Ask the Expert: Kathy Wardle

CAGBC Staff on February 2, 2024

International Women's Day
Member Profiles

An interdisciplinary leader with two decades of experience, Kathy Wardle advocates for higher performing, healthy, and resilient buildings. Wardle is a recognized leader in thought and practice and played a role in many of the first LEED-certified projects in British Columbia. She served on CAGBC’s Women in Green advisory committee, lectured at academic institutions and industry events, and advised clients on policy development. In addition to spearheading Perkins&Will’s ESG strategy, Wardle is currently leading implementations of CAGBC’s Zero Carbon Building Standards for several developers and is a City of Vancouver C40 Women for Climate mentor, helping empower the next generation of leaders.  Her work forging a new path within the Canadian architectural design industry earned her the 2023 CAGBC Green Building Champion Award.

Tell us about how you became involved in sustainability and your role today.

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest during a time of heightened environmental awareness and a place of immense natural beauty. It was during my teens that I became keenly aware of how precarious and rich nature can be as I hiked the West Coast trail and through 300-year-old forests. My love for the outdoors drove me to do my Master’s in environmental and resource management that focused on bringing about positive change in the building sector. My master’s examined the opportunity to recover salvaged materials from the construction waste stream and reuse or repurpose the materials in the built environment. With a strong conviction to effect change, I pitched the idea of hiring an interdisciplinary, environmental expert to Busby and Associates back in 2001. We took a risk on each other, creating the unique position of sustainability researcher– the first role of its kind in Canada with no existing formal description. My role has grown over the years, and we now have an amazing team of interdisciplinary experts who collaborate with our design teams and clients to elevate the performance of our portfolio.

Tell us about one particular project that you are most proud of because it reflects your commitment to sustainability?

I have had the privilege of working on many projects with great clients and project teams over the years. One project that stands out that has had a lasting impact is the UBC Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability. This project exemplifies the power of the integrated design process and importance of establishing a robust vision and set of sustainability objectives. While the project set a high bar for the industry at the time, it has had a lasting impact on how UBC delivers projects on campus and has informed our process for delivering projects.

What have been the main drivers behind Perkins&Will’s adoption of green building practices, and what do you see as next steps for adapting these practices for the future?

Perkins&Will is a values driven organization and environmental stewardship is central to how we design great places for our clients. We understand that the building industry has an impact on our environment, but more importantly we have a responsibility to be proactive at delivering projects that are healthier, that can regenerate and restore ecosystems, and have a lighter impact on the overall environment particularly with respect to emitting less whole life carbon emissions.

What do you think is the biggest strategy issue facing our industry, and what do you think is needed within the industry to tackle this issue?

In practical terms, addressing our aging building stock in Canada and in major global cities is a critical strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the building sector. Retrofitting or repurposing our existing building stock will extend the lifespan of useable built infrastructure, drive down operational and embodied emissions, and support a growing circular economy.

You were named Green Building Champion as part of CAGBC’s 2023 Leadership and Green Building Excellence Awards. What does it mean to you to be recognized as the 2023 CAGBC Green Building Champion?

It means a great deal to be recognized by the CAGBC and my peers across the country. Over the years, I have supported the growth and development of the CAGBC through various volunteer efforts, and in return it continues to shape the Canadian green building industry.

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