Bill Dunster at the 2017 Green Building Festival

Our annual Green Building Festival is always an intense intellectual expedition led by passionate industry guides and tireless champions. It takes all of your bandwidth (ok…mine) just to keep pace. One really can absorb only so much in 8 hours though, no matter how transfixing or inspiring. It’s like mental whack-a-mole the ideas are coming so fast … so one really must reflect on the proceedings to compile the highlight reel. All our presenters were provocative and inspiring and contributed to a great event.

I found myself though, reminiscing a bit over one presentation in particular. To be fair, with a very full brain, the late day presentations tend to imprint the most. Bill Dunster had that spot this year.

Something lingered with me about Bill’s talk. It wasn’t the grueling, obstacle-filled journey that was the BEDZED project. It wasn’t the savvy political bartering, or the technical innovation, or even the complex integration of systems that made it come together… The project is brilliant for all of those reasons and more.

Bill’s was a personal story about the lonely life on the bleeding edge … the good the bad, the absurd, and the ugly. He lobbed in his insights, observations and lessons along the way, providing valuable counsel to anyone poised to take on the status quo. But one of the biggest charms for me was that he incited and invited us to laugh about it with him … the laughter though, was, I’ll suggest, restrained. Maybe due to post lunch carb crash. But I don’t think so.

Like the Grinch’s revelation, whose heart suddenly grew “4 sizes plus 1”, it sort of struck me that there isn’t enough light-heartedness in this ‘sector’. Perhaps green building types (if I can make a waving generalization) are on a mission to save the planet. It’s super-hero stuff and super-heroes don’t kid around while on the clock. And green types are always sort of on the clock … we do dutifully spread the apocalyptic environmental metrics and news at every opportunity: conferences, birthday parties, Starbucks line-ups, etc.

For example, late this October, the World Meteorological Organization reported that we just (fossil fuel joke alert) “rocketed” past the POINT-OF-NO-RETURN 400 ppm CO2 concentration levels in 2016 (403.56), and at an unprecedented rate. And a new 800,000 year high. Hardly a laughable statistic.

Or how about the 15,000 scientists who just signed a petition to “warn to humanity” of the pace of CO2 spewing into our biosphere. Surely such dire circumstance cannot ever be cause for laughter and amusement, can it? David Suzuki never laughed as he led us by the nose on a tour of our own folly. No, but as it turns out, he wishes he did and for good reason.

We can only take so much bad news. Laughter is a coping mechanism and good for the soul and mind. It lubricates the memory. In this case, it helped me remember many of the punch lines, the salient insights and lessons; pokes at new urbanism and eco-fascism’s draconian responses to the impending disaster (don’t quote me on the details). I loved his quid pro quo about building Georgian structures only if the inhabitants “agreed to wear Georgian clothing”, vis-à-vis the Prince Charles School of Architecture … the kudos to integrated design in the success of the project … the importance and power of words in signaling change … that the city would only give them that “lousy” piece of land to experiment with … that children of the ‘hood led tours for visitors … that without addressing transportation, green buildings were pointless … rich messages but wrapped up in a story that didn’t take itself too seriously in the telling. I think it is a presentation worth reviewing (check it out here on our YouTube channel). It is memorable for many reasons.

At the end, the last laugh was not on the screen or packaged in his wry wit. It was that I heard Bill’s deck included 262 slides, most of which he never got to. Too bad, because as delightful as he was to listen to, I think he was just warming up and I was in dire need of more laughter.

Access Bill’s full presentation here

Natalia Ortiz Moreno

Natalia Ortiz, student of Project Management Environmental (PME) program in Seneca Polytechnic, has an Environmental Engineering background completed at Universidad El Bosque in Colombia. She has always been involved in sustainability roles and projects that included Environmental Management Systems implementation, Water Treatment Systems’ design and operation, Hazardous and Conventional Waste management and minimization practices, as well as Ecosystem’s Conservation and Energy
Efficiency programs.

For the PME – Applied Project Management Course, Natalia developed a Green Roof Assessment Tool for Seneca Polytechnic’s Office of Sustainability, with the aim to provide green roof technology recommendations best suited to a particular scenario, taking into consideration multiple aspects of green roofs and buildings; infrastructure, design, materials, environmental factors, and costs, as well as the Toronto Municipal Code – Green Roof bylaw. Natalia also has a scientific journal publication as the main author of the project “Selection and sizing of industrial wastewater treatment units required at the
new maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) aircraft facility owned by Avianca S.A. in Rionegro Antioquia” in the El Bosque University Journal of Technology.

Natalia strongly believes there are several research topics left to be developed, and the importance of
working towards Sustainability from different backgrounds, knowledge, and cultures to build strong, productive, and resilient communities.
With the vision of growing cities and infrastructure along with nature, always preserving and respecting the ecosystems’ attributes and services, Natalia would like to keep researching and acquiring more experience in Sustainability roles.

Emily Smit

Emily is a second-year PhD student in Geography at the University of Toronto, and a co-operator of a small home renovation company, Magnus Home Improvements. Her research seeks to determine how single-family homes can quickly and best be retrofit to achieve Toronto’s emissions reductions targets – including net-zero by 2040 – as part of the TransformTO climate action plan. Specifically, she will assess the impact of municipal home energy reporting and disclosure programs, as well as produce recommendations for growing the retrofit labour force in ways that attend to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Further, her research seeks to understand how home retrofit activities can be regenerative and produce net-positive impacts for humans and the environment towards transformative, place-based sustainability. When not at her computer, Emily can be found cycling with her kids to and from school or making funky sounds on her analog synthesizer.

Bofa Udisi

Bofa is a sustainability professional with over seven years in the energy and environment industry. He has a Bachelor of Science in Energy and Petroleum Studies from Novena University in Nigeria and graduate certificates in Energy Management and Environmental Project Management from Seneca College in Toronto. In 2020, he graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Master of Environment and Business degree. He is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in the Building Science program at Toronto Metropolitan University, researching whole-life carbon reduction in new construction and building renovations.

Bofa‘s work experience is primarily in the built environment, working in the private and public sectors in roles that involve structural and environmental assessment of building structures, HVAC engineering design and sales, and facilities management. Bofa is a member of several industry associations, such as the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE), the American Society for Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), and the Project Management Institute (PMI). SBC’s bursary will go a long way in supporting Bofa‘s research and his desire to learn.