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Westbank's Ian Gillespie has added another signature building to his company's portfolio.
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Telus president and CEO Darren Entwistle knows how to put on a show.

Today, I showed up at the company's gleaming new office building on West Georgia Street for what I thought would be an obligatory media tour, supplemented by a standard news conference.

More than two hours later, I walked away somewhat gobsmacked by Entwistle's high-octane presentation about what is the greenest and certainly one of the most artistic corporate head offices in Canada.

Telus Garden is a joint venture with Westbank Corp., which developed the Woodward's complex, Fairmont Pacific Rim, the Shangri-La Hotel in Vancouver.

Entwistle pointed out that his company's new headquarters is the first LEED Platinum–rated large office tower in Vancouver. 

"Telus Garden has also earned the distinction of submitting the highest LEED scorecard ever to Canada's Green Building Council," Entwistle declared to a crowded room of employees and dignitaries. "Its unparalleled rating reflects Telus Garden's leading edge, environmentally advanced features that include Vancouver's largest solar-panel system on our rooftop with nearly 300 panels producing 65,000 kilowatt hours per year."

Then he quipped that this is roughly what his two teenagers consume with their iPhones in about 20 minutes.

The building captures rainwater, reducing reliance on Lower Mainland reservoirs. District energy transfers heat from the company's data system on Seymour Street to warm the office and the soon-to-be-completed residential tower next door. 

Entwistle also mentioned that the ventilation continuously supplies fresh air from outside rather than recycling interior air. He added that high-efficiency motion-sensor lighting reduces energy costs.

A custom LED system has a lifespan 10 times longer than traditional approaches. And a "fully integrated smart-building program" controls light, heating and cooling, fire alarm, and security.

"This innovative system combined with our solar panels is reducing our energy demand by up to 90 percent and as well reducing our carbon dioxide emissions by one million kilograms on an annual basis," Entwistle said. "This is the equivalent of planting 25,000 trees every year. What better tribute to the Telus brand? What better realization than our promise, which is making the future friendly for all of our citizens?"

Entwistle also spoke about the thousands of plant species in the building to suggest the company is in harmony with nature. There's even a goldfish pond.

"Telus Garden houses 10,000 square feet of outdoor meeting spaces and garden terraces distributed over six levels within this building, one of which contains a community food garden," he said.

Proceeds from the sale of vegetables to Telus employees will go to local charities.

Meanwhile, the 100-metre glass and wood canopy at the building's entrance was inspired by Victoria artist Emily Carr's Nature's Cathedral. It depicted trees forming an arch in the woods, Entwistle said, symbolizing supernatural B.C. as Carr's church.

"Our canopy is comprised of 313 panels that are etched with our brand with the depiction of leaves and nature," he noted. "Distinctively, no two panels are alike."

The building's sky gardens are Vancouver's first cantilever office space, hovering over Seymour and Richards streets. 

The west facade has a visual media wall near the top of the building to promote cultural groups and local artists. It will light up for the first time this evening.

"Back in the 1940s when Winston Churchill was asked to cut arts money in favour of the war effort, he simply replied, 'Then what are we fighting for?' " Entwistle said. "We share the importance that he placed on art, regardless of the circumstances."

He went on to say that the company is showcasing contemporary artworks to reflect the diversity of the company, community, and province. It includes carved wood panels by Haida artist Don Yeomans, a rose-covered bear carved by Janice Wright Cheney, a contemporary chandelier by Vancouver-based Bocci, and a lantern exhibit by Martin Boyce.

"The lanterns will illuminate our laneway linking Georgia and Robson that will also feature retail stores and create again a human hub of activity," Entwistle said.

The CEO also singled out B.C. sculptor Brent Comber, who created artwork that graced the entrance to the room where the news conference was held.

In addition, the CEO mentioned how Telus products can have positive health outcomes.

"One of the technologies we're developing will analyze data from consumer wearables and smart devices in the homes of Alzheimer's patients to help keep them safe," Entwistle said. "Now that's technology delivering a human solution."

Entwistle even had a room full of Telus employees and dignitaries erupting in cheers after a video presentation highlighted the staff's philanthropic efforts since 2000.

"The Telus team has volunteered six-and-a-half million hours with our hearts, with our hands, with our minds to build stronger, healthier, and more sustainable communities," Entwistle said as he reached the crescendo of his presentation.

He noted that this is the equivalent million work days "delivering acts of good to help out those citizens in need of a helping hand".

The video revealed that in addition to mounting a nationwide walk to fight Type 1 diabetes, Telus employees have planted 150,000 trees and handed out 91,000 backpacks to students. Since 2000, the company has raised $430 million for charities and nonprofits across the country.

"While some organizations offer charitable support, none provide the unparalleled support through people power that you do each and every day," Entwistle said.

He emphasized the difference that can be made by putting customers first, people's needs first, and the community first. It's why the company's slogan is "We give where we live."

"At the heart of our investments, our innovation, and our many notable firsts—including Telus Garden—is our company's single greatest competitive advantage: our team," the CEO concluded. "You are the driving force of this organization. Telus Garden was built as a lasting tribute to you."

Read the full article online at the Georgia Straight.