PCL Toronto Builds on Legacy to Embrace the Future

Elevating Culture and Connecting People Through Sustainable Workplace Design
As Canada's leading general contractor , PCL Construction is known for building things right the first time, so when it came time to create a new home base for its Greater Toronto​ area operations, they were already armed with a strong team and a clear vision.
“We recognized the need to elevate our Toronto workplace to sustain our operations well into the future,” says Todd Craigen, senior vice president and district manager, PCL Constructors Canada Inc. (Toronto). “Our new space is an important investment in our employees and our partners, and sets the stage for PCL to recruit and retain the best people in the industry.”

Building a Culture of Collaboration

For the past 25 years, PCL Toronto’s departmental teams were siloed and segmented across several floors. To bring the entire team together, PCL needed a design partner who understood its organizational goals and how to translate them into effective design. B+H Architects have a long history of collaboration with PCL, so the partnership was a natural, familiar fit.
“Culture is the most important factor in determining a company’s success, so it was critical we understood not only the physical challenges the PCL team were experiencing with their old space, but also how they aspired to work in the space and what their organizational goals were,” said Peter Heys, principal, Interior Design, B+H Architects.
To inform the workplace strategy, B+H conducted extensive research and visioning exercises with PCL’s leadership team and its next generation of leaders to uncover the current challenges each group was experiencing and their aspirations for the new design.
The focus groups revealed key driving goals for the new space, including the need to connect the entire PCL team, facilitate teamwork and collaboration, leverage technology to promote productivity and knowledge transfer, promote health and wellbeing, and create an appropriate balance between open and private areas.
The creation of social spaces such as the Work Café provide informal spaces for meetings or gatherings, and “collision zones” were strategically placed throughout the office to encourage spontaneous interaction and maximize opportunities for collaboration.
“Every design decision was grounded by the question, ‘How will this empower our employee to work at his or her best?’ This rigour brought the best solution out of every challenge,” says Craigen. “When employees feel plugged in and connected to their colleagues and the rest of the organization, there are boundless opportunities for collaboration, innovation, and inspiration.”

Rules to Live By

Central to PCL’s company culture is the story of its founder, Ernest Poole. Before the business later evolved into its current-day employee-ownership model, Ernest outlined what came to be known as Poole’s Rules, a set of business principles defining PCL’s core values.
“Poole’s Rules remind us of the core principles that guided our founder over a century ago. Adherence to these principles has made PCL what it is today, and 112 years later, they are still very much a part of our culture,” shares Craigen.
To commemorate the past while embracing the workplace of the future, PCL commissioned a graphic artist to etch Poole’s Rules in Ernest’s handwriting on glass panels. This artwork, which is prominently displayed in the main lobby at PCL Toronto, gracefully interweaves the company’s past with its current narrative.
PCL’s legacy was further integrated into the architecture of the workspace through its use of materials and finishes. Natural and raw materials like wood, brick, concrete, steel, glass, and stone are used throughout public spaces to connect with PCL’s identity as a construction company.

LEED Evolution

PCL Toronto required that the fitout of its new workplace, spanning two floors of a certified LEED Silver building, be built to the most sustainable standards. Knowing that it would take a steep learning curve to implement the new requirements to obtain LEED v4 ID+C for commercial interiors, PCL decided to use the project as a test case.
“PCL’s commitment to sustainability is truly evidenced in their new Toronto office where they pushed the boundaries to lead the industry through early adoption of LEED v4,” says Alan Murphy, principal of Green Reason who acted as the project’s sustainability consultant. “By utilizing the project as a living lab for this new rigorous set of standards, we explored this new and challenging rating system together for application on future client projects.”
The building has the ability to advance as standards evolve—from the adaptable mechanical systems to the integrated lighting control system from Wattstopper. Each element is tied into the Building Automation System. The system monitors and controls the HVAC systems, allowing the building to run as efficiently as possible.
“With the evolution of the LEED v4 rating system, spaces that could have been Gold in the old system may struggle to even certify,” adds Murphy. “As evidenced on PCL Toronto’s new office, with commitment and integration of goals from the early stages of the project, it is still possible to reach the design and performance levels that are now required to earn a LEED certification.
A major change specific to ID+C is that LEED v4 drives the project to energy modelling, rather than a series of prescriptive measures. There are also much higher expectations on indoor air quality, including emission testing for low-emitting materials.
“As Canada's leading general contractor, PCL is known for achieving our partners' sustainability goals for their projects,” concludes Craigen. “By acting as both the client and construction manager on this project, we’ve created a successful outcome for our employees, while gaining important knowledge that we can translate for our clients interested in adopting LEED v4 on their projects.”
PCL Toronto would like to thank the entire collaborative team involved in making their new district office vision a reality.​​​​​​