Technology and Health Converge in Toronto

by Angela Spangler

SOURCE: International WELL Building Institute


Toronto Today

Toronto has firmly established itself as one of the most desirable modern cities in North America to live in and it’s clear to see why. As the city experiences a renaissance and booming real estate market, it has placed technology and health at the forefront.

One doesn’t need to look far to realize how technology is shaping the future of Toronto. According to CBRE’s recent tech survey, Toronto was the fastest growing market for tech jobs in 2017 and placed fourth overall in tech talent for North America, just behind the Bay Area, Seattle and Washington DC. Its publicly funded education system helps deliver a 21st-Century trained workforce feeding talent into the technology and artificial intelligence sectors. Sidewalk Labs (an Alphabet company) has teamed up with Waterfront Toronto to reimagine a lakefront neighbourhood built from the internet up and infused with technology as only Google could fashion. During Amazon’s highly publicized second headquarters search, Toronto was one of 20 shortlisted locations and the only representative in Canada. Toronto is undergoing a rebranding to position themselves ahead of the curve as the impact of technology reshapes our cities around the globe.

From a health perspective, Canada is taking a multi-sector approach in addressing its major concerns including combating the opioid crisis, providing support for its aging population, and creating communities designed to be livable, walkable and sustainable. Many of these goals align with the visioning behind the WELL Building Standard, which seeks to create healthy environments for all building occupants and community members. According to the public health report from 2016, Toronto saw a 73% increase in the reported number of drug related overdose deaths (from 146 in 2004 to 253 in 2015). The city is looking for preventative solutions that can address these issues head on. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that people living in walkable, compact, and connected neighbourhoods enjoy better health – including lower rates of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.  

Toronto also faces issues both in supporting the aging population and providing environments for low-income citizens to thrive. Affordable housing units are permeating the developing city to ensure Toronto can become an accessible place to live and low-income residents don’t get pushed out of the city. “In Toronto, the active wait-list for subsidized housing hit almost 92,500 households in late 2017.” Fortunately, Toronto is undergoing a major construction boom. Sidewalk Labs is developing mixed use and mixed income buildings and focusing on sustainable design principles to have a positive environmental impact.

Another way to support the needs of low-income residents is through prioritizing an improved and affordable mass transit system. There are significant efforts underway to improve walkability scores and promote the use of cycling as an alternative to driving or mass transit in Toronto’s lakefront community.   

Studies show that tech savvy millennials are prioritizing their health and well-being far more than previous generations had. Millennial’s focus on community engagement, physical activity, and mindfulness indicate how Toronto is a prime market for the growth and adoption of the WELL Building Standard. WELL Buildings signify the commitment to health enhanced by technology that will help ensure Toronto remains a desirable city for the evolving workforce.

WELL Adoption  

Currently, there are 20 WELL projects in the province of Ontario, most of which are located in Toronto. Five projects are WELL Silver Certified, three are WELL Gold Certified and the remaining twelve are registered in active pursuit of certification. Ranging from corporate occupiers such as TD Bank, Ernst & Young, CBRE, and Teknion to developers like Cadillac Fairview, Hines, and Ivanhoe Cambridge, WELL has seen widespread adoption across the private sector. Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s (TRCA) new headquarters building in Vaughn is the first public-sector project committing to WELL Certification. The city of Hamilton just down the lakefront has included the WELL Community Standard in its winning bid for the Pier 8 Redevelopment project, marking another municipal project. With the municipal health initiatives, the market is ripe for the proliferation of WELL Certified buildings and communities.

Teknion First Manufacturer in the world to achieve WELL

Teknion’s 11,750 sq ft Toronto showroom just achieved WELL Certified Silver status. In a recent press release Tracy Backus, Director, Sustainable Programs reports the following, “By embracing WELL and placing people at the heart of design, construction, operations and development decisions, we are empowered to add value to real estate assets, generate savings in personnel costs, and improve upon the human experience, health and well-being. Prioritizing WELL has again positioned Teknion on the cusp of sustainable and healthy building innovation.”

TD Centre Approaching WELL from Both Sides

TD Centre, managed by Cadillac Fairview and largely occupied by TD Bank was the first to achieve WELL Certification and did so from both the owner’s side and the occupier’s. TD23 was the first WELL Silver Certified space in Toronto. The 25,000 sq ft interiors project implemented over 60 health-focused strategies and has since generated a lot of attention throughout the community. Simple adjustments and small investments such as providing healthy fruits and vegetables went a long way to contributing to the employee experience and the corporate culture of wellness.

“Buildings are living and breathing human environments that have a material impact on the mind, body and spirit of people who live and work in them,” said David Hoffman, General Manager, Toronto-Dominion Centre.  “Through smart investments in building design and operations that enhance human health and wellness, TD Centre is delivering significant new value for our tenants, supporting the productivity and competitiveness of their businesses.”

CBRE’s Triple Play

One of the most active participants in the WELL movement to-date are commercial real estate firms and CBRE has been there from the very start. The CBRE Downtown Los Angeles office was the first WELL Certified project under the WELL v1 Pilot. CBRE currently holds the largest number of WELL Certified office spaces and is continually pursuing certifications throughout their Canadian and global portfolios. In Toronto, CBRE recently achieved WELL Certification simultaneously across its three corporate offices in the market.

“By embracing the WELL Building Standard across the entirety of our Toronto footprint, we are making good on our promise that the office can, and should, add to the health of your people. When you consider that Canadians spend half their waking hours in an office space, we believe these changes can have a truly positive impact on the health and engagement of any organization’s most valuable asset, our people,” said Mark Renzoni, President and CEO of CBRE Canada. “When you build health and wellness into the fabric of your office space, it’s a powerful statement about your commitment to your people.”

WELL into the Future

Looking towards the future, the cutting-edge CIBC Square office complex has officially broken ground and has been designed to meet the highest sustainability standards, pursuing both LEED and WELL certifications. Co-developers Hines and Ivanhoe Cambridge have placed occupant health, well-being and quality of life at the center of the new development, which will include a publicly accessible elevated park spanning the existing railroad tracks and connecting the two office towers. Phase one of the development is expected to be complete in 2020 followed by phase two in 2023.

WELL Community Building

Help Toronto push forward with their momentum with the WELL movement and ensure that they remain on the cutting edge of health-conscious urban development as we blaze towards developing the technology influenced international city of the future. Through focus on human health and well-being in the face of technology WELL becomes the fundamental framework that can ensure that evidence-based design strategies are implemented correctly to collectively improve the city.

You can join the movement by getting involved with our ever-expanding community of WELL AP’s and WELL Faculty members who are engaged with many incredible local projects highlighted below.

To learn more about how WELL is a catalyst in the healthy building movement connect with us live at the upcoming ULI Toronto Event, Winning the War for Talent: The Business Case for Healthy Buildings on September 12, 2018 from 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm at CBRE Limited located at 145 King Street West, Suite 1100 Toronto, Ontario M5H 1J8.

Tweet me: See what happens when #technology + #health converge in #Toronto @WELLcertified #IWBI @CBREAmericas #builtenvironment #ESG #WELLBuildingStandard

KEYWORDS: Toronto, WELL Certified, WELL Building Standard, International Well Building Institute (IWBI), Real Estate, CBRE

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