Oxford Properties’ Yorkdale Shopping Centre achieves Canada’s first Parksmart certifications

Oxford Properties’ Yorkdale Shopping Centre achieves Canada’s first Parksmart certifications

By Mark Hutchinson, Vice President of Green Building Programs, Canada Green Building Council

The changing nature of the parking and transportation industry has highlighted the importance of understanding the sector’s environmental impact and its key role in mitigating climate change. Among those leading the charge in this area is the Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto’s North York area, which has been no stranger to innovative new initiatives throughout its 50-year history, including a number of sustainability efforts as part of its green program.

In July 2018, the mall achieved Parksmart certification at the Pioneer level for existing parking structures by obtaining more than 90 points for its G Parkade southwest parking garage, and in August, Yorkdale’s newly constructed E Parkade east structure certified Parksmart Bronze by achieving between 110 and 134 points. These are the first Parksmart certified projects in Canada – and the first retail certifications in the world.

The Parksmart rating system is administered in Canada by GBCI Canada, which is jointly-owned by the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) and Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI). Designed to advance sustainable mobility through smarter parking structure design and operation, Parksmart helps parking structure owners and managers ensure their assets are future-proof and functioning optimally in order to maximize operational savings.

For both Yorkdale projects, the Parksmart certification process has served to highlight opportunities to maximize and modernize parking assets, ensure strong returns on investment, and provide an enhanced parking experience for mall patrons.

Redefining parking as part of a broader green strategy

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, notes Claire Santamaria, Director and General Manager for the Yorkdale Shopping Centre.

“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:

  • Four electric vehicle charging stations for Parkade E and 10 for Parkade G;
  • Dedicated carpool parking spaces;
  • A complimentary tire inflation station at each parkade that can be used by both drivers and cyclists;
  • Rainwater collection through four cisterns in Parkade G and one in Parkade E, with capacity of 60,000 litres and 749,000 litres respectively, used for irrigation of the mall’s landscaping and green roofs, and to power wash the garages;
  • Grey water from a 30,000-litre tank in Parkade E is repurposed for toilets and urinals in the public washrooms of Yorkdale’s East expansion;
  • Energy-saving programmable lighting with occupancy sensors and exterior photocell lighting;
  • Post-and-ring bicycle stands and bicycle lockers, offering both covered and uncovered bicycle parking;
  • Internal and external wayfinding signage; and
  • Access to cycle routes and mass transit, including the GO Bus, city buses and the subway.

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.

An eye on the future of sustainable mobility

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.” ν

To learn more about Parksmart and how you can certify your project, visit gbcicanada.ca/parksmart.shtml.

Mark Hutchinson is the vice president of green building programs at the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC)


Leave a Reply