Centre for Sustainable Development

65,000 square feet of hope…


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50 Sainte-Catherine Ouest, Montréal, Québec, H2X 3V4 Tel. 514-394-1108 Courriel: info@lamdd.org
CA Canada
Web http://www.lamdd.org/


About the project Edit

Eight organizations dedicated to promoting sustainable development met to create the Centre for Sustainable Development. The mission of this model green building is to inspire decision-makers in the real estate sector, as well as the general public, to support sustainable development and create a synergy between its founding members: Amnesty International, le Centre de la petite enfance, Le Petit réseau, Montréal’s regional environment council (CRE), Environnement Jeunesse, Équiterre, Option consommateurs, Regroupement national des conseils régionaux de l’environnement du Québec et Vivre en Ville.


In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

The Centre is the first commercial building designed to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum standards in a downtown Canadian city. Its green roof, raised floors, machine roomless elevators (MRL), outer shell with triple windows and two low-emissivity films in particular, heating and air conditioning operated by 28 geothermal wells and efficient lighting – all make it one of most energy-efficient office buildings in Quebec.

The five-storey building was raised after 10 years of work thanks to the will and mobilization of dedicated partners who continue to pool together their vision, ideas, financing and business networks. In the context of the climate, energy and economic crises, the Centre for Sustainable Development’s objectives is to “build a future with endangering it” by:

• Maximizing the potential of social and environmental organizations by co-governing and pooling resources
• Be a think-tank for reflection, education, innovation and meetings on sustainable development
• Provide educational tools on sustainable development for citizens, businesses and government
• Provide Canadian researchers a research tool on the green building

From a building science point of view, the most significant innovation of the project was not the final product, but the process getting there. In all stages from design to construction, Équiterre and all the players involved – architects, consulting engineers, general contractors, consultants, researchers, suppliers, etc. – worked as a multidisciplinary team in order to come to innovative solutions by putting the integrated design into practice. This was essential for the success of an innovative project like the Centre for Sustainable Development. The LEED’s rating system served as a guide for many of these discussions, but it was the social and ecological criteria beyond LEED that were often chosen.

What is the social value of this project? Edit

The building belongs to a non-profit organization equally and equitably controlled by its members. By co-governing and pooling resources, the building maximizes productive potential and dissemination of social and environmental organizations offering high quality head office and urban office space. Initial investment in environmental technologies allows for savings in operating costs.

The Centre has chosen to favour social economy companies to provide services. This preference has been applied to the building of the five kitchenette that are the work of Boulet Vers, a company that acts as a cabinetmaking school for at-risk youth. This approach was also used to sign contracts for garbage collection (RécupérAction Marronniers) and insurance services (Desjardins Insurance).

As well, thanks to a partnership with AECOM and the Social Development Society of Ville-Marie (SDSVM) and an agreement with the organization SAC À DOS/Action-Réinsertion, the Centre will soon hire people for social integration. They will perform housekeeping duties and prepare the Centre’s conference rooms as part of their training experience in a professional setting.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

Several elements had been anticipated in order to encourage citizens to visit the Centre. First, space is available for events. After barely 7 months in operation, more than 250 events have already taken place at the Centre. The Premier of Quebec organized meetings and press conferences. Private companies held employee training sessions and citizens groups from various sectors chose the Centre for seminars, conferences, meetings and assemblies. To rent a room for your event, please go to http://www.maisondeveloppementdurable.org/en/rooms/information.

The Centre is also a place to disseminate information. Of particular interest is a permanent information booth on sustainable development where questions of all kinds of questions are answered.

Since the beginning of construction, the Centre has been giving educational tours of the building that more than several hundred people have already benefitted from. Also, a self-guided interpretative tour of the Centre will soon be available.

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

For several years, Équiterre employees and volunteers worked in an inadequate environment. Therefore, in 2002, Équiterre’s management decided to move in order to provide a healthy, accessible, safe and inspiring setting for its artisans. Vegetable-based ink that committed the decision to 100% recycled paper was not yet dry, so Équiterre immediately made a second decision: make an educational project out of the move. The Centre’s seed was planted, then many groups took to the project and roots started to grow.

What is the business model of this project? Edit

When Équiterre launched the project, it had no money, land or experience in property development, so it surrounded itself with partners from all sectors to realize the project. Developers, lawyers and building managers gave their time. Government, businesses and foundations gave money. Citizen groups gave the project its soul which was essential to overcoming many challenges. A total of 53 partners and private donors helped realize and finance $27 million, including: the ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs (MDDEP), City of Montréal, borough of Ville-Marie, Old Montréal Business Development Corporation, le ministère des Affaires municipales, des Régions et de l’Occupation du territoire, as well as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. ALCOA is the main partner.

Beyond the building itself, in order to succeed, an immense coalition of organizations not necessarily known to work together had to be created. This mobilization has been by far the project’s biggest challenge. A challenge that was so well raised that the Premier of Quebec, President of Alcoa and Amnesty International are all proud of its realization.

One of the greatest challenges was convincing new partners of the reliability of non-profit organizations. In fact, given their mission, NPO’s rarely meet the strict banking criteria designed for private companies. However, their solid reputations, support from one of the most important private foundations in Canada and the vast know-how of the Caisse d’économie solidaire allowed it to happen.

Without a doubt, one of the innovative aspects of the project is its legal form that could serve as a model for other projects with mixed applications. In fact, although its legal form was for a non-profit organization, the Centre integrated the structure of its elements to be both cooperative and capitalist. Like a publicly-traded company, each member is also an investor whose the investment and return on investment varies according to the amount invested and the level of risk. However, like a co-op, each member of the Centre has only one vote regardless of its size or amount invested. Therefore, the Centre becomes an organization whose mission is to showcase sustainable development in the entire community by being a vehicle for investment that reinforces the NPO’s financial base. Lastly, the Centre is a pool of services between non-profits.

This model allows diversified business models to be built (donations, susidies, loans, investments, etc.) that can be a source of inspiration for other projects.

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