Broadway Architects, a Western Canadian architecture and planning firm working at the forefront of sustainable environmental design is currently working on many innovative energy-efficient projects in northern Canada and is on board with We Canada to make this project a successful one.
Their ecologically based architecture and environmentally designed planning projects are diverse: commercial, recreational, residential and eco-planning projects for communities, government, green resorts and First Nations throughout western and northern Canada.
Rob Sieniuc, the founder of Broadway Architects, has long-standing experience in environmentalism and was involved in the Earth Summit 1992, and We Canada are more than happy to have him as part of the project. Working alongside the group and Rob himself gives us insight into the world of green architecture that we would not otherwise be equipped with.
Broadway Architects has been supporting us since last year, and we look forward to working with them very soon on more projects. While you let all this information sink in, remember the exciting part is yet to come.
Sit back and read on to get a whole new perspective on architecture! Aleksandra Nasteska gets to know a better Rob Sieniuc and Broadway Architects…
Aleksandra: What does green architecture entail?
Rob: ”The Earth always maintains balance. It is up to us to support the ECOlibrium of nature.” I prefer the term “sustainable environmental design” rather than “green architecture,” as it is more encompassing in its recognition of the importance of the environment, the role of communities and the way we build in the overall design process – not just the act of architecture.
I believe successful environmental design starts with the land and embraces the local community to sensitively accommodate our built environments. Land, people, buildings – that is the order. The primary pursuit of environmental design is to work toward attaining that sacred balance between the earth, its natural systems and people.
Sustainable design acknowledges our temporary stewardship of the planet. It denotes healthy habitats,vibrant communities and recognizes the important interrelationships essential to the maintenance of clean air, soil,water, and the environments that sustain all life. It means respecting and restoring habitats, using land efficiently, protecting water and other resources, building smaller and smarter, accommodating community participation, building with non-polluting, nontoxic materials, promoting energy efficiency, and creating community-based projects that make a positive statement about environmental stewardship by using the sun and earth’s renewable resources.
Aleksandra: What is a sustainable community according to you?
Rob: ”Sustainability is about living in ECOlibrium with the natural world within its limits.”
A sustainable community is one where citizens are actively involved in their own planning, design and construction processes. This includes self-building where local resources, materials and labour are maximized, waste is minimized, and the health of nature’s ecosystems is put before all else.
Decision making and responsibility rests with the community, as it is here where there is already valuable local and long- term environmental knowledge. We are all enviro-citizens in the places we live –the ground we stand on is the ground we stand for. Too often, outside interests have a negative impact on our communities.
This is especially true with the resource and oil industries, where there is usually no direct community connection and thereby no perceived communal responsibility. Sometimes to preserve the delicate environmental carrying capacity of a particular place, sustainability means saying no. Engaged communities understand this as an important and necessary part of stewardship.
Aleksandra: You have been an engaged environmental advocate for most of your life. What are your tips for the young people out there?
Rob: Stewardship is to find your place on the planet, dig in, and take responsibility from there. I strongly believe that engagement at the neighbourhood level is the way we must go if we are to make headway on all the environmental challenges we are confronted with. It is through local participation that we can achieve the greatest gains.
For youth wanting to make a positive contribution, I encourage them to get involved with their high school, university, community group, or local chapter of We Canada and like organizations. “Dig in” on the planet where you live – this will make a difference.
However, on an individual level, we must all support and promote a more toned-down personal lifestyle, as difficult as this may seem. As the old adage goes “less is more” and I believe we can also learn to do more with less.
On the regional level, speak out about the issues that concern you, whether it is the out-of-control tar sands - Canada’s and the Earth’s worst ecological disaster - or an over-built development in your own backyard. This is where youth can make a huge impact. ”We are individual spokes on the wheel, but collectively we can reverse the motion,” once said Gary Snyder, poet extraordinaire & long time ecologist
Aleksandra: Why did you get involved with We Canada?
Rob: ”Do or do not– there is no try.” Twenty years ago, a close friend and colleague worked on the first Earth Summit in Rio, which I was able to witness from the sidelines. I have no doubt that the 1992 Rio Earth Summit made a difference in the world’s collective environmental view of our planet and the recognition of its ever increasing fragility– even though we may all wish more had been achieved during and since that time.
Today, we cannot drop the ball. It is through groups like WE Canada that the message, educational resources and needed work can continue, particularly with the energy of our youth. As someone who has spent many years in the environmental design field, I am pleased to be a supporter of We Canada and its initiatives. We can and must do by remaining diligent and not losing sight of what can be collectively accomplished.
Aleksandra: What is one thing that We Can do as Canadians to ensure a sustainable future?
Rob: ”It is time to put the ECO back in ECOnomics and promote living with less, not more.”
If you believe our advertisers, Canada’s sustainable future has already arrived. If only it were that simple. Green is big business’ new mantra. Everything from the new cars available, to a plethora of detergents, lotions and other products on store shelves are deemed environmentally friendly. However, we have to get beyond this pale shade of green, slick marketing rhetoric. We must remain diligent, be enviro-citizens and lower our economic expectations – not increase what we buy and be lulled into believing that what is now on the shelves is all OK. The commonly held UN definition of sustainability as a tripartite equal relationship between the environmental, social and economic realms worries me. Big Business and Big Government seem to always override environmental and societal concerns in the name of maintaining ever-increasing economic growth on the questionable assumption that this is somehow necessary.
It is time to put the ECO back in ECOnomics and promote living with less, not more. This means embracing a concept of less growth and doing with less in our personal lives, which in turn will put less stress on the Earth’s limited resources. In so doing, we will recognize in our definition of sustainability that it is nature that trumps all.
By: Sruti Kn