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The 58-storey Bow building in Calgary is the tallest office tower west of Toronto’s CN tower. (CHRIS BOLIN FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL/Freelance)
The 58-storey Bow building in Calgary is the tallest office tower west of Toronto’s CN tower. (CHRIS BOLIN FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL/Freelance)

Calgary’s towering environmental statement Add to ...

Cenovus Energy Inc. is taking its fight for environmental credibility to a new battleground: its kitchens inside The Bow. All 78 of them.

The oil sands company talks about its space – floors three through 28 – in language similar to what it uses when talking about bitumen and water ratios.

It has three kitchens on each floor, and with their open-air design, stainless-steel appliances, soft seating, white countertops and pale wooden cupboards, they look more like hipster coffee shops than corporate lunch rooms. They have “enhanced recycling” systems, in the words of Denise Froese, Cenovus’s director of administrative services – pull-out bins with tags indicating which waste goes where. Even the plates – normal white plates – in the cupboards are touted because they discourage disposable versions. “Again, it is part of our commitment to a sustainable environment,” she said.

The Bow, a glass, curved structure with 58 storeys, is more than just a big office tower – the tallest west of Toronto, in fact.

It is a brand, both for Calgary and the companies that will occupy it. There are 420 parking spots for bicycles. The atrium heats and cools itself, saving energy. Certain floors sport “sky gardens,” with trees, seating and WiFi. Construction workers are outside assembling an artwork by Barcelona’s Jaume Plensa. “Dude, we’re getting a Plensa,” Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi said at an announcement last month.

The employee offices reflect “best practices in ergonomics,” Ms. Froese said on a media tour of Cenovus’s share of the building, and even inner board rooms and cubicle clusters give employees the “right to light.” Walls are filled with recycled denim to dampen sound. Individual offices sport traditional blue recycling bins, with tiny black bins hanging off the side to discourage nonrecyclable waste.

The first employees to swipe their key cards in The Bow, Calgary’s much-hyped shiny office tower, arrived Monday, unpacking family pictures and playing with their white desks – adjustable, programmable desks that move up and down with the touch of a button. While Encana Corp. will dominate the building, Cenovus’s employees beat them to the elevators. One hundred and sixty-five Cenovus employees are now in The Bow, with about 2,000 more to come.

“We like to describe ourselves as being very fresh and progressive and the building reflects our commitment to sustainability and a healthy organization and supports our culture of collaboration and innovation,” Ms. Froese said. Features like the movable walls that allow the company to reconfigure and change as it grows are her favourite part. “All of that is very sustainable and fiscally responsible.”

Cenovus and Encana expect to finish their moves by the end of the year.

The Bow, controlled by H&R REIT, has been talked about since at least 2004, when Encana began to consider consolidating its office space.

Encana owned the project when Gwyn Morgan ran the company, but current CEO Randy Eresman sold it, just as he spun out Cenovus. A second tower was put on ice, but the one that remains remakes the Calgary skyline.

“It doesn’t feel like your standard office,” said Cenovus’s Murray Fuerst, a human resources director with an unobstructed view of downtown Calgary. “It says a lot about being a progressive company and where we are going. All the little details have been taken care of.”

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