When Oxford Properties and equity partner CPP Investment Board (CPPIB) first announced plans for the RBC WaterPark Place office tower for Toronto’s waterfront, the 30-storey building was initially intended to be just another LEED Gold structure.
That has changed over the last year as Oxford discovered that a few tweaks and additions would allow it to gain the additional 20 points in energy savings required in categories such as design, indoor environmental quality, water efficiency, and energy and atmosphere, among others, to push it to the magic 80 points required for Platinum certification.
Platinum also didn’t come at too high a cost, although Oxford Properties’ President and CEO Blake Hutcheson begs to differ on that interpretation.
“It is a minimum of $500,000 incremental cost, and maybe as much as $1 million, on a $400-million project,” he said. “Not peanuts because it adds up” but payback on that investment will be quick – three to five years – in the form of higher rents as well as more attention and prestige for the building given its unique status in the Toronto market.
So just what has pushed RBC’s glistening new nest from Gold to Platinum?
Hutcheson cites a new HVAC system which bypasses general heating and cooling ducting and brings fresh air in directly “which is technologically more complicated and more expensive” and redesign of the building envelope for daylight penetration and double glazing in key areas. “It was a combination of things. Some water efficiencies, some building material adjustments and there were some energy improvements,” he explained.
The 930,000-square-foot RBC WaterPark Place already had some decent enviro bragging rights when it got its big unveiling last fall. At the time, Oxford and CPPIB pointed to features such as high performance building envelope and mechanical systems, water saving infrastructure such as a cistern and greywater re-use, daylight sensors and high-tech lighting controls and a sophisticated energy measurement and verification system.
The 50-50 joint venture partners pushed that envelope by hooking into the deep water lake cooling network which surprisingly has not been used by most of the city’s waterfront properties, “best in class” plumbing features such as 4.8-litre single flush toilets and the installation of vision glazing glass on about 53% of the tower’s windows to brighten the interior while improving insulation qualities.
Given that modern office towers are major heat sinks, keeping them from getting hot in the first place and getting heat out are a major focus. The building’s north-south orientation – which is touted as giving more occupants a lake view – will help. The building will also sport fins on the exterior facade “that diffuse the sunlight as it enters the building” said the Oxford CEO. “Everything is state of the art in moderating the heat and the cooling and making sure you keep things from staying at peak hour pressure points.”
The incremental changes from moving from Gold to Platinum will result in savings of 1% to 1.5% in total annual operating costs, the Oxford chief said.
Tenants Demanding Smart Buildings
Oxford aimed for LEED Gold – and now Platinum – because it recognized that the bar is continually being raised by tenants demanding that office space not only be functional, but as environmental and healthy as possible. It also makes financial sense for landlords. “More and more tenants, particularly of size, feel that they want to be associated with smart buildings and the environment and making the right decision for the future so it does, we think, cater to many of the tenants out there who are thinking about these things and associate their image with it,” said Hutcheson.
Scheduled for completion in the fall of 2014, RBC WaterPark Place should not be that difficult to fill up, Platinum status or not. Lead tenant Royal Bank is taking up 575,000 square feet and moving about 4,000 bank employees, leaving approximately 355,000 square feet available for other tenants in the high rise portion of the structure.
Located between Bay and York Streets on the north side of Queens Quay Boulevard, RBC WaterPark Place will feature a seven-storey, 50,000 square foot podium floorplate, and a 26,500 square foot rectangular tower floorplate on floors 8 through 30. It will feature more than 50,000 square feet of retail services and amenities on the lower floors.
The tower was designed by WZMH Architects and will be built by Ellis Don. It will be linked to the transportation hub of Union Station by a new elevated enclosed pedestrian bridge.