The Human Element of Sustainable Architecture

Scott Hite, head of architecture and design at TD Bank, finds ways in which sustainable architecture and human wellness intersect

Scott Hite, TD Bank

Banks probably aren’t the first buildings that pop up in discussions of socially conscious architecture, but Scott Hite’s work with TD Bank is proving that sustainable change is perhaps best employed through a large organization such as TD.

That’s because many architects never have a chance to see how their properties age, but as the chief architect for TD, Hite has to “live with and learn from of all the work that we build.” That means a good deal of his work revolves around programs of continuous improvement and flexibility in terms of anticipating change in business, technology and the environment.

“We own it, manage it, renovate it, tweak it, and we explore and test ideas,” Hite says. “It’s really great as an architect to have this living, learning lab of space all around us.”

Hite’s dedication to continuous improvement in the area of sustainability has impressed the people he works with, including Steve Pettit of Shaw Contract. “With the environmental leadership that TD Bank has shown, Scott is a perfect complement to their mission of sustainability and positive environmental impact,” he says.

Tom Fourre of CBRE also appreciates Hite’s holistic, creative leadership style. “As a corporate real estate executive with an A&D background, Scott brings a very unique understanding of the intersection of the design of creative work environments, the importance of employee well-being, and the need for key focus on business enablement,” Fourre says. “Further, Scott’s ability to deeply listen to the business leaders’ needs and convert those business needs to functional space designs enhances the ability of CBRE and BGIS to effectively deliver on those important projects for the benefit of TD Bank.”

Read on below, where Hite shares his thoughts on achieving LEED and WELL certifications, as well as how human wellness intersects with conscious building.

What was it that ignited your interest in environmentally conscious building, and why did the position at TD appeal to you?

I like to challenge the status quo and look for those situations where I can offer a different perspective that might cause people to think about things a bit differently. I was brought up by parents who were very frugal and really encouraged a focus on saving and not wasting anything. That philosophy really carried forward with me as I became an architect. What really amazed me was how much was being wasted in buildings and how simple it could be to just be a bit smarter with how we build and operate our buildings. I really like the idea of delivering simple, intuitive solutions that make sense and offer value.

What’s been really amazing for me as an architect working on the owner’s side of the business is the fact that I’m able to live with (and in) the work that we create. There are some facilities that we’ve built and renovated multiple times. It’s a family of space that I’m able to learn from and grow. Having the ability to watch the business, people, and the relationship with space evolve is really a unique gift. I’m also very fortunate to work very well across businesses with partners in marketing, IT, HR, security, and operations to not only create functional spaces but go further in delivering holistic experiences that connect people to places. My goal is to have customers and employees feel emotionally connected to our buildings and feel proud about working and banking with TD.

How did you go about introducing your own vision to TD Bank? Were you already aligned with the organization in terms of vision?

TD’s an incredibly forward-thinking organization, and we’re really structured to allow people’s passion and talent to flourish. TD’s always been focused on doing what’s right for the communities we serve and looking for ways to deliver market leadership, so I’d say our vision was well-aligned from the start. What’s been really great about our sustainablity work is that it’s driven structural improvements to our operating expense, which is a real win for our shareholders and customers. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been given controlled opportunities to test and pilot new ideas in the spirit of learn and grow. We conduct our business with the thought that each project is better than the last and reject the idea of blindly stamping out prototype solutions. My team leads a structured continuous improvement process that gathers insight, conducts due diligence, and frequently adjusts and improves our standards to drive the best solutions while keeping pace with business evolution.

What can you tell me about TD Bank’s Real Estate Innovation Team? How do you decide which innovations are feasible and actionable for TD Bank?

The real estate innovation team was set up about three years ago, and I’m thrilled to have been asked to lead the team. Our team consists of experts in sustainability, design thinking, and operations. Our goal is to instill a culture of innovation within our group because we realized that innovation is part of everyone’s job and that we just need to provide the tools and resources to inspire, incubate, and transform our business.

How has the LEED program supported your organization’s goals?

LEED defines a common understanding of what it means to build sustainably. TD has a long history of responsible building. We developed our first LEED-certified retail prototype in 2010 and made a commitment to certify all of our new retail facilities going forward in the US. LEED has provided a solid quality control infrastructure that the team can rally around, and over time we’ve leveraged USGBC tools to educate and inspire. The LEED program is the foundation for the sustainable culture that’s evolved here over the past seven or eight years.

Where has the WELL certification benefited the company? 

I’m really proud of TD’s work in the wellness space and our exploration of WELL certification. We’ve worked closely with Delos, the founder of the WELL Building Standard. TD delivered the first WELL Version 1 certification at a corporate workplace project in downtown Toronto. We’re also piloting WELL in a number of retail locations to validate benefits and understand synergies with LEED certification.

What’s next for you at TD Bank?

It’s a really exciting time in the design industry as customer behavior and workplace demands are rapidly evolving. Our retail premises are no longer a commodity; they are, in fact, a competitive advantage. I’m really excited about scaling up and continuing to evolve our sustainability and wellness programs to deliver smart, human-focused solutions that deliver tangible benefits to the people that work and bank with TD. We’ll continue to learn and grow with every project.

Photos: Cass Davis, Courtesy of TD Bank

Congratulations Scott Hite and TD Bank for the well-deserved recognition you are receiving as leaders and innovators of unique and beautiful design. Gensler is proud of its longstanding relationship with TD Bank and looks forward to continuing to partner with you to provide design, consulting, and sustainability services across North America.