Teaching builders to retrofit and respect age — Carleton to host first sustainability conference of its kind in eastern Ontario

From solar water heating to photovoltaic cells, there are literally hundreds of gadgets out there that promise to improve the performance of buildings — saving energy and the environment in one fell swoop.

But while many search for sustainability salvation in technology, Sheryl Boyle is finding it in the sealed windows and neglected ventilation systems of buildings that already exist.

It’s all part of “respecting the architecture,” says Boyle — something not enough building owners and managers currently do.

“Look very carefully at the existing building,” says Boyle, a professor of architecture at Carleton. “Perhaps some of the inherent technology is better.”

Rediscovering old technology and the adaptive re-use of old buildings are just a couple of the lessons on sustainability that will be showcased during a two-day conference at the Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism from May 12 to 14. Retrofit: Sustainability for the Future — hosted by Carleton and the Ottawa Region Chapter of the Canada Green Building Council — will bring together experts in the professional, commercial and academic realms to discuss topics like housing retrofit projects, sustainable urban growth, the relationship between buildings and the environment, and maintaining and upgrading ratings with the Canada Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

The event also includes a gala dinner, an architectural tour and keynote speaker Edward Burtynsky, a renowned Canadian photographer who specializes in capturing industrial landscapes.

Canada must start greening its existing building stock as soon as possible, says Lori Gadzala, executive director of the Ottawa chapter of the Canada Green Building Council. Most of the buildings that will be standing in 2050 are already built.

“If we are serious about encouraging more sustainable building, we are going to have to address existing buildings,” she says. “There are often compelling reasons to retain existing buildings rather than tearing them down and building new ones. Heritage, culture, community, beauty, durability — these are attributes attached to existing buildings that neighbours, communities and cities don’t want to lose.”

For more information about the conference, go to: http://www.greenbuildingottawa.ca.

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Maria McClintock

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