The Ontario Real Estate Association has been awarded a prestigious national designation for outstanding environmental efforts.
The association has achieved LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification at its building in Don Mills. This marks the culmination of more than five years of efforts to enhance the physical space through various environment-friendly initiatives.
“We are incredibly proud of our LEED status. It’s the result of a tremendous amount of hard work by many people, and we’re not stopping here. We plan to continue with green initiatives and steward our environment to make our members proud and set an example for others to follow.”
An international benchmark, LEED is a third-party certification administered by the Canada Green Building Council. With this status, OREA joins an elite group, since only 241 buildings in the province have earned certification from the council to date.
Efforts to “green” the building began during a multi-year renovation and expansion project that began in 2006, starting with a review of OREA’s aging facilities, the association added 929 square metres (10,000 square feet) to its existing Toronto headquarters. A major study explored solutions, including relocation, renovation or expansion. The travel patterns of staff and students to and from OREA were examined and a decision was made to retain the existing site but to expand and renovate.
Achieving LEED designation was complex and involved various parties: staff, the board of directors and a renovation task force comprised mainly of the association’s commercial members. The criteria are based on energy conservation and sustainability. The council examines human and environmental health related to sustainable site development, water and energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
The human aspect is also vital.
“The people who walk through OREA’s doors – our members, more than 100 staff, and about 150 students a day – enjoy the benefits of a greener, healthier, and more comfortable building. We’re delighted with this news and hope that other associations and member firms will make similar efforts.”
Certification is based on points achieved in an independent review, and preparing the OREA submission was a long and arduous process, involving everything from the choice of cleaning products to the type of carpet installed. Sustainable products were sought and tested during the expansion. Finding tradespeople familiar with the newer, state-of-the-art products and equipment was another challenge.
Despite the doubling of floor space after the building addition, electricity usage at OREA has remained stable. Automatic sensors turn off lights when the office is vacant, while sophisticated thermostats and heat pumps have cut natural gas consumption to one quarter of levels used before the addition. Total energy savings are about 50 per cent – a vast improvement. The indoor environment and air quality are far healthier due to materials such as recycled carpet free of the toxic fibres and chemicals found in many carpets.
To qualify for LEED status, the association needed to earn points. We also made choices that didn’t win points but were good for people or the environment. For example, all of OREA’s landscaping is self-sustaining and does not require watering after the first year.
Achieving LEED status provides a huge payback. It means energy savings, fewer sick days and benefits to everyone’s health and well-being. The greening process will continue.
To learn more about LEED, visit the Canada Green Building Council website at www.cagbc.ca.