We’re in the final push, so most of our staff will be moving in in the next four to five weeks,” said Cathy Wardlaw, Telus director of strategic projects, who hosted the recent tour. 

Standing on a rooftop garden still under construction, Wardlaw said there will be a vegetable garden planted and rainwater and grey water will be captured to irrigate the building’s gardens. The outdoor spaces will have fire pits and outdoor barbecues, and the ninth-floor patio will have a space for a big-screen TV to be brought out for watching sports and special events.

“We also have in the office space one of the unique features to promote health and wellness … a walk station, which is basically a treadmill that is at a walk speed so people can go and have a conference call and do some walking to get out of their desks” said Wardlaw.

The shift to a mobile workforce has meant a redesign in office space, with the number of people who might be in the building at a given time subject to change.

De Bruijn said mobile workers means a reduction of 30 to 40 per cent in office space, plus a reduction in the number of workstations. He said it has allowed Telus to reduce the overall footage of the building while still being able to accommodate more meeting rooms, more collaboration space and amenity space.

An online reservation system allows mobile workers to book space when they plan to be in the office.

Telus Garden by the numbers

24: number of floors in the office tower-floor office tower

428: number of units in the 53-floor, sold-out residential tower

150: number of units sold to Telus employees

$750 million: development cost

$600 million: economic impact of the development on the local economy

$8 million to $10 million: new tax revenue for the city from the development’s business and residential tenants

450,000: square footage of office space it adds to the downtown core

65,000: square footage of retail space

2: number of cantilevered encroachments, one extending 6.5 metres over Richards Street and the other 7.3 metres over Seymour Street

10,000: square footage of garden terraces on six different levels

100: percentage of air that is fresh rather than recycled thanks to a raised floor that has a displacement ventilation system.

1 million: reduction in kilograms of CO2 emissions annually, thanks to the district energy system that harvests waste heat for heating and cooling (also equivalent to planting 25,000 trees every year)

80: the percentage by which on-grid energy consumption is reduced compared to conventional office buildings.

Read the full article online at the Vancouver Sun.