Green buildings

From the roofs of our buildings to the behind-the-scenes heating and cooling systems, MEC aims to maximize efficiency and minimize environmental impacts. Through our Green Building Systems program, we’ve been “greening” buildings for more than a decade to create structures that are healthy and inviting for you and MEC staff.

Some of our stores are in refurbished spaces, like an old auto dealership (Vancouver) or a former heritage hotel (Victoria). Others are built new, which allows us to incorporate sustainability into the design. MEC has been a retail leader in green buildings; we had first and second retail stores in Canada – Winnipeg and Ottawa – to comply with a Natural Resources Canada C2000 Green Building Standard that acknowledges buildings that achieve a 50% reduction in energy consumption over conventional structures. Eight of our buildings are designed to LEED Gold standards and our Head Office is designed to a LEED platinum model.

Our stores are a mix of buildings we own and buildings we lease, and every year we take a look to see what kinds of continuous improvements we can make overall.

Biggest impacts

The largest energy savings come from the things that may not seem the most exciting: lighting and heating and cooling systems. While not necessarily as interesting as neat features like straw-bale walls or reclaimed timber from the bottom of the river, these are areas where we can make the most impact.

Energy-saving lighting features that we’re able to include depend on the individual buildings. Some ways we’ve reduced energy through lighting in stores are:

  • LED or florescent tubes, which take less energy to produce and run than conventional bulbs
  • Motion sensors to turn off lights in unoccupied areas
  • Sawtooth-shaped roofs and high windows let in as much daylight as possible.

When it comes to heating and cooling, some energy-efficient features we’ve been able to incorporate in different stores include:

  • Geo-exchange systems in concrete floor slabs to provide radiant heating and cooling.
  • Ventilation that uses natural convection and prevailing winds to maintain temperature and air quality.
  • Insulation that’s above the standard that’s called for in the Model National Energy Code.
  • On-site energy generation, like solar panels on the roofs of some of our stores.
  • Investing in renewable energy certificates in select locations (from wind, solar, low-impact hydro and landfill gas).

Clever features

Next time you’re at a store, ask about the self-guided Green Building Tour to see what kind of thoughtful features are incorporated into the building. Some of them you might already be familiar with – like our bike parking or simple unfinished concrete floors – but others may be hidden from view.

Here are some of the highlights from MEC stores across the country:

  • Rainwater collected from the roof and stored in an underground cistern that provides water for all non-potable uses.
  • Composting toilets that reduce wastewater and provide fertilizer for our rooftop garden.
  • Landscaping that uses non-invasive, drought- and salt-tolerant species, and plants that encourage bird and insect populations.
  • Countertops tiled with a composite, stone-like material made from 100% post-consumer waste.
  • Reclaimed materials, such as steel beams or timber from log booms, and re-used retail features.
  • Purposeful ponds (called bioswales) around stores for storm and rainwater management.