If napping and climbing a bouldering wall don’t sound like typical workplace activities, think again. Designed by Proscenium Architecture & Interiors, Mountain Equipment Co-op’s new headquarters was built to encourage health and activity in the workplace, drive innovation, and bear an extremely light environmental footprint. In the fall of 2014, Canada’s leading outdoor retailer, MEC, relocated its headquarters into a four-storey, 112,000-square-foot glass, wood, and steel building in False Creek, Vancouver. Boasting an on-site cross-fit gym, yoga on the green roof, pro-bouldering cave, expansive bike room, and a four-storey steel staircase, MEC HQ is on the fast-track to becoming a leader in commercial eco-consciousness. Oh, and if those amenities don’t blow your mind, there’s even a nap room where staff can recharge before their next meeting.
Aiming for a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum level, rather than the City of Vancouver’s new commercial zonings standards to build to a minimum of LEED Gold, it is no surprise that the designers at Proscenium looked across the Georgia Strait to enlist co-owners, Des Carpenter and Kees Schaddelee, of Victoria’s Vittrium Building Products, for headquarter surfaces and countertops. Environite™ countertops from Vittrium are made from locally acquired recycled glass and manufactured in Victoria, BC. Originally developed in 2002 by Carpenter and his father, Environite was initially presented as an alternative material to machined aluminum for use in commercial airline galley work surfaces. Proving to be too weighty for an aerospace application, this innovative and durable product is rapidly growing as the most eco-conscious, affordable, ‘green’ countertop on the market.
Launched in spring 2012, Vittrium is now one of four licensed manufacturers of Environite in North America. A versatile product that is custom-moulded to virtually any size, shape, or contour, as long as it is flat, Environite is used for a variety of commercial and residential surfaces and countertops. Durable and non-porous, it is highly stain-resistant and easy to maintain.
Resonating MEC’s culture of meeting or exceeding all LEED requirements for recycled building products, Environiteis an environmentally-sustainable, solid surface product, made from 80% locally acquired recycled glass and 20% polymer resin. Ideal for a hardworking, multi-functional MEC kitchen, Environite, (on the above countertop, bar, and yellow glass backsplash), is the perfect blend of engineering, design, and durability for a high-traffic area. No grout and easy to clean, the solid yellow glass backsplash offers a clean, contemporary look with a variety of colours to choose from.
“We originally found out about the MEC headquarters project while attending a networking event,” says Schaddelee. MEC HQ was still in the early development stages and we were given the contact information for the interior designer at Proscenium Architecture and Interiors. After sending them countertop samples, they specified Environiteand an alternative product out of the United States as options for the general contractors to bid on.”
Schaddelee adds that, “the designers were looking for a locally sourced, ‘green’ countertop, product and there is no one in Vancouver doing what we’re doing; we manufacture, fabricate, and install our own product. Most countertop products are manufactured or quarried in the United States or overseas and simply fabricated in Vancouver. LEED provides points based on regional manufacturing and recycled content and because Environite is manufactured less than 120 kilometers from MEC HQ, and contains 80% recycled content, we were the best fit for the project,” explains Schaddelee.
Not only for kitchen countertops, Vittrium built surfaces for MEC’s staff lounge, reception area, smaller kitchen areas, multiple washrooms, and for credenzas (as seen above) in meeting rooms. Mostly architectural glass mixed with bottle glass for accent colours, the process involves pulverising the glass and casting it with a polymer binding agent. An eco-conscious indoor surface, Environite isn’t just durable, it has a sophisticated look for any surface, from countertops to credenzas and shower surrounds.
Workspace design contributes to the spirit and, of course, the productivity of a company. MEC HQ offers a variety of work areas for differing work styles and needs. Following the lead of some of Silicon Valley’s most successful businesses, MEC’s open work areas with low profile partitions are versatile, offering distinct desks and partitions low enough to foster open communication.
A quick cat nap coupled with a hit of these bold primary colours and you may even bypass the espresso station on the way back to your desk. The psychology of colour is subliminal and instinctive and can have a dramatic effect on employee well-being. Vibrant and playful, these primary colours merge with the vented fresh air to create an interior that is alive and stimulating.
Rather than taking the extra time to schedule appointments to meet with a co-worker, unplanned collisions on the four-floor open staircase provide a synergy in the workplace, an ease of interaction. Dynamic, open office spaces are convenient and transparent, offering more opportunities for spontaneity than if employees are enclosed behind walls. Garnering ongoing debate in the corporate world, the open-plan office trend has been embraced at MEC HQ, and with the addition of some quieter options, has carefully created a hybrid open space.
Forget air quality related headaches and mid-afternoon drowsiness, fresh outdoor air is drawn in from MEC’s rooftop vents and circulated through the building at low velocity. The narrow building means that natural light penetrates to the centre of the space. The uber-modern Haworth Furniture Collection provided the ergonomic office furniture, including height adjustable desks. The ‘blue roof’ captures rainwater for toilets and irrigating the roof-top garden.
If it’s true that smart people do yoga then MEC HQ is set to prosper. Reducing physical strain, mental stress, and fatigue, while increasing concentration and generating energy, yoga in the workplace is a no-brainer. Originally founded by west coast mountain climbers in 1971, it comes as no surprise that at the top of MEC’s current design considerations are staff health, environment and their overall environmental footprint. MEC headquarters is certainly leading the way with its eco-conscious ethos as one of Vancouver’s greenest and most innovative offices.