Saturday, April 26, 2008

Building the Future

When architect Freda Pagani talks about being at home on different levels, she doesn't mean different floors of her house.

Rosalind Duane, North Shore News
Published: Sunday, April 20, 2008

The West Vancouver resident and former director of sustainability at UBC, now retired, says it’s important to consider the environmental footprints you leave in your house, your community, your country and on the earth, and how they are connected.

Certain actions at home have an impact on the environment, which affects the surrounding local community, as well as the larger global community, she explains.

“I think the majority of us have accepted that climate change is underway, and I think people feel helpless about how to have an impact,” says Pagani, but adds that small changes do add up. “We can all be part of a solution.”

On Wednesday, April 30, Pagani will give a presentation called Sustainability at Home, at the West Vancouver Museum. Her presentation will focus on sustainable or “green” practices for the home. Some of the simplest ways to make changes at home that will help reduce energy use include: changing traditional incandescent light bulbs to fluorescents, using less hot water, using clothes dryers and dishwashers less and turning off lights and electronic equipment when not in use.

As an architect, Pagani has been on the forefront of an important trend in sustainability: green building. Green building refers to environmental practices applied to designing new buildings and renovations in order to reduce the construction’s negative impact on the environment. These practices can include simple measures, such as choosing energy-efficient appliances and making sure the home or addition is well insulated and has proper windows to prevent energy loss. Green practices can also include less traditional things such as installing solar panels to heat hot water, or even using geothermal heating, which employs natural energy from under the ground to heat or cool a home.

“The design should respond to the local context, the local climate, the local geography and the local culture,” adds Pagani.
“Indigenous building tends to be green just by its nature because it’s very suitable to its local context.”

She notes that houses should use local materials, responding to local climate, and should not necessarily look the same in different places because of the climate difference. If you live in a rainy climate, your building should shelter both people and the building skin from rain. If you live in a very hot, dry climate, your building should shade the occupants and move air through the building easily so the building can cool down quickly.

When renovating or building a home, Pagani says it’s also important to reuse materials whenever possible.

“About a third of the waste going to landfills in the Lower Mainland is construction waste,” she notes.

When buying in a new building, homeowners can ask their realtor or developer what green features there are in the building. Many developers are now using green building rating systems like LEED or Built Green, so there’s some kind of certification that the home has some green features.

The trend to green building started in the Northwest in the early 1990s. At that time, Pagani was involved in the design of new buildings at UBC and pushed for a demonstration green building on the campus: the C.K. Choi building.

Slots under the windows in the Choi building facilitate natural ventilation, and there are a lot of reused building materials on site. For example, the exterior bricks used on a good portion of the building come from a street in Yaletown, and before that they were used as ballast on ships coming over from Britain.
The heavy timber used in the construction is from a building that was across the street on the campus. The Choi building also uses a composting toilet to save water.

“In the Lower Mainland and we’re not used to thinking of water as a valuable resource because it rains here so much,” says Pagani. The composting toilets consist of 16-inch diameter stainless steel tubing that travels from the toilet fixture into a tank in the basement. The tank is kept moist and mulch is added to bulk it up. Liquid from the tank [90 per cent of what goes into the tank is liquid] is pumped up into a constructed wetland in the front of the building, which has a series of plants with microbes and roots that purify the water as it goes along the trench, By the time it reaches the end of the trench, the water passes the same health standards found on most beaches in Vancouver, and it’s better than some of the beaches.

Composing toilets are available for use in homes, and the technology has come a long way to make it “non-offensive” to have a composting toilet in a house, says Pagani.

Other design features that may help save energy at home include incorporating passive solar design into the layout of a home. This means designing the house so that sun is allowed in to heat up the house when you want the heat, but shades the house from the sun when you don’t want the heat in the summer. That’s easily done with overhangs, the placement of windows, and a good design, explains Pagani. Homeowners can also plant deciduous trees where they want to let the sun into the home in the winter and have shade in the summer. It’s not necessary to have air conditioning in Lower Mainland homes if the homes are designed properly, says Pagani.

She says reducing energy use is the most important green initiative families and individuals can take to help the environment.

Fossil fuels [such as coal, oil, gasoline and natural gas] are a non-renewable source of fuel since the fossil source they use is not being replenished as fast as it’s being used. It is now widely accepted that fossil fuels are damaging the environment and contributing to global warming.

Pagani states: “You have to do you part and do what you can to save energy.”

