How urban beekeeping company Alvéole became essential for commercial building owners – Commercial Observer

The link between urban beekeeping and commercial real estate may not seem obvious, but the potential for mutual benefits between the two is significant for many reasons. Partner Insights spoke with Alex Mclean, CEO and co-founder of Alvéole, the urban beekeeping company that started in Canada and has now expanded in the US and Europe, about why every commercial building owner should understand the benefits of this tenant-centric facility.

How did Alveole come about?

About 10 years ago, some friends and I asked companies in our hometown of Montreal if we could install beehives on their roofs to produce honey. At an architectural firm, while we were taking care of the beehives, people started looking at us and asking questions. The same happened with other companies and a business model emerged. Companies started asking us: Can we get hives on our buildings? That’s how we became a company — very organically.

Alex Mclean, co-founder and CEO of Alvéole.

How did you then become more closely involved in the CRE industry?

We were setting up rooftop hives in downtown Montreal, and we met property owners because we needed their approval for the installation. We eventually developed close relationships with building owners just as a trend was emerging around tenant engagement – finding activities that would connect tenants to their buildings. From there, we started connecting with more commercial real estate companies, and the business grew.

How does this work from a business perspective?

We offer an annual service – a recurring cost. We provide ongoing maintenance and invite tenants to workshops several times a year. We also offer a virtual part. Each accommodation is given a special profile on MyHive, our web app. They get their own virtual platform where you can view the hive in real time, plus stats, updates, photos and more. This way they stay informed about what is happening in their hive and about the health of their honey bees. That’s been huge over the past two years as property owners try to connect with and stay relevant to people back home. This platform provided an essential link between the building and the home workers. Honey produced from those hives is then branded and given to tenants as an end-of-year gift. Building owners have told us that this workplace experience is a great fit with their tenant engagement goals. We also have customers who love that this project can contribute to their sustainability efforts and even help them earn LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, and BOMA, or Building Owners and Managers Association points. to deserve.

Not everyone in the world is completely comfortable with bees. Do you ever get a push in the back because of that?

You downplay it. That is our biggest challenge: preconceived ideas about bees. People grow up thinking that bees are going to attack them. When I talk about educating customers, a third of our first conversation is about safety and making sure they understand that this isn’t a dangerous project. We work with a type of bee – the Italian honey bee – which is very, very docile, and we set up these hives in a very safe way.

CO Alveole People close to an open beehive 750x480 How urban beekeeping company Alvéole became essential for commercial building owners
A team takes a close look at a frame of bees as their beekeeper inspects their rooftop hive.

Tell us more about your workshops.

We have about 10 or 12 different workshops that we offer – half virtual, half in person. The goal is for employees and tenants to understand why all bees are important and what we can do to protect them. In a workshop we remove beeswax from the cupboards and teach people to make their own candles. On the other hand, we educate people about inspiring urban agriculture movements in their own city. The overall goal is to raise awareness about ecological issues, and the honeybee seems to be the best catalyst to generate interest. Our tenant engagement options have also been very popular. We set up a stall in the lobby and have jars of honey labeled with the company. A beekeeper will be on hand to tell tenants all about the wonderful world of bees, answer all their questions and even let them peek into one of our glass observation cabinets to watch the bees at work. These events help building owners transform offices into places people love to go.

CO Alveole Outdoor Information Booth 750x480 How Urban Beekeeping Company Alvéole Became Essential For Commercial Building Owners
Information booth outside where tenants can work with beekeeping equipment and taste honey.

How do companies learn about Alvéole?

We’ve gotten a lot of word of mouth thanks to trendsetting clients who helped spread the word. Also, a lot of people are moving in this industry, so we have building owners and managers taking it to their next location. In recent years, largely because of the push in ESG, or environmental, social and governance, investments, ownership groups have been making this a reality in their portfolios. That’s a big part of our growth.

What is the impact of Alvéole on the environment?

The biggest impact is on people. I mentioned the quarter of a million people who participated in our workshops. Our main environmental impact is education. Industrial agriculture puts a lot of pressure on pollinators. About 50 percent of hives in the US do not survive every year. By talking about bees, we create awareness and change the way people think about the city, urban landscapes and how they buy food, which in turn will lead to more diverse urban ecosystems that are more supportive of all pollinators. That is our ultimate role.

CO Alveole Green Roof Beehives 750x480 How urban beekeeping company Alvéole became essential for commercial building owners
Beehives on a green roof.

Who has Alveole collaborated with?

Goldman Sachs is a great partner of ours. We also work a lot with Brookfield; in fact, we work with most of the major players in the industry. In short, Alveole works with approximately 500 different companies in more than 2,000 different buildings in 37 cities around the world, 23 in the US. But we measure our success in terms of how many people participate in our events. To date, we have inspired a quarter of a million city dwellers who have taken part in our educational workshops. Creating interesting tenant engagement amenities is tricky, and participants in our workshops call it one of the best activities they have all year round. In terms of our business, we have approximately 150 employees in the US, Canada and Europe, of which more than 100 are full-time beekeepers. We are currently hiring 50 more people. That will give you an idea of ​​our speed.

If this really becomes widespread, how big is the impact on the environment?

If this really becomes widespread, it will inspire commercial buildings to do a lot more to their properties. For us, this is the future of cities. We have all this unused space on commercial rooftops. The beehives are the start of a wider movement. Buildings can put gardens on roofs to produce food or flowers. Commercial composting. Such things. Mass adoption marks a new era in terms of making commercial buildings eco-friendly.

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