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Sustainability goes beyond zero carbon—it’s about creating greater wellness for tenants

April 19, 2018

Evolv1 is a living example of designing spaces that benefit our minds, our bodies, and our planet

As recently as 10 years ago, sustainability was defined by building metrics. Increasingly, the conversation and innovative thinking around long-term sustainability has expanded to consider human health and wellness. Really, it’s about how people engage positively with the spaces they’re using and how we as designers should creatively support this outcome in our solutions.

One of our newest projects is evolv1. It is a 100,000-square-foot, multi-tenant office building situated in the Waterloo, Ontario, technology community, within the David Johnston Research & Technology Park. Evolv1 is poised to become the first building of its kind in Canada to be awarded Zero Carbon Building—Design certification from the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC).

The evolv1 building in Waterloo, Ontario, gives tenants ample access to daylight and outdoor views.

Scheduled to open later this year, evolv1 is Canada’s first commercially-driven building designed to be net-positive energy and zero carbon.

While I’m extremely proud of these ground-breaking, sustainable features within a commercially viable building, I’d like to highlight the social aspects within the sustainability triangle of environment/economy/society. These ultimately bring to life the full opportunities of a space founded on innovation and community.

Daylighting and access to outdoor views

Daylight is fundamental to a healthy work environment. Good, usable daylighting has been proven through repeated studies to increase productivity and satisfaction in the workplace, improve test scores in schools, and support better outcomes in healthcare environments. In addition to access to daylight, access to views to the outside is also important. This provides connections to surrounding natural elements in the adjacent parks, a connection to the weather outside, and helps support healthy circadian rhythms in our increasingly interior-focused lifestyles.

A building isn’t truly sustainable unless it’s also a healthy, enjoyable place to visit and work.

To accomplish this in evolv1 we have shaped and oriented a shallower floorplate to increase access to daylight for all occupants, included continuous bands of high performance glass, and provided solar shading to manage unwanted glare in the summer months—all to maximize these daylight and view opportunities for all tenants and visitors to the building.

A living wall

Our living wall, literally a three-story vertical garden, can also improve people’s feelings of wellbeing and connection with nature through a strategy called biophilic design—where we incorporate natural elements into an indoor environment. This design feature satisfies our fundamental need as humans to connect with nature, and it can encourage creativity while reducing stress. In addition, a living wall has several other positive health effects, helping mediate humidity and improving indoor air quality.

In evolv1, the green wall plays a prominent role in the lobby area—the heart of the building. It will give tenants an indoor connection to nature. With its central location, the green wall will be visible as tenants head to meetings within the collaborative space or grab a coffee at the café. The living wall—and its health benefits—will be part of their day-to-day experience, effectively providing an area of communal respite within the facility.

Innovation requires many minds and many hands, so when designing evolv1, our team prioritized opportunities for people to interact and collaborate, such as in this atrium space in the main lobby.

Spaces for interaction

In contemporary workspace design, incorporating space for social and business interaction is key. While the design of a typical multi-tenant building typically does not provide for these interaction opportunities within the base building, at evolv1 the atrium space and adjacent collaboration space and café provide the ideal setting for these interactions.

These spaces give occupants and visitors the chance for unplanned, accidental, and frequently synergistic connections, associating their places of work with positive, creative, and energizing experiences. This type of space is ideal for the tenant mix that will range from leading-edge consulting firms to more edgy start-ups and incubators that feed on this type of collaborative opportunity.

For evolv1, we prioritized the need for an atrium space—something that is rare for commercial buildings of this type. The iconic main stairway, elevator landings, and the cafe and collaborative space all participate in this social atrium space. Not only does the atrium provide for interaction and landmark orientation but it will also serve as a location for major events such as product launches and community sustainability events.

A convenient and healthy commute

A key aspect of sustainability and a healthy workplace is giving people a variety of transportation options for their daily trip to the office. Evolv1 provides convenient connection to the new Waterloo Region light rapid transit (LRT) system, connection to the pedestrian and cycling pathway network throughout the Research & Technology Park and adjunct campus and parkland, as well as ample bicycle parking.

This opportunity for more sustainable health benefits for circulation continue into the building where the main lobby stairs provide for an inviting and healthy way to access the upper workplace areas.

For evolv1, we were very fortunate to have our site directly adjacent to the new LRT line. Employees can exit the LRT and reach their workspaces within minutes, freeing up time for their families, hobbies, or jobs. Further, the urban design around evolv1 enhances the daily pedestrian experience moving to and from the LRT. Even the façade of the building is designed to provide a more animated and colorful experience that varies with northbound or southbound trains.

Spaces for unplanned interactions, such as this atrium and stairway at evolv1 in Waterloo, Ontario, provide opportunities for people to interact casually.

Sustainability—zero carbon and more

So, while we’re extremely proud of evolv1’s innovative approach to energy and carbon, that’s just one piece of a larger story. We’re really making a difference in how buildings support our communities and human wellness—something we believe is essential for a sustainable future.

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