Psychology of green: in an upcoming waterloo building, sustainability belongs to everyone.

Author:Halley, Lexi

IT'S NOT EVERY DAY that a building plan seeks input from an associate professor in community psychology. But then again, this is not an everyday building.

For one thing, it has ambitious goals to hit top benchmarks for net-positive commercial construction. The building, with about 115 square feet on three floors, is expected to generate more energy than it uses, treat wastewater onsite, harvest rainwater and naturally purify its indoor air.

When it opens in 2018, the Waterloo, Ontario, building will not only house multiple tenants with aligned values, but it will also include an innovation hub, with an incubator supporting green economy and clean-tech concepts for startups, corporate partners and academia.

But the building, with a working title of Centre for Sustainability Excellence, is also unusual for its intriguing collaborations. The project leader is Sustainable Waterloo Region (SWR), which has a proven record in helping local organizations convert sustainability interest into action.

SWR's partners for the project include The Cora Group (developer), David Johnston Research + Technology Park at the University of Waterloo (the landowner) and EY Canada, which will be an anchor tenant.

The planning process stretches beyond boardrooms. SWR believes many high-performance buildings don't live up to their potential because the people-factor is not adequately considered in reaching performance targets through design and operation. So "citizens" connected to this building --everyone from the landlord to the tenants and even those just passing through--will play an important role.

And that's where Dr. Manuel Riemer comes in. Riemer, Associate Professor of Community Psychology and the Director of the Centre for Community Research, Learning and Action at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, has a leading role in this project, engaging the building's "citizens" in the sustainability strategy from start to finish. Additional research, including focus groups and surveys with prospective tenants and people working in the surrounding area, will also target key concerns and help tailor strategies to fit within existing organizational and social structures.

In other words, SWR not only envisions a building that will achieve ambitious performance targets, but also a behavioural model that supports a sense of belonging through authentic interactions between people of different backgrounds, skill sets and experience.

Along the way, SWR will consider how pride of place,...

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