Earth Day: SAS Canada goes green

SAS Institute Inc. hopes other IT companies will follow in its green footsteps. The software vendor said it is addressing environmental issues with the design of its new Canadian corporate headquarters.

SAS Canada said it is pouring $30 million into the eight-story, 110,000 square-foot edifice, which falls into a new genre of buildings architects have developed to minimize negative effects on the environment. The firm said the building is slated for completion in the fall.

According to SAS, the building, located at King Steet in Toronto, will be the first in the city to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, according to the requirements set out by the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) in Ottawa. LEED is a voluntary, market-driven rating system developed to provide a standard benchmark and certification for the design and construction of green buildings. According to CaGBC, LEED-certified buildings use on average 30 per cent less energy than conventional buildings.

Carl Farrell, president of SAS Canada, said the company took some time to talk to its employees about what they wanted in a building. “We wanted a nice environment for staff,” he said, adding that the concept of an environmentally-friendly building fit in with the culture of the surrounding area.

“The whole neighbourhood is in development mode on the east side (of King Street). We wanted to build something that would match the culture there. We didn’t want people to look at it and say, ‘What an eyesore of a building sucking all that electricity.’ We wanted to be a responsible neighbour.”

The building will include a rainwater recovery and storage system. “Water is an important thing for all of us…and there is pressure on water systems at the moment,” Farrell said. “We will be able to catch rainwater in the basement and recycle that into a number of systems,” including toilets. Low-flow washroom fixtures will also be installed to reduce water usage.

Farrell also noted that Low-E tinted glass will be installed in office windows to allow for natural sunlight transmission with reduced heat. “Sitting inside a room with glass windows with the sun in front of you all day can really heat up the building. Being able to refract that so the heat doesn’t come in all day will minimize air conditioning costs,” he said.

New technology will also make it possible for elevators to consume up to 50 per cent less energy than traditional systems. In addition, Farrell said the air under the building’s special flooring system will circulate five to six times faster than in normal systems. “If someone sneezes, that system will pull that air out five to six times faster,” making it a healthier environment for employees. “It’s a bit more expensive but it’s well worth (installing) those types of things,” he said.

The IT department is also getting some help on the energy-savings front. “There is a lot of wasted energy for cooling. We have had our designers come in to build new server rooms and have a whole bunch of new servers that are more heat- and energy-efficient,” he said.

With high desktop and notebook PC turnover, SAS also has a donation program in place for schools and charities that could use equipment otherwise headed for the dumpster.

Farrell said SAS hopes to “lead by example” and see other IT companies follow suit with their own green initiatives. The firm is also trying to make environmental awareness part of its brand. “It gives us recognition” among customers, he said. “We have found that the senior executives of some larger customers are keen to associate with the right organizations, ones that care about the community and have low staff turnover. They take a lot more interest in that type of organization than they did five or six years ago.”

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