A look back at CAGBC’s founding with Kevin Hydes

Part of a CAGBC 20th anniversary series

Staff on October 14, 2022

Member Profiles

For 20 years, CAGBC has helped introduce ideas and processes that support the transition to a green and an emission-free built environment. Much of that work was led by individuals who turned their passion for sustainability into a profession. Kevin Hydes, CEO of Integral Group is one of them. In this CAGBC’s 20th anniversary interview and speaking with CAGBC’s Grace Poltrack, he shares memories from the founding of CAGBC and his perception of evolving mindsets and landscapes.

You can watch the interview in full on our Youtube channel

How were you involved in the founding of CAGBC?

There were a number of people involved, obviously, with creating what became CAGBC. Three of us at the time lived in Vancouver: myself, Peter Busby and Joe van Belleghem. Joe was a developer, Peter was an architect. He and I worked together quite often in those days and still do as a matter of fact. We gained support from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada to help create an educational series which would allow us to go across the country and sort of share some ideas that were emerging with the green building movement. We also got significant support from the Government of Canada through Public Works Canada. So, it was Peter, Joe, Jon Hobbs from the RAIC and I. Jon was very much present in those days and of course, Bruce Lorimer at the time was the head of Public Works Canada. We really believed that we could create a Canadian version of USGBC, bring it to Canada and adapt it and give it its own identity within the Canadian context. That was our vision.

What were the keys to this multidisciplinary collaboration?

I think it’s the heart of the basic idea. I’m a professional engineer. I proudly wear my engineer’s ring, as we all do in Canada. We worked and designed buildings with architects and we’re getting them built up with contractors and subcontractors and we need clients that want the types of buildings that would drive forward the agenda. But I think prior to CAGBC, we’d all been in our own silos, but the essence of CAGBC was this idea of a coalition of designers, builders, finances, operators, tenants, clients, everybody involved with the building environment effectively coming together in a coalition of industry, government – and academia. Because we continue to need the next wave of ideas from our academic colleagues to drive private sector and get support from government. So that’s the like the three-legged stool of CAGBC.

Back then, what was the perception of green buildings and how do you think it’s changed?

Twenty years ago, we were always looking to Europe for leadership,. I’m originally from the United Kingdom, so I’d always be interested in what they are doing in Britain. We were always curious about the Germans and Scandinavians and they appeared to be pushing the agenda back in those days. They still do. But they use the word sustainability, and I think that word for me and for many people that we worked with across Canada seemed almost like too esoteric or even too academic in a sense. So the idea of green buildings and Canada Green Building Council was a touch more pragmatic, more actionable. Still, we need those fresh ideas as I mentioned earlier, but we needed to put a language around it that was relevant in Canada. And I think the idea of green buildings was a lot more practical, pragmatic, doable to practitioners and clients across the country. I think it sort of gathered momentum around the idea of “here’s something that we can actually do and get moving and drive change.”

How do green building stewards at the time of founding of CAGBC compare to today’s? How can we identify tomorrow’s?

I’ve done a lot of volunteer work for the Council over the years and other organizations, and in these positions, it’s really important that we get people that are ready, willing and able. It sounds like it’s an old adage but it’s really important. I mean being able is about learning, about nurturing, about gaining knowledge over time. It would be great if we can harness people that have those characteristics. I think there’s got to be a fundamental belief. There has to be a belief, whether it’s the original founding members or today’s leaders, or the future leaders that we’re talking about, there’s going to be a fundamental belief that one person can make a difference and together, we can make a great difference. So I’d say from the power of one, to the power of many. I feel like that’s a great summation.

And last question, what do you think CAGBC should focus on over the next 20 years?

That’s a big question. The way my mind works is I think about two things: what we need to do by 2030 and what do we need to do by let’s say 2050. They’re the kind of two main targets that we put out there. I think by 2030 we need to reduce our carbon by 50 percent globally. That’s only eight years away now and that’s a relatively short period. And then of course the longer horizon, 2050, the goals is to be carbon neutral, carbon positive or exceed that. So, I would say what we need to really focus on now is how we can reach 50 per cent of our goals in seven or eight years. I believe it’s possible. I know it’s possible and we saw it on projects time and again, but we need to do it at scale. So, we need speed, we need scale, and we really need evidence. Speed, scale and evidence would be my three anchors for the Council to build its agenda around going forward.

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