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Retrofitting Outdated Commercial Building Creates Competitive Workspace

Huntington Properties – Hunting for Investment Opportunities in Ottawa’s Downtown

By: Ashley McDonald

Many companies around the globe are starting to view sustainability as a key component of their business structure. Reducing fixed costs through energy efficiency measures has been a popular reaction to increasing energy prices. As well, this newfound control over back-burner expenses has continued to entice building owners in the wake of global economic instability. Despite the numerous reasons to “Go Green” (such as; cost saving, positive stakeholder perception, competitive edge in the marketplace, etc.), the IMFA explains that many existing buildings are only just being targeted for upgrades or renovations.  An article from UBC explains that many buildings in city cores are reaching the upper end of their life-cycles and are in need of upgrades. They continue to explain that these areas are also the most attractive to potential tenants. There are companies who realize the opportunities presented in the perfectly located, albeit, energy-hog type buildings. Huntington Properties, a commercial real-estate company based in Ottawa, Ontario, are making their mark on their City, upgrading outdated buildings in the next up-and-coming neighbourhoods of Ottawa’s Downtown.

In an interview Craig Whitten, of Huntington Properties, explained that the company has expanded their property management operations to include construction and renovation. As the general contractor on their first large scale renovation Huntington jumped at the “hidden opportunities at 396 Cooper Street”, Craig explained. They saw potential in the location of the property, right on the corner of Bank and Cooper. As the city’s core continues to grow and new talent set their sights on trendy downtown, the area is “sure to explode”. What’s more, the city of Ottawa has targeted Bank Street for a rebuild of municipal infrastructure. The buildings in the area span decades of development, from late 19th century to new construction. 396 Cooper Street, a 21,000sqft, four storey commercial space, presented a number of challenges, including low grade windows, poor insulation and a dated facade.

Huntington Retrofit Before Image 396 Cooper Street Ottawa

The renovation focused on upgrading insulation, windows, the exterior walls, interior design, as well as the HVAC system. All these renovations were undertaken with minimal disturbance to the existing first floor tenants, Tim Horton’s and Henry’s. The walls received spray foam insulation increasing the R-Value to 38-42 RSI/m. The existing single pane windows were replaced with double pane low-e windows, greatly increasing their efficiency.  Both these measures can reduce heating and cooling costs, producing quick return on the initial investment, just 6 months or less for insulation. In conjunction with these projects, the façade received a stucco coat, further increasing insulation to the exterior walls and providing a quick, low-cost facelift for the building. The HVAC system upgrade was designed by a company based in Montreal and highlights state of the art technology to maximize efficiency. This new system brings fresh air from a roof top exchange to one of four heating heads on each floor. This eliminates loss of heated air as it’s moved through the building. These upgrades have created an all but brand new building to entice top tenants in the area.

With experience in energy conservation in commercial buildings, including rooftop solar installations, Craig explained that they expect a quick return on their total investment. As building energy efficiency is quickly becoming a top selling feature for interested tenants “the decision to upgrade the building wasn’t a difficult one. Out-dated buildings are a good price and the upgrades are not so daunting, especially with incentives.” Craig continued to explain that their renovations qualify 396 Cooper Street for BOMABESt certification. BOMABESt is a nationally recognized third-party certification body. They specialize in recognition of building efficiency upgrades and industry best practices.

As new construction is happening further from the cores, older buildings are being thrown into the spotlight as fantastic opportunities for investment. Tenants are being drawn to the pools of top talent in the city cores and will keep an eye out for energy efficient buildings to keep their fixed costs as low as they can. Ever increasing technology in the market place is making it easier to achieve maximum efficiency without the hefty price tag. As well, dedication to core improvement is taking on a life of its own. “We wanted to be a part of the movement, rebuilding Ottawa’s downtown.” Craig said humbly near the end of the interview. That kind of excitement can be felt in many cities throughout North America.

Ashley McDonald – special to Monster Commercial

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One Response to “Retrofitting Outdated Commercial Building Creates Competitive Workspace”

  1. The economy has picked up and there’s more interest in people buying and selling these days. This seems to be the trend in Calgary. Like this site. Looking for ideas for my website to improve it myself.

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