Inside MEC’s Nifty New HQ
False Creek Flats—Vancouver's emerging hub for green innovation—is now home to Mountain Equipment Co-op. MEC’s Tim Southam tells us how the outdoor retailer’s new head office will keep its 375 staffers active while spurring company growth.
“We’ve only been here three weeks, but people are loving the space,” says Tim, noting MEC’s 112k SF facility on a two-acre site at 1077 Great Northern Way is more than double the size of its old Mount Pleasant office. The business is “highly collaborative,” so ample space is key: “There are so many meeting rooms here, we don’t know where they all are.” MEC signed a 20-year build-to-lease deal with Investors Group, which acquired the property from the co-op in 2013, when construction began. (The agreement, with an effective lease rate of $29/SF, includes two additional five-year renewals.)
The four-storey campus-style design pays tribute to False Creek’s salt-marsh past. There's natural landscaping, and the building is made of glass, steel and exposed B.C. structural wood, ushering in natural light and fresh air. Heat comes from underground geothermal wells; sensors monitor sunlight and control blinds and lights automatically; and a passive ventilation system draws fresh air through roof stacks and re-distributes it via plenums on each floor. MEC is targeting LEED Platinum.
“We encourage fun and adventure because it’s an extension of our brand,” says CFO Sandy Treagus (below). That would explain the bouldering cave in the new office. “MEC was founded by climbers,” Tim points out. “It’s a big part of our culture and history." To ensure further movement, the central atrium of the HQ has a four-storey staircase and the main floor has a yoga/CrossFit studio and fitness room, plus 128 bike storage spots.
With 4M members nationwide, MEC made the HQ move to attract and retain talent, Sandy tells us. Next year, the co-op relocates its 85-member digital support team to the new building, bolstering its web-based business, which is growing “significantly,” according to Tim.