Meet Andrew McAllan

2020's Lifetime Achievement Honouree

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Member Profiles

Decades of dedication to CaGBC’s mission earn Andrew McAllan the Lifetime Achievement Award

Canada Green Building Council recently recognized Andrew McAllan for his dedication to the Council with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Andrew has been an exceptional leader in green building and commercial real estate for over 30 years and has played a key role in elevating CaGBC’s role in these industries. He has served as Chair of CaGBC’s national board, devoting six years to the major transformation of the Council. He has also been on the Advisory Board for Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB), and has been an active member of NAIOP, REALPAC, and BOMA Canada. Andrew also held several leadership and senior management positions at Oxford Properties, overseeing all the leasing, managing and operating activities for Oxford’s Canadian real estate portfolio, consisting of approximately 50 million sq. ft. of office, retail, multi-residential, industrial and hotel assets.

CaGBC sat down with Andrew to discuss his career in this special edition of Ask the Expert.

Andrew McAllan
Lifetime Achievement Award

Tell us about how you became involved in sustainability and your role today.

I first became aware of the interdependency of human beings and the surrounding environment when I was seven and my grandfather died during a severe smog that afflicted London due to raw coal being used for heating within most homes, as a source of electrical generation within many factories and to power trains. The death toll and economic impact of closing businesses was such that there was a significant and rapid change in public policy. We converted from coal to “clean burning” natural gas (as it was promoted), factories and power stations converted to cleaner fuel sources. I saw an immediate cause and effect and later realized that this was the beginnings of my sustainability conscience.

Within a couple of years of moving to Canada in the early 1970’s and beginning my career in commercial real estate, I had the good fortune to meet the renowned architect Ron Thom who was already designing buildings incorporating abundant natural light, heat reclamation, natural air circulation, use of grey water for irrigation of natural landscaping, task lighting and thermal storage. He demonstrated that sustainability and real estate investment could be mutually supportive.

What attracted you to volunteering with CaGBC and why were you drawn to supporting the organization?

Ten years ago, I was looking to give back to an industry (real estate investment and management) and a country that had provided me with the opportunity to develop my skills and provide for myself and my family for 30 years. CaGBC was the perfect combination of my existing professional skills and experience, my commitment to sustainability, and the opportunity to give back.

Thinking on your experience with green buildings, is there a project of which you are most proud, and if so, why?

While I am proud of my role, along with many others, in the adoption of LEED (both new and existing) within the Canadian Office Building segment, with an adoption rate for new builds that outstrips most if not all other countries, I am most proud of my role in the creation of the CaGBC Zero Carbon Standard, a world first. The standard addresses the need for a rigorously verified, certification addressing the number one sustainability issue in commercial real estate, carbon through the lifecycle, it is a made in Canada solution, a first in the global GBC family, developed by a cross functional team and responding to a market demand as it was emerging. This standard is shaping the future of buildings in Canada and reducing carbon emissions, the benefits will be experienced for decades to come.

Carbon and more specifically the need to dramatically reduce emissions will continue to be a challenge facing the industry and the country. The continuing COVID-19 crisis reminds us that there will be unforeseen challenges to livability (in its most simple form…survival). Among the foreseeable, it is climate change. Over the last 45 years I have seen first hand the effects of climate change, from significant glacial erosion in British Columbia and Alberta, to the backyard rink season being a month shorter, to algae bloom being significantly more frequent on the lake, to drought and wildfires. Global climate change at an astounding rate is an unarguable fact.

What other challenges / opportunities do you see the industry facing in the next 10 years?

The largest and most pressing challenge is to achieve significant and broad-based change across the existing building portfolio, the properties that have not been renovated nor retrofitted, that continue to utilize inefficient, carbon-intensive heating systems, that have building envelopes that leak, have garage lights that are on 7×24, HVAC systems that are grossly inefficient, etc. These properties spread across the country must be addressed.

You were recently honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award as part of CaGBC’s Leadership and Green Building Excellence Awards. What does it mean to you to be recognized in this way?

I was flattered as I am aware of the others who have been recognized by this award in the past. I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in CaGBC, to have met so many talented, committed, and innovative individuals across the country, to have seen firsthand the difference that can be made and the results that can be achieved.

What advice do you have for other green building professionals looking to make their mark in the green building industry?

If you are not already a member of CaGBC, join. If you are not already accredited, commence the accreditation process. Become active in the local chapter, join a committee. Become active in your place of education or workplace, and join the sustainability team, or if there isn’t one, start one. You can virtually attend CaGBC events, monitor social media and post/respond on sustainability.

Be courageous and imaginative in preparing economic justifications for projects. Energy costs will increase as will carbon pricing, while end use customers may not always be prepared to pay a premium for sustainability (although increasingly people will). At a minimum, sustainability provides a competitive advantage as demonstrated by LEED certified properties out leasing non-LEED certified properties. This translates into an economic benefit, is part of the ROI, and can be the difference between a sustainability project proceeding or not.