May 2010

In This Issue:

Calendar of events

Jay Ingram. Truth: An Inconvenience

Gordon Howell. Three CHEERS for solar electricity!

Mark Hartman. Green financial tools: the game changer

Trina Larsen. Living Building Challenge

With appreciation and thanks to our sponsors

Book review: Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects our Health

Calendar of Events

May 11 & 12
Sustainable Building Symposium - Edmonton

May 12 & 13
Sustainable Building Symposium - Calgary

May 20
LEED Canada for Homes Workshop - Calgary

May 26
LEED Canda for Homes Workshop - Edmonton

June 25
NEW! LEED Canada for New Construction Technical Review 2009 Worksop - Calgary

September 7
LEED Canada Core Concepts and Strategies Workshop - Edmonton

September 18
Clean-tech Convention

September 29
LEED Canada Documentation Workshop - Edmonton

Perspectives is the bimonthly e-newsletter of the Alberta Chapter, Canada Green Building Council.

This edition of Perspectives highlights the upcoming 13th annual Sustainable Building Symposium 2010 (SBS) the premiere annual sustainable building event in Alberta and the flagship event of the Alberta Chapter, Canada Green Building Council.  There is still time to register.

The Chapter is proud and excited about this years SBS lineup. Read on! 

    Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.  

- Margaret Mead,U.S. anthropoligist

Jay Ingram, keynote 
Truth: An Inconvenience

The sustainable building industry prides itself on cutting-edge, innovative thinking and action, right? Absolutely.

It won't come as a surprise, then, that SBS keynote Jay Ingram, renowned science broadcaster and writer, scores 10/10 for innovation in his address. He describes his band, The Turbines, as an essential part of his exploration of truth as an inconvenience.

"Truth can be very inconvenient when you spend a lot of time searching for it only to find, when you have it in your hands, it just slips through your fingers. When it comes to climate change, truth is very, very elusive. And it doesn't just depend on the scientific data," says Jay.

So why the band? Getting one's head around the truth of our physical world "isn't just about facts; there's an emotional, social component to the story, and it can be told best through music."

The message will be complex - and entertaining - and guarantees to offer some weighty food for thought.

"Canada has a very long way to go before we can start patting ourselves on the back about our performance in the area of sustainable building. It's starting, progress is being made, especially by a dedicated few, but there's a lot of ground to cover still."

Read more about Jay.

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Master speaker Gordon Howell 
Three CHEERS for solar electricity!

A revolution is brewing in Alberta and across the nation - and Gordon Howell, an electrical engineer with Howell-Mayhew Engineering in Edmonton, is leading the CHEERS (Canadians Have Embraced Efficiency & Renewable Systems).

"Renewable energy is a revolution in the making. Solar PV has a very important role in moving society toward sustainability. Everyone in our society from teenagers to homeowners, businesses to industry, can implement solar photovoltaics, PV for short.," he says.

And make no mistake: solar electricity is coming to a building near you.

"As an owner, designer, regulator or policy maker, ask what you need to do to prepare for the revolution. If you don't answer the question now, that's fine - but it's not going to go away."

What's stopping the revolution? There isn't enough accurate information out there and people - designers, suppliers, installers, regulators and policy makers - need to be trained in the why's, how's and when's.

Alberta has started down the road, but so far we've only taken baby steps.

"Codes, standards, training and a level energy playing field are the most important factors in moving society toward retrofitting buildings and constructing new buildings for sustainability. We aren't doing a very good job in developing these tools or on removing the competitive subsidies on fossil fuels.

"The fog of myth-information is generally confounding the great work done by so many people. It's like we're on the Titanic. We see the iceberg and we remember the ship was built with a double hull that would withstand icebergs, so why be worried? We know how that story ended."

Read more about Gordon.

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Master speaker Mark Hartman 
Green financial tools - the game changer

Look beyond the obvious. Look beyond the direct energy and greenhouse gas savings to be had when financing is provided for retrofits.

Mark Hartman, with the City of Vancouver's Sustainability Group, is just the man to take us on a guided behind-the-scenes tour.

"A huge benefit is the stimulation of a green economy with its spinoff green jobs. For example, Vancouver is estimating $200 million in new green job activity. A second, pivotal benefit to green financial tools is capacity building - funding start-up companies for weather stripping, for example, and lowering the costs of renewable energy by dramatically increasing the number of renewable energy systems installed annually," he says.

Vancouver is one thing - but can the B.C. tools be applied in Alberta?

