evolv1 green building in Waterloo Region to promote sustainability and spark inspiration

On Oct. 28, Wilfrid Laurier University’s Viessmann Centre for Engagement and Research in Sustainability (VERiS) and Sustainable Waterloo Region (SWR) is holding an event to launch a research report about evolv1,  Waterloo Region’s new green building in the David Johnson Research Park.

VERiS is an interdisciplinary applied research centre at Laurier that fosters cultures of sustainability and promotes sustainability justice. 

“Evolv1 is [North America’s] very first certified net-positive energy multi-tenant office building that was commercially built and owned,” Manuel Riemer, psychology professor at Laurier and director of VERiS, said. 

“It has a unique story of how it came about. It was inspired and initiated by an environmental organization, Sustainable Waterloo Region, and by the community.”

“It’s a story about collaboration. It’s a story about thinking outside of the box, and integration of systems and people.”

This story was captured through 19 interviews with key stakeholders and can be read on the VERiS website.

Riemer has been working with SWR since it was first established. Mike Morris, who was recently elected in Kitchener Centre as the first Green MP in Ontario, was one of the key founders. 

Both VERiS and SWR are partners of the innovation hub on the bottom floor of evolv1(known as evolvGREEN), along with the accelerator centre and the faculty of environment at the University of Waterloo.

There are more plans for initiatives like evolv1 in the region. 

“The developer who built the building is now developing a second evolve, evolv2, where they’re going to incorporate what they learned from this first one and go further,” Riemer said.

There have also been tours in the building which have sparked inspiration. 

“I think a lot of people took inspiration from it and tried to do something similar… in our parking lot here, the whole parking lot is covered in solar panels. And now you see other parking lots in the park having solar panels as well.”

“I think it’s a real inspiration that we can do more and better for the environment.”

The Laurier student body can also contribute towards sustainability and climate action. 

“Educating yourself is one way to be knowledgeable [about sustainability],” said Riemer. 

He teaches UU101, a course that offers students from many disciplines the possibility to engage and learn about sustainability in an applied manner. 

Students can also get involved in research and innovation.

“As a student, you have skills, and there’s some really cool student projects… educate yourself, innovate, just take action.”

These student projects include Hillary Scanlon, who made waste disposal, recycling and compost accessible to those who are visually impaired. In addition, Earth Suds which was created to reduce wasteful plastic toiletry bottles in hotels.

Riemer also spoke about the importance of environmental activism. Technological advancements for climate action need to be backed by political action.

“The Friday for Future protests, for example, have really spurred some action among politicians, and the pressure of young people by voting for green candidates has created pressure.”

Mike Morris had a lot of young people on his campaign who talked to community members about climate change.

“Educate yourself, be innovative, be engaged in research, and get politically engaged… just advocate for your future.”

Registration for the launch event of evolv1, “Disrupt and Evolv: Building the Future Together” is now open.

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