Ask the Expert: Grant Peters of Fluent Group Consulting talks about his most inspiring projects, and why green building is about problem solving

1. Tell us a bit about your career and how you ended up being involved in sustainability and green building?



Grant Peters, Senior Project Manager, Fluent Group

I have always been very technically inclined and grew up very interested in buildings and infrastructure. Engineering was a natural fit for me, but it wasn't until university that I started to become more aware of the impacts of our built environment. I was lucky to have a few co-op terms working with LEED before it became a household name and from there I was hooked. I couldn't comprehend why the pursuit of efficiency and sustainability was not automatic for building owners and developers – I decided early on I would make a career of advocating for the importance of sustainable design and assisting in the implementation of these principles and ideas through consulting.

Despite my civil engineering background, which many may not consider the gateway to green building expertise, I have been able to expand my knowledge throughout my career to include M+E systems, renewable energy, materials performance, etc. Green building consulting requires a jack-of-all-trades approach where you need to be well versed in many areas – and where you are not, you need to know who to approach to get the answers.

2. What does your work entail in your current position with Fluent Group?

I fill many roles at Fluent. Being a relatively small company, I have the pleasure of working not only on the consulting side, but also on the management and business development side. We have a very dynamic and engaging culture, one that has allowed me to expand my skill set and broaden my experience.

Simply put, Fluent Group exists to help our clients design for sustainability. Most of our work involves consulting on new building projects – advising on sustainable design features and practices while also managing the energy modeling, LEED compliance, and other related scopes. We put particular emphasis on the engineering aspects as a means of providing the client with a valuable technical perspective on green building practices. Ultimately, the part I enjoy most is meeting with clients, presenting ideas, and seeing the projects take shape. There's nothing quite like experiencing that "ah-ha!" moment when a client starts to realize the benefits of sustainable design.

 

"There's nothing quite like experiencing that "ah-ha!" moment when a client starts to realize the benefits of sustainable design"

3. Are there any green projects you've worked on that stand out in your mind?

Over my career I have worked on a wide spectrum of buildings, right up to LEED Platinum and Net-Zero Energy. To me, projects that go beyond their initial expectations deserve the most credit. These projects are usually the result of an active and engaged client that has built a strong team around them – one that works very closely together and respects each other's expertise. The result is often a building that is able to accomplish a great deal more, despite the same constraints (time, budget, etc.) as any other project. 

Below are a few that I've worked on that stand out and why:

  • Dr. David Suzuki Public School (Windsor, ON)
    • Many leading-edge technologies and concepts, intense educational component.

  • Ontario Power Generation Darlington Energy Complex (Clarington, ON)
    • Dedicated client, interesting program, large scale.

  • Maple Leaf Foods Refrigerated Distribution Centre (Guelph, ON)
    • Very ambitious energy performance, unique facility type.

  • St. Thomas Consolidated Courthouse (St. Thomas, ON)
    • Significant heritage restoration, exceeded many performance targets.

4. You are on a LEED Technical Advisory Group and have a great deal of experience in green building. What has surprised you most over the years working on projects or how green building has evolved?

 


Dr. David Suzuki Public School (Windsor, ON)

There are a number of gaps in this business that still surprise me. For example, some manufacturers, developers, and governments have made green buildings a priority. These entities are transparent in their support of the industry and work to improve it in any way possible. As a result, the industry (and the public) has an increased awareness of buildings, energy, materials, and their collective impacts. Even many organizations that have grudgingly implemented green measures come to realize the benefits over time.

In contrast, some groups still seem to regard green buildings as a topic of debate or a "fad". They fail to see the big picture. Even worse, sometimes these groups go so far as to proclaim that green buildings are hurting society. I don't think we have all the answers but I am still shocked at how difficult it is to convince some people that dedicating time and resources into reducing our impact on the environment is critical to our collective health and prosperity.

5. Where do you think the future of green building is headed in the immediate or more long-term future?

Without a doubt, the standards and codes will continue to improve, and the rating systems must, in turn, evolve. Right now there is a lot of talk about LEED v4, which is both an encouraging and intimidating evolution for green buildings. Decision makers need to feel confident in the green building solutions available to them – right now the struggle is convincing the industry at large that green buildings are not a fad or a marketing edge, but an effective and responsible way to do business. If we can do this, then one day there won't even be a "green building" industry, just a building industry.

6. Do you have any advice for those pursuing a career in green buildings?

Like many industries, consulting can at times require patience and a thick skin. I remember sitting in a large meeting when the developer sat down, looked straight at me and started discussing LEED. We had never met. Halfway through she stopped and said: "I just assumed you were the LEED guy because you're the youngest one here."

My advice to young professionals in this field is this: the green building industry, like any branch of engineering or design, is all about problem solving. Surround yourself with experts and absorb all that you can – then challenge them and continue to learn. Over time you will develop the skills and confidence needed to earn the industry's respect – until you do, continue to solve problems and understand that it is very difficult to argue with a good solution.