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Let’s Get Physical

Expect Gore-tex galore in  MEC’s new Mount Pleasant digs by Jacob Parry

In the fall, Mountain Equipment Co-op—the stalwart of Vancouver’s green-friendly economy—moved into a new $28-million, four-floor complex at the edge of the False Creek Flats. The new head office marks MEC’s coming of age, as it has transitioned from a crunchy-granola co-op into one of Canada’s top outdoor lifestyle retailers, focused on fashion-conscious, urban consumers.

Built around a multistorey timber-and-steel atrium, the complex reflects MEC’s consumer-facing savvy as well as its democratic ethos: there are no corner offices and all employees sit within one desk space from a window (with the notable exception of the C-Suite, housed in a series of internal pods).

MEC first proposed a new head office nearly a decade ago, as its former space—a converted eastside auto shop—began bursting at the seams. To that end, the company purchased land adjacent to the new VCC-Clark SkyTrain Station as well as the new Emily Carr campus, which is currently under construction. But with the 2008 economic downtown, MEC had to sell the land back to the Investors Group, with whom they have signed a 20-year build-to-lease agreement. ■

It’s Economical Being Green The MEC building is designed to use only 30 per cent of the energy and 40 per cent of the water of an average structure of its size. In the basement, a system of tubes and pumps draw geothermal heat, which is then circulated through ducts around the building. “The more heat we can keep in the building, the more we save on energy,” says CEO David Labistour.

A Cyclist’s Delight Located on the Central Park Greenway—Vancouver’s main cycling axis—the new head office unreservedly caters to cyclists. The basement holds space for 128 bikes and a handful of kayaks, and the company offers showers and change rooms to its bike commuters. The complex’s landscaped parking lot—which provides the possibility for future expansion—is, not surprisingly, quiet.

Staircase “All floors open up to the main atrium, which was built around a weathered steel staircase that recalls the False Creek Flats’ industrial roots. The staircase was installed in one piece before construction on the complex started.”

Keeping Fit

MEC’s outdoor lifestyle mission also extends to the workplace. A bouldering cave, stuccoed with colourful climbing grips, lies tucked behind the main reception, while a multipurpose gym houses spin classes, a tangle of CrossFit equipment and daily yoga classes.

The View from Above Hike up four storeys and one reaches MEC’s cafeteria and rooftop, offering sweeping views of downtown Vancouver, the North Shore and Ken Lum’s adjacent art installation, East Van Cross. The roof—tiled with small gardening plots and large wind ventilation towers—has proved popular amongst employees well into the rainy season, says Labistour.