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Telus Gardens, a one million-square foot, $750 million development in downtown Vancouver, is Canada’s most sustainable office tower built to new LEED Platinum standard.
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When Darren Entwistle presided over his company’s official opening of its state-of-the-art Telus Garden headquarters in downtown Vancouver Thursday, he made it clear he is here to stay.

In what was probably his first public appearance as newly re-appointed president and CEO — before a crowd of employees, politicians, the media and customers — Entwistle dedicated the building to Telus employees, “past, present and future.”

Not surprisingly, missing at the celebratory event was Joe Natale, Entwistle’s long-groomed successor, who stepped down as CEO last month over his refusal to move to Vancouver, which is home to the telecom giant’s roots and nearly 9,000 of the company’s 44,000 employees.

While Natale is staying on until the end of the year, Entwistle has already made the move from executive chair of the board back to president and CEO. It’s a job some would say he never really left.

In an interview, Entwistle’s laughs at that, but sidesteps the answer.

“I’m pleased to be back and I think you can probably tell by the enthusiasm around this announcement and all that it portends for the future of Telus, pretty pleased with what the future is going to hold for us,” he said.

Was it a failure in succession planning?

“I think anytime you don’t perfectly bring a vision to fruition the way that you would like; it’s a fair reflection that things didn’t go as we would have aspired to,” he said.

The board wanted the CEO to be based of Vancouver; Natale didn’t want to leave Toronto.

“There was a view that over the medium- to longer-term, we’d see the migration of the role to Western Canada and that turned out not to be consistent with the personal choices Joe wanted to make in his life,” said Entwistle.

It’s no interim role. Entwistle, who joined Telus in 2000 and lives in Vancouver with his family, doesn’t plan to change jobs again anytime soon.

“I was asked to step back into the role and I agreed to do that enthusiastically and I also agreed to do that for the long term, not on a temporary basis,” he said. “I am tremendously excited to be back.”

The new building, described by Ian Gillespie, whose company Westbank Projects is the project developer, as a result of Entwistle’s “passion and leadership,” appears to have invigorated the Telus team and its leader.

“You can’t be in a building like this without feeling unbelievably refreshed, renewed if you will and optimistic as to what the future holds as to how we can leverage our technology to do great things for our society and that’s kind of where I’m at right now,” said Entwistle.

Where we are on this Thursday morning for an interview following the official speeches is a small yellow-chaired and totally glass-enclosed meeting room perched over Vancouver’s Richards Street, in a skybox cantilevered so far over the street that we can barely see the buses and traffic driving below. Every once in awhile, we feel the vibration and rumble as a large truck goes by.

The cantilevered sections that stretch over the streets on both sides of the new tower, a first for Vancouver’s downtown airspace, are perhaps the most visible signs that this building is at the leading edge. The tower is part of a $750-million, one-million-square-foot development that comprises a 24-floor office tower and a 53-floor residential tower.

“In 2009, we set out to transform an aging city block and create both an inspiring new home for our team and a greater sense of community in the downtown core,” Entwistle told the opening audience that included Amrik Virk, B.C.’s minister of technology, innovation and citizens’ services and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “We envisaged a centre of collaboration and innovation, a place where leading-edge technology, contemporary work styles and green living were elegantly integrated into a vibrant community.

“Telus Garden would not only be a breathtaking place to live, work and play, it would be an architectural icon that beautifully enhances the Vancouver skyline and sets a new standard of excellence in environmental sustainability.”

It is billed as Canada’s most sustainable office tower, a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum building and one of the “most environmentally friendly in North America,” according to Telus.

Vancouver’s mayor applauded the transformation of the aging downtown block that housed mostly parking spaces until Telus took over.

“We are thrilled to see this block transformed from a parking lot and some modest shops to this extraordinary world-class place,” Robertson told the opening day audience.

Inside the new tower, there are many signs of this environmental friendliness.

Some are obvious, like the nearly 300 solar panels that line the rooftop. Or the elevated gardens that project out from offices, giving employees and visitors a place to gather, to watch events on a big screen and tend the vegetable garden.

Others are not so obvious but deliver huge impact, such as the energy system that recovers waste heat from the building and Telus’ adjacent data centre to provide heating, cooling and hot water for both towers. The technology cuts energy demand by 80 per cent compared to a building without such sustainability features.

Read the full article online at the Vancouver Sun.