Location: Toronto, Ontario
Project Size: 2,815 parking spaces
Throughout its 50-year history, the Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto’s North York area has been no stranger to leading the retail industry with innovative new initiatives, including a number of market-leading sustainability efforts as part of its green program.
In July 2018, the mall’s existing G Parkade southwest parking garage achieved Parksmart certification at the Pioneer level, and in August, Yorkdale’s newly constructed E Parkade east structure certified Parksmart Bronze. These are the first Parksmart certified projects in Canada – and the first retail certifications in the world.
With both projects, the Parksmart certification process has served to highlight opportunities to future-proof parking assets, ensure strong returns on investment, and provide an enhanced parking experience for mall patrons.
Claire Santamaria, Director and General Manager for the Yorkdale Shopping Centre, spoke with GBCI Canada about the certifications and their contribution towards not only reducing the environmental impact of parking and transportation, but also ensuring optimal customer experience.
Yorkdale has had green initiatives in place for more than two decades, from being one of the first shopping centres in Canada to implement a recycling program, to more recent measures such as the utilization of reusable tableware and cutlery, organics composting and an urban garden for its dining facilities, water-saving low-flow toilets in its restrooms, and a two-year bee adoption program.
The mall’s rooftop is covered in more than 150,000 sq.ft. of greenery, helping to save energy by reducing atmospheric heating, along with mitigating local air pollutants and managing surface water runoff. As well, it has one of the largest rooftop solar panel installations in the Greater Toronto Area, with more than 600 panels and seven inverters spanning more than a kilometre. The solar panels produce approximately 234,140 kWh annually, which is equivalent to the annual energy consumption of 40 residential homes.
It’s all part of overall corporate sustainability initiatives for Oxford Properties, which manages Yorkdale as part of its portfolio, with the aim of reducing carbon footprint by lowering energy use and improving environmental quality. The pursuit of Parksmart certification aligns well with these efforts, Santamaria notes.
“As leaders, it is our responsibility to operate our garages with the lowest environmental impact possible,” she says. “The parking garages are an integral part of the shopping centre and an area that deserves attention and should not be overlooked.”
With this in mind, Yorkdale’s existing G Parkade, which offers two levels of underground parking totalling 740 spaces, and its one million sq.ft., five-level E Parkade underground garage, which provides 2,075 spots, include the following features:
In addition, digital signs at all of Yorkdale’s parkade entrances indicate the number of available spaces to reduce idling while drivers search for a spot, and the mall’s website features a map with real-time parking availability to allow customers to determine ahead of time which lots have the most free spaces and to better plan their shopping trips.
Yorkdale’s parking facilities were also able to achieve significant credits for robust recycling efforts, as well as for additional third-party certification through participation in environmental sustainability programs.
Santamaria notes that the achievement has allowed Yorkdale and Oxford Properties to decrease their environmental impact and footprint, through measures such as an increased focus on improving energy efficiency and implementing green cleaning practices. The shopping centre has been able to report reduced operating costs in comparison to 2016 totals, thanks in part to its green roof and green wall, as well as the solar panel array, which has been performing extremely well.
The pursuit of Parksmart certification also supported and recognized the project team’s efforts to seek continued improvements in energy efficiency through the completion of an ASHRAE Level II audit, feeding into an ongoing strategy to drive more sustainable parking operations.
Given the way mobility systems are changing and evolving, Santamaria says that it was important as well for Yorkdale and Oxford Properties to ensure their parking assets worked in concert with alternative forms of transportation. As such, they have partnered with Smart Commute, a local transportation management association, to promote increased carpooling, transit usage, cycling and walking.
These initiatives serve the ultimate objective of creating a premier shopping destination, and a stronger overall property portfolio. “In everything we do, our goal is to provide our patrons with a world-class customer experience, regardless of which area on the property they are visiting,” she adds. “Yorkdale strives to innovate and evolve while continually implementing best building practices.”
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