Christmas came a little bit early for the employees of Waterloo North Hydro when, after 18 months of planning and construction, they finally moved into their brand new facility.
Located at 526 Country Squire Rd. in Woolwich Township, just down the road from the new Research in Motion campus, the 105,000 square-foot office is more than double the size of the old headquarters, located at 300 Northfield Dr. in Waterloo.
“We needed more space. We had run out of room,” said Rene Gatien, the utility’s president and CEO.
“People just didn’t have the room that they should have to get things done.”
Gatien said that members of the same department were spread out in various sections of the building, a situation he described as “disjointed.” Expansion on their old site would have been possible, but there would have been limited opportunities to expand in the future.
Giving each department their own section of the building should help streamline services and make more efficient use of employee time and energy.
The company was also forced to store vehicles and equipment off-site at about half a dozen smaller municipal stations, but now, all of that equipment can be stored in one central location.
Melloul-Blamey Construction of Waterloo, who built the Woolwich Memorial Centre, received the contract for the construction, and the $26-million project began in July, 2010. Employees began the four-day move to the new building on Dec. 3, just two days later than the company had initially planned.
The project was fully funded by Waterloo North Hydro; neither the government nor the utility’s three shareholders (Woolwich, Wellesley, and the City of Waterloo) contributed money, Gatien said.
Woolwich owns a little more than a 20 per cent stake in Waterloo North Hydro, while Wellesley owns about six per cent.
That capital cost of the new building will be passed on to the company’s approximately 53,000 customers, and the impact on the average users bill will be approximately 75 cents per month, amortized over the next 50 years.
From the outset the company had the goal of maintaining energy efficiency wherever possible, and as a result of their efforts they have achieved a LEED (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) silver standard.
The building is nearly 50 per cent more efficient than a similar building would be if built under standard construction practices, and the entire project finished about one per cent over budget, Gatien said.
The lights are all motion-activated, contractors made use of old wood and the concrete foundation of the barn that once stood on the site, they capture rainwater from the roof which is then used to flush the toilets, and a geothermal system heats and cools the structure as well.
Construction is not quite complete, and there are still about a dozen employees working out of the old location still, but the company is already looking into selling its old office and will have a clearer picture of those details in the new year.
For now, employees are still trying to acquaint themselves with their new surroundings and learn the new layout, and Gatien said the move was well worth it both now, and in the future.
“We’ve set up so in the future the office area can be expanded in one direction, and the operations can be expanded in the other direction,” he said.
“It’s going to be here a long time.”