Sustainability at Home
Guest Speaker: Dr. Freda Pagani
Wednesday April 30, 7-8:30pm
@ West Vancouver Museum

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

New Guest Speaker Series

Architecture and Green Building Practices

Wednesday, April 2, 7-8:30pm
Topic: Building Sustainable Communities
Guest Speaker: Darryl Condon, Principal, Hughes Condon Marler: Architects

Darryl Condon discusses his philosophy and approach to designing community facilities with a focus on the key role they play in building a sustainable community. The presentation will include case studies of recent public buildings completed by his firm, including the new Whistler Public Library and the upcoming West Vancouver Community Centre, which is currently under construction.

Darryl studied architecture at McGill University's School of Architecture. As principal at HCMA, he offers his clients more than 18 years of experience, along with special expertise in civic institutions, community centres recreation, sport and aquatic facilities. He has played an important role in the design and construction of highly innovative public facilities including Walnut Grove Community Centre. He currently serves as Principal-in-Charge for the West Vancouver Community Centre and the Hillcrest Curling Facility/Percy Norman Aquatic Centre.

Photo courtesy of Hughes Condon Marler: Architects
Top image: Model of the new Whistler Public Library
Bottom image: West Vancouver Community Center drawing

Wednesday, April 16, 7-8:30pm
Topic: Buildings, Communities and Cities: Reaching for Zero Carbon Solutions

Guest Speaker: Veronica Gillies, MRAIC, MAIBC, LEED® AP, Busby Perkins +WILL
Cities are the key to successfully achieving a sustainable future for everyone. Cities provide utility services but also through zoning regulation density and land use provide transit and roads, and through bylaws regulate building design and construction. Community action within cities will act as the catalyst for zero carbon solutions. The scale of communities makes them an ideal catalyst for the types of synergies required for deep green solutions to our energy and carbon emissions challenges. The presentation will take an in-depth look at sustainable buildings; buildings at the community level and cities to address their impact on climate change.

With over 14 years of experience spanning three Canadian cities, Veronica holds a strong portfolio of commercial, institutional and high-rise residential work. Since joining the Vancouver firm Busby Perkins Will in 1999, she has played a key role in a number of sustainable high-rise residential and institutional projects, several of which are recipients of the Governor General Awards. She is a strong proponent of sustainable design and has prepared reports and delivered presentations in support of various initiatives most recently the highly debated EcoDensity Program proposed by the City of Vancouver. Because of a firm belief in contributing to the architectural community, Veronica is actively involved in various professional organizations. She is an active member of the Vancouver League for Studies in Architecture; she serves as Vice Chair for the West Vancouver Design Advisory Panel, and is a member of the Architectural Institute of British Columbia’s Executive Council. She chairs the Council Working Group on Sustainability and is the liaison to the Communications Board and the Energy and Environment Committee.

Wednesday, April 30, 7-8:30pm
Topic: Sustainability at Home Guest Speaker: Dr. Freda Pagani, Architect and a Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, Founding Director of UBC Campus Sustainability Office

Dr. Freda Pagani, long-term resident of West Vancouver, cares deeply about the earth, but also about the quality of life in our community. She believes we need more affordable and diverse housing types in order to maintain the character of the municipality. Her passion for green building led to the development of the C.K.Choi Building at the University of British Columbia. It, along with a few other buildings, became a catalyst for the green building movement in Canada and won one of the top ten Green Buildings awards from the American Institute of Architects. Dr. Pagani will discuss ways to preserve the physical quality of West Vancouver, while improving our ecological footprint. The presentation will cover the history of the green building industry in the Lower Mainland and recent initiatives, which could further reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.

Photo courtesy of F. Pagani, C.K. Choi Building, the University of British Columbia

Wednesday, May 14, 7-8:30pm
Topic: Designing Of the Hill, Not On the Hill

Guest Speakers: Kim Smith and Bo Helliwell of Blue Sky Architecture

Peter Davey stated in Picturesque, Tectonic, Romantic Helliwell + Smith Blue Sky Architecture (1999) that “Helliwell and Smith are the inheritors of the organic tradition of modernism”. A building that is well-designed for its site will enhance an appreciation of the surrounding environment and amplify long-term sustainable values. By using examples of recent award-wining work, Helliwell and Smith will illustrate their approach to design, including Wakefield Beach Homes in Sechelt, a home in Eagle Harbour and several homes in the Gulf Islands.

Admission for each presentation is $ 5.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Duncan McNab and West Coast Modernism

Guest Speaker: J. Terry Barkley, MAIBC, MAAA, MRAIC, Assoc. AIA, Vice President, Cannon Design

Saturday, April 12, 1:30-3pm
Duncan McNab became well-known in BC for his residential and institutional designs. This talk highlights McNab’s role in the development of a regionally distinct West Coast Modern architecture. Join Terry Barkley, former associate of Duncan McNab and Associates, who will share his experience of working with Duncan McNab and the development of a regionally distinct West Coast Modern architecture.

Photo: McNab Residence 1956, taken by, 2007