"Alberta has potentially a much greater opportunity for greenhouse gas reductions than Vancouver does. First, Alberta is a lot colder in the winter. Second, Alberta has a significantly higher carbon intensity of electricity. Many barriers to adoption such as the "split incentive" are similar, so opportunities exist in both jurisdictions."

Mark says Vancouver credits the financial tools as the most significant action the city has taken to reduce GHG in order to meet its "20% by 2020" targets.

"Delegates will see how financial tools can transform their communities and rapidly accelerate action on climate change. They will see how enabling financial tools becomes a "game changer" rather than just another marginal opportunity."

Read more about Mark. 

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Master speaker Trina Larsen 
Living Building Challenge

A presentation about a new concept called the Living Building Challenge, defining the most advanced possible measure of sustainability in the built environment, caught Trina Larsens imagination when she attended the 2006 Green Build conference. Not surprisingly, Trina signed up as an ambassador for the program when the call came out in 2009.

Im enthusiastic about the idea of pushing sustainable building design to the next level. We have a large penetration on the LEED side and people are asking whats next can we do more, can we do better?

Yes, we can do better. The next level is do no harm. One of the requirements of the Living Building Challenge is to use zero net energy. We have buildings in Alberta that have achieved that. Another Challenge is net zero water using captured rainwater and closed loop systems then filtering the water to at least as good a quality as the water you used, Trina says.

Answering the Living Building Challenge isnt easy. Its not designed to be easy, but there are buildings in all climates that have reached these goals. There are two buildings registered in north-western Ontario and several in B.C. but none yet registered in Alberta. We have some challenges because of our climate.

An interesting fact: the Challenge is not based on model projected use, but rather on actual use so registered buildings are assessed after a full year of operation before they become eligible for certification.

So far, only 60 buildings are involved worldwide. This is leading edge stuff. We need to change our thinking about design and building strategies, but its doable. Each one of the imperatives in the program has been done somewhere.

Read more about Trina. 

With appreciation and thanks to our sponsors

The wide range of services, events and professional development opportunities - including the Sustainable Building Symposium - offered by the Alberta Chapter, CaGBC would not be possible without the support of our many sponsors.

The Board of the Alberta Chapter offers its appreciation and heartfelt thanks to all Chapter sponsors (at left on home screen) ending their sponsorship term this month.  The chapter welcomes back many long-term supporters and introduces several new sponsors for the upcoming year, which begins with the Sustainable Building Symposium.  

Our sponsors form valued and integral partnerships with our Chapter.

Why one sponsor chose to support our work:

Enermodal Engineering is the most successful sustainable built environment consultancy in Canada, with commitment to and technical expertise in all aspects related to delivering environmentally responsible and healthy LEED buildings. Our vision of being "Agents of Green Change" for the construction industry has a close synergy with the vision of AbCaGBC for a "transformed built environment leading to a sustainable future." We see great value in the role that the Alberta Chapter, CaGBC is playing in raising the awareness and standards of more sustainable buildings across our challenging climate in Alberta and we are proud to be a sponsor and to have a continued involvement with their success. 

- Matt Grace, Enermodal Engineering Ltd. Division Head for Western Canada

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Book review by Jennifer Hancock 
Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects our Health 
by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie

With the arrival of spring, a time of cleaning and renewal, and with the Sustainable Building Symposium quickly approaching, it seems the perfect time to review and read this book.

By experimenting on themselves, the authors, Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, reveal the potential danger of substances like fire retardants, phthalates, mercury and anti-bacterial products (to name a few). They discuss how toxic substances get into our bodies and, importantly, how we can avoid them.

The book starts off by giving a brief history of pollution and then details how the authors tested themselves by taking blood and urine samples before, during and after exposure to many commonplace foods and household items. Rick and Bruce then explain the history and applicable research of seven common substances and follow it all up with a chapter called "Detox" or how to avoid excess exposure to toxic substances.

Although this book is disturbing to read at times and can be quite technical in style, it is well worth the effort. Not only is it eye opening, but it leaves us with the hope and knowledge that our consumer choices really do matter. It is the authors' opinion that we can make a huge impact on our level of exposure to toxic substances just by altering our purchasing habits of food, furnishings, clothing and other household items. Ultimately, this book provides the knowledge and the guidance we need so that we can make smarter consumer and life choices.

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For more information on the Alberta Chapter of the CaGBC visit

Do you have a short submission you would like included? 
Have you discovered websites you would like to share with our members? 
E-mail Wendy Campbell, Perspectives editor.