Time flies. This seems to be a recurring theme in my blog posts.

My last post was in August, where I plead mea culpa for not updating this blog as often as I should. So, I’m doing it again, this time with news of a career change that is shaping how I look at my impact, opportunities to reduce it further,  while increasing the quality of life for me and my family.

First a little background. After finishing the Engineering program at McMaster University, I worked in the primary steel industry in Hamilton. Working in a blast furnace and then an oxygen furnace was about as far from a green job as you can get, but I had student loans to pay and that was the opportunity that was in front of me.  Four years later, I wanted a change, and decided to go back to school to help with the transition, enrolling in the Schulich School of Business’ Sustainable MBA program. I had no idea where this would lead me when I started, but I knew I wanted in on the growing opportunities of green and clean technology.

Green buildings grabbed my interest, as a natural connection between my mechanical engineering and operations experience. I started volunteering with Canada Green Building Council to develop my network and figure out specifically where I could fit in this rapidly growing market.

I timed my grad school work with the 2008 market downturn, which meant that I graduated overqualified and under experienced in a new field that was economically depressed. Ouch. Fortunately, the opportunity at Earth Rangers came up – they were looking for someone keen to learn and to undertake some highly visible project work. It was right up my alley.

Four years later (seems I need to change things up every four years doesn’t it?) I have had a great run at Earth Rangers, and am ready to make the leap to something larger in scope.  The last four years have been spent promoting smart, green operation at the Earth Rangers Centre (ERC), including some very innovative automation and building systems integration projects. I lead the ERC’s LEED for Existing Buildings certification efforts,  helped develop an online and in-person experiential tour of the facility (check out www.ercshowcase.com), undertook many other projects in collaboration with many innovative and leading companies involved in the green building space, and was encouraged to get myself “out there” and share Earth Rangers’ lessons learned with industry. I even found some time to blog  about our experiences.

Solar Charging

This leads me to my news. I will now be working with the Smart and Connected Real Estate team at Cisco Canada, promoting the benefits of smart, networked, connected and efficient buildings, and helping industry leaders accelerate this process. Its an exciting opportunity that will let me take what I have learned at the ERC and scale it up to multi-building portfolios and communities. The opportunity to inspire engineers, architects, facility managers, owners, developers and all those involved in the value chain of buildings is exciting and full of opportunity.

I can see this spilling over into my own home, as I learn about more opportunities to network my home and its systems, saving energy, improving my productivity and sharing those lessons with everyone who will listen!

Its been quite the year for me. I started writing this blog in August of 2012, with a goal of sharing some of the knowledge that I have gained – and am still gaining – in trying to reduce my family’s consumption of water, energy and resources.

Its been so busy, the only reason I know it has been a year is the annual renewal reminder from WordPress to keep this site alive.

In the year since I started trying to write monthly, I managed to complete a LEED Platinum certification, learned the value of certified wood products first hand, purchased an electric car and started writing a blog for work, focussed on commercial green building. I even managed to grow some vegetables in my back yard.

The most recent development comes from my volunteer efforts through Canada Green Building Council. I have been volunteering with the CaGBC Greater Toronto Chapter as a way to network, to get to know the movers and shakers in the green building industry and to understand the latest and greatest trends in this rapidly advancing industry. I was elected to the board in 2010, and was elected to the Chair position in May of this year.  Its been a great opportunity to meet the best and brightest in this rapidly growing industry and I’ve been happy to play a part in the growth of the Chapter and its membership.

So what’s in the cards for the next year? I’d like to jump into the home market in Toronto (if the bank lets me that is!), and either deep-energy-retrofit, custom build, major reno or some variation on that theme. We’ll start with homework on the Living Building Challenge, LEED for Homes, Passive Haus and Energy Star, and maybe even look for an architect if we get that serious. Green building magazines will likely play a large role in this as well, as I work to inspire my better half with some existing amazing green homes.

A trip to Philadelphia to Greenbuild, the USGBC’s annual conference, should fuel this search.  It may even inspire something I’m not even thinking about now.

My term as Chair of the CaGBC’s Toronto Chapter will end in May, so there is still plenty of time for me to support the growth and development of the Chapter while learning as much as I can.

