Tanya Laing Gahr, corporate communication advisor for FortisBC, Nicole Bogdanovic, corporate communications advisor, and Becky Richardson, facility planning manager, posed in front of the Kootenay Operations Centre’s history wall, which includes historic photographs and a screen with a digital slideshow. (Chelsea Novak/Castlegar News)

New FortisBC facility near Castlegar running waste-free pilot project

The FortisBC facility in Ootischenia is the site of the company's newest pilot program.

The FortisBC facility in Ootischenia is the site of the company’s newest pilot program with the aim of being waste free.

FortisBC employees moved into the Kootenay Operations Centre on Sept. 25 and though more staff will be transitioned by the end of November, the facility is already a hub of activity and offers a number of sustainable features, including the pilot program.

“I know it’s important to our organization to be sustainable. We just actually hired a director of sustainability, so that’s been a real focus for our business and this provided a great opportunity to do a pilot program, so we are aiming for zero waste,” explained Nicole Bogdanovic, corporate communications advisor for FortisBC, following a media tour of the building.

In addition to collecting paper and cardboard for recycling, FortisBC has partnered with Selkirk College to dispose of its organic waste.

In building the facility, FortisBC also incorporated things like special taps in the bathrooms that include air dryers so there’s no need to use a paper towel, use of natural light throughout the facility, as well as LEDs, and a living green wall in the open office area.

Though FortisBC built on the principles of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) — a rating system designed by the United States Green Building Council to evaluate the environmental performance of a building — FortisBC did not go after LEED certification due to the cost — not just of the building, but to get certified.

“It really is about returning those cost savings to our customers and does having a label on the building return the cost savings given that investment, or does putting that investment into things that better serve our staff in having a purpose-built building?” said Bogdanovic.

The facility also includes crew space, an open office surrounded by meeting rooms of varying size, sit-t0-stand desks, a lunch/meeting room with a room divider that opens onto a patio, a room where employees can hang wet clothing to be air dried and warehouse space.

The property the Kootenay Operations Centre is built on is 10 acres, with a five-acre yard, a 33,000-square-foot building and an employee parking lot that includes an electric charger. The approved budget for the project was $23 million and construction was quick, after starting in June last year.

The building replaced the Castlegar District Office and two buildings at South Slocan, and there are 125 positions stationed at the centre — none of them new.

Asked how many of those 125 people had relocated to Castlegar, Becky Richardson, facility planning manager, said she didn’t have the numbers, but she knew that some employees had relocated.