At TELUS Garden, a new office tower in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, the relationship between technology and nature is evident in a modern workspace that helps TELUS lower its carbon footprint and foster a stronger connection with its community. “To make the building an icon, we had to look at sustainability as an opportunity,” says Andrea Goertz, chief communications and sustainability officer, TELUS. Goertz wanted TELUS Garden to not only be a beautifully architected addition to Vancouver’s skyline, but an aide in the city’s mission to become the greenest metropolis in the world by 2020.
Goertz accomplished her mission by leaps and bounds, constructing a tower that was built to the latest LEED Platinum certifications (although the certification is still under review, it was applied with 86 points, which is the most a Canadian building has ever featured) by collaborating and creating a dialogue between TELUS employees about the development of the building itself through a nuanced understanding of how workers interact with technology in 2015. Work Styles is a program that TELUS launched in 2008, which today has encouraged nearly 70% of the company’s workforce to work where and when they are the most productive and efficient. “We’ve been able to shrink our real estate square footage by about one million square feet because we have less team members working in our building, and when they are in our building, it’s fantastically collaborative and productive,” says Goertz. “We’ve focused on having an inspiring space rather than voluminous one.” Not only is TELUS Garden a stunning space featuring dramatic cantilevered sky boxes, it also has a significantly smaller carbon footprint compared to other buildings of its size due to its environmental features and space-saving design.
To Goertz, creating a modern workspace meant not only acknowledging the increased mobility of workers, but also creating a flexible workspace that helps TELUS employees work as efficiently as possible when they are in the office. “We started thinking about how we behave as humans and how to prioritize for our team members,” Goertz says. “If they wanted more collaborative space where they could gather informally, we’d build areas for that.” High-efficiency motion sensor lights respond to room occupancy, saving money and mirroring team member usage. Remarking on TELUS Garden’s 10,000 square feet of outdoor space, which spreads over six levels for maximum accessibility, Goertz says, “We felt strongly that we had to take advantage of outdoor spaces and help our team members feel inspired by nature. We wanted to make sure they felt a connection to Vancouver’s sea and sky.” A rainwater capture system retrieves and redistributes rainfall to use as gray water and irrigation for outdoor spaces. To make it easy for members to cycle to work, communing with nature and saving on carbon emissions, TELUS Garden provides bike storage and shower facilities. Electric car charging stations offer an easy incentive for drivers with energy efficient cars.
With Vancouver’s largest solar panel system, comprised of 288 panels, TELUS Garden takes advantage of supplementary technologies to add to its sustainable design. It also makes use of existing infrastructure, sequestering heat waste from its adjacent central office. “That was a very innovative and site-specific opportunity,” Goertz says. The District Energy System captures heat to help reduce the heating and cooling burdens of the office, residential and retail space by up to 80% compared to conventional office buildings.
Perhaps the most direct way TELUS’ design collaborates with its employees is through the use of a customized smartphone “Nudge Rewards” app, the brainchild of a Canadian start-up. The app engages team members via push notifications with tidbits of information relating to the energy use of the building, recyclable office materials like sugar cane paper, and other sustainability trivia, and contests. It even calls for brainstorming; “Spark Ideations” are collaborative pop-ups that solicit feedback from any employee who has downloaded the app to create companywide initiatives that everyone has a stake in. Colleen Dix, senior sustainability manager, recalls using it to pen TELUS’ new 2015 sustainability vision statement. “We had input from all of our senior executives, but we were missing how our team members felt. It was too corporate,” she adds. “We asked our team members what sustainability meant to them, and from that we created a word cloud. Within 48 hours, we had the answers we needed and were able to create our new statement.” Inspired by nature: creating a healthier, more sustainable future.
As a telecommunications company, its fitting that TELUS makes use of the real-time engagement that smartphones provide. “We found that 95% of people have their smartphones within reach at all times,” Dix says. “And the average text is replied to within three minutes of sending.” Goertz underscores the importance of tapping into the power available to us to collaborate and inspire sustainable behaviors with contemporary technology. She wants TELUS Garden to be the type of structure her children will be proud of, and indeed, sustainability is all about acting well in the present to provide for the future. “As leaders when we have the opportunity to use new technology, we have to take it,” Goertz says. “It’s incumbent upon us to respect future generations.”