October 25, 2014
by Canadian Architect
Employees of Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) have moved into a stunning new workplace at 1077 Great Northern Way, as the iconic Canadian outdoor retailer relocates its headquarters to False Creek Flats of East Vancouver. MEC’s people will occupy a next-generation green building that was specially designed to encourage employee health and activity (inside and out), foster innovation and tread an extremely light environmental footprint.
CEO David Labistour said, “From members and employees to the communities we serve, MEC exists to support people, to help them be active and enjoy the benefits of outdoor recreation. Not only does our new headquarters embody this passion, it is a space that supports the culture, collaboration and innovation required to meet the demands of MEC’s progressive business.”
MEC’s new head office facility was designed to meet the Platinum standard of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system. The LEED Platinum standard exceeds the City of Vancouver’s requirements, and it is one of the highest green building standards in the world.
“MEC’s new head office is an inspiring example of the leading-edge investment and job creation taking place in Vancouver’s unprecedented boom in new office space,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “MEC’s commitment to innovative green building and creating green jobs represents a significant contribution to Vancouver’s economy and our goal of becoming the greenest city in the world by 2020. The new landmark head office is another huge boost for Vancouver’s False Creek Flats, which is fast emerging as a thriving district for innovation and green enterprise.”
Conceived as a campus with water a central feature, the four-storey 112,000-square-foot glass, wood and steel-façade building that dominates the two-acre site is “alive.” Natural light and fresh air flood the space. Rainwater is both stored for reuse and captured in gardens to echo the site’s salt marsh past. Heat is drawn from geothermal wells underground. Sensors monitor sunlight to automatically lower and raise blinds and switch lights on and off, continually optimizing the building’s temperature and saving electricity.
Movement is almost mandatory. The central atrium with its four-storey steel-and-glass staircase draws people up and down the building and to its various interconnected work areas, while the main-floor studio and fitness room facilitate lunchtime and after-hours yoga classes and cross-training. Adjustable desks allow employees to either sit or stand while they work. The bouldering cave and storage area for 128 bikes support MEC’s rich climbing and cycling culture.
The location itself lends itself to activity. China Creek Park’s playing fields and running track are across the street while the Central Valley Greenway sees hundreds of people walking and cycling every day to and from work and school. Multi-modal access is further enhanced by MEC’s close proximity to the VCC-Clark SkyTrain Station and transit hub.
“For more than two decades, MEC has been developing and operating some of Canada’s most advanced green retail buildings,” said CFO Sandy Treagus. “Harnessing that experience and, in turn, adapting and applying it to the development of our new head office was enabled by the support, dedication and skill of our numerous project partners. We are extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished together.”
MEC’s new headquarters is estimated to be 70 percent more energy efficient than conventional Canadian office buildings. It will use approximately 60 percent less potable water than other comparably sized buildings.
“Vancouver gave rise to what is now a flourishing industry that is variously geared to active outdoor lifestyles,” said CEO Labistour. “MEC was there from the outset, and we are excited to continue contributing to the industry’s growth while remaining proudly at home in the city of our birth.”
MEC’s head-office personnel fulfill numerous highly skilled, creative and technical jobs involving product design, development and procurement, supply-chain management, omni-channel store support, web and information technology; human resources, marketing, sustainability and administrative functions. Next spring, 85 member support staff will also relocate to the new facility. The move will see the integration of MEC’s service centre into its head office operations.
With the move to Great Northern Way, MEC will join the new Centre for Digital Media as the latest major organization to continue the transformation of False Creek Flats. The co-op is leaving an office space in South False Creek at 149 West 4th Avenue that it occupied for 15 years and has long since outgrown. MEC’s new head office facility was designed by Proscenium Architecture and Interiors, with Sharp & Diamond Landscape Architecture responsible for the landscape plan. The general contractor for the project is Ventana Construction Corporation, and office furniture and the floor plenum system were provided by Haworth.