Federal facilities: Collaboration in, carbon out

Work is what you do, not where you go.

• Kevin Radford

 By Robert Frank


Canada’s federal civil service is at the forefront—and in some cases leading the way—in levering workplace productivity technology.

“Work is what you do, not where you go,” remarked Kevin Radford, Assistant Deputy Minister, Real Property Branch, Public Services and Procurement Canada.

The federal government is looking at a number of options to serve its clients’ workplace needs, including the idea of turn-key leases; and wants owners to fit-up and pre-furnish its facilities.

“The public service wants flexibility, inclusivity and agility in the workplace,” Radford reported. Were shoring up our designs and service catalog to show prospective lessors what these new interactive, collaborative and autonomous workspaces will look like,he said, so our clients can just show up and start working.

“We’re also developing some major collaborative workspaces in and around the National Capital Area (NCA), complete with Government of Canada wi-fi, to address the fact that not everyone lives in the downtown core,” he said.

Sit down, plug in, share strengths

A new, pilot project aims to free civil servants from seventies-style cubicles and enable them to sit down and start working in any of these modern federal workspaces.

“The idea is to enable people from different departments to work in the same place. That opens the door to collaboration,” he explained. “When the Prime Minister asks six government departments to work together to develop a new interdepartmental program, that’s kind of hard to do when they’re all in separate spaces. They don’t have the information technology or the tools that they need to collaborate effectively. So, we intend to transform the built environment, to make that possible, moving forward.”

The pilot projects have already implemented some innovative Canadian technology and Radford remains eager to harness new tools as he continues to push those frontiers forward.

Leases go green

While the federal government’s NCA footprint remains stable remains stable at approximately three million square metres, the proportion that it leases has jumped five percentage points, to 44 percent.

That means that it will increasingly look to property owners to help foster a low-carbon economy, with federal government operations leading by example.

“We need to work with the leasing community to ensure that we make the right investments at the right time to help reduce our carbon footprint. For example, we’ve done all kinds of work on smart building technology and we’ll have it a hundred buildings by the end of this fiscal year,” Radford said.

Accent on labs and accessibility

In other fields, the federal Science and Technology Infrastructure Initiative has also put a once-in-a-generation overhaul of federalscience laboratories on the horizon. This new approach will look to bring together federal scientists and science facilities across government to advance interdisciplinary research and collaboration.

“We’re also working with the community and advocacy groups to set new standards for accessibility,” Radford said. He added that another social initiative will weigh whether federal properties slated for disposal can be repurposed as affordable housing.

This report originally appeared in the Fall 2018 edition of Canadian Real Estate Forum.

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