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Mosaic Centre Grand Opening Speech

On Tuesday, February 17, the Mosaic Centre team celebrated their grand opening. In addition to local media, Mayor Don Iveson installed the final solar panel and building co-owner Dennis Cuku spoke to the journey so far and the incredible milestone the team has achieved. 

How do you explain why some people are able to achieve things that seem so impossible?

This was a question that was directed at me from a hotel chain executive on a recent tour though this building.  He asked, “how is it that you and Christy were able to make this all happen?”

My knee jerk response was humble, as I took a page out of one of ex-Oiler Ryan Smyth’s victory interviews, and it went something like–“well you know, we have a great team, and just played great together, and we had a great game plan and made smart plays.” He stopped walking, turned to me, and raised one eyebrow as if to subtly notify me that he thought I was full of shit.

I have been thinking about that conversation for some time and I have since developed a new answer to that question.

So…how is it that the Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce is nearing completion and is 25% ahead of schedule, 5% under budget and has zero change orders in an industry that is plagued with missed deliveries, cost-overruns and litigation?  Especially given that this project aims to be the world’s most northerly Net-Zero energy building, Edmonton’s first LEED Platinum Commercial building and Alberta’s first Living Building certified project.

After much self-inquiry, it turns out that the answer to the “how we did it” lies deep in the core of the “why we did it” and the purpose for this project.  Christy and I quite simply wanted to create the ideal workplace for the employees we serve–a community-focused office building that people would thrive in:

  • a building that offers a childcare facility, wellness centre and a restaurant for building tenants and surrounding residents in the area;
  • provides healthy environment and an abundance of fresh air, natural day lighting and comfortable and flexible working spaces;
  • and a sort of experiential building that aims to inspire people with new ideas and provide an environment that encourages human self-actualization

We also wanted to show that sustainable buildings can be effective, beautiful and affordable.  And in doing so, we desired to prove that there was a “Better Way” to do commercial construction.

It’s no wonder most everyone thought that as development rookies we were just idealistic dreamers.

It was this why that inspired our team and drove the behaviour that enabled us to be so successful.  We built a team of professionals and tradesmen that were intrinsically motivated to do something different, shared the same core values, and wanted to create a legacy project for Edmonton.  We found partners that wanted to test a better construction model – what we have come to know as Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). We extended trust, respect and safety to try new things to these team members and, well, look at the what they all did.

I can’t help but think about all of the team members, visible or not, that have been instrumental in this project and making this day possible.  Specifically, I would like to thank Jennifer, Tim and Chandos Construction, the General Contractor, as well as Shafraaz, Vedran and Manasc Isaac, the Architecture Firm, for believing in the vision and testing so many zany new ideas.  Without your continued support this would have ended anticlimactically at a cocktail napkin.

I am extremely grateful that I can come away from an adventure such as this and can say that the architects, site superintendent and project manager are some of my new closest friends.  From what I understand, the standard construction contract in Canada includes a boilerplate restraining order application.

I was reminded of this as I was watching the first episode of the documentary that was released earlier today. Shafraaz gets a little vulnerable, and he might have even swore, as he tells the whole story so it is definitely worth the watch.  I had some people ask me today where they go to watch it … follow the youtube link on the Mosaic Centre web site.  We will be releasing an episode a week for the next five weeks.

What we are about to sneak outside to celebrate is just one shining example of the mass collaboration and technical innovation required on this project.  In order to achieve net zero energy, the team had design and reiterate an energy efficient envelope and then power it with solar mounted to the building.  Clifton and Great Canadian Solar combined forces with Jason and his team at Enmax to craft a design and purchase agreement for the 212,000 watts of solar power required to energize this building.

So, I will leave you with this.

My real hope is that this building will inspire others to follow and that this will not be the greenest building in Alberta in five years.  I hope this project inspires you to challenge the status quo and continually question why all things are the way they are.

Our planet is hurting.  Our culture is getting sicker.  People are drifting further from their truth.

To heal our mess we must have the collective courage to accept that what we have been told to be “normal” is in fact broken and therein find the strength to discover a better way.

Thank you.


Dennis Cuku

Dennis is a Mechanical Engineer with expertise in drilling rig design and is acting President of Oil Country Engineering. Paradoxically, his passion lies in the arena of sustainable building design and green building innovation. Dennis’ recent project, The Mosaic Centre, is slated for completion in May 2015 and aims to be the crown jewel of sustainable building in Edmonton becoming the first Net-Zero energy commercial office building in Alberta; an example of Alberta’s oil and gas abundance igniting innovative sustainable projects.

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