The coming year will no doubt be busy. My boys are growing and getting busier. Work is still challenging. I’ll take it as it comes, but if things happen at the same pace as this last year, it’ll be fun and challenging. Stay tuned!

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for me, both on the home front, at work (some more writing amongst other things) and in my volunteering capacity as Vice-Chair of the local Canada Green Building Council Chapter.

I’ve spent some time in the back yard this spring. I’ll be honest, it started with merely trying to repair damage to the grass caused by man’s best friend over the winter. I bought some topsoil, some seed, and started watering and looking at the forecast to see when I didn’t need to water.

This went fairly well, as I’ve now got some baby grass sprouts returning to the bare areas. This came as a surprise for me, because I’ve never been able to keep a plant alive. Encouraged, I decided I want to grow some tomatoes and maybe some peppers. My son added raspberries to the list, so now it’s a full-blown project.

After googling “how to grow tomatoes for dummies”, I decided that I’ve only got one location good enough to try this, along the fence. My backyard is on the north side of the house, and features a giant pine on one corner and an oak on the other, so there is a LOT of shade. I’m also dubious as to soil quality, particularly under the pine. Cedars line my neighbours fence, enclosing the yard nicely. A plan forms – build a raised bed, get some compost soil, and a rain barrel to stop using potable water for my backyard project.

A trip to my father-in-law’s and some pleading results in a trip to a City of Toronto compost station and an F-150 full of compost. Soil problem solved.

The home builder was nice enough to leave a pile of extra bricks under the deck, so these have been appropriated to act as walls for the bed. Some rebar pushed into the soil should keep the bed stable. A mason would mock my build quality, but it’ll do. Total cost so far – <$10 for coffees on the drive for compost and an IOU to my father-in-law.


Finally, my rain barrel. Home Depot’s options seemed just a little too pricey, so I started looking through the classifieds, and found rainbarrel.ca, who partners with non-profits to raise funds through truck-load rain barrel sales. For $65, I picked up a barrel, filter, downspout diverter, spigot and overflow hose. Now it’s just a matter of waiting to see how much rain will make it into that downspout.

We’ve now planted a couple of transplanted of raspberry bushes and the tomato plants are next.

Most of my other posts have been focused on energy in one way or another, for transportation, home or commercial use. It’s where the majority of my experience lies, although water use and efficiency is related, particularly with green buildings. With this project, I hope to grow some food for our table, teach my son something, while seeing how much water I can actually capture from the roof. I have a second barrel for the front yard, or possibly to add in series to the first.

I won’t pretend to be single-handedly saving Toronto’s storm drains or keeping Lake Ontario full with my 55 gallon rain barrel, but it can’t hurt can it? Canadians are amongst the worst per capita users of water in the world, with residential use averaging 327 litres per person, per day. We don’t need to be.

I will update this post when I succeed (silence will mean I don’t want to admit that I really can’t grow a plant to save my life).

I’m already anticipating those tomatoes and raspberries – and to proving that I can do it with as little potable water as possible.

Ok, really its the same subject as the last article, but I want to share the content!

Many of the design strategies implemented at the Earth Rangers Centre are relevant to your home – energy efficiency, high levels of thermal comfort, water efficiency and careful attention to indoor air quality levels.  No, not many homes will be able to implement all of these technologies at the same time, but this article shows what will result if you are able to implement everything on your green building wish list.

On a side note, this is my first experience writing a “peer reviewed” article, and the team at ASHRAE’s High Performing Buildings was patient and professional. Have a look a the article, I think the results speak for themselves.

ASHRAE Article

ASHRAE Article

It’s been a while since I wrote anything for my blog, and it’s because I have been writing almost non-stop during work hours. Have a look at the site, and feel free to comment here or on the ERC site.

Whether you are interested in energy metering, efficiency or generation, water conservation or reuse, carbon offsets, EV charging and more, this commercial building really has pulled out all the stops to demonstrate the next generation of green building technologies and how they interact.

Earth Rangers Centre Showcase

Earth Rangers Centre Showcase

Link  —  Posted: March 4, 2013 in Energy
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