Laurier students work to create energy efficient homes

Fourth-year students in the departments of geography and environmental studies at Laurier have been determining ways to keep homes efficient and keep energy renewable thanks to their capstone project, the Capstone Urban Studies Project course. 

The final project of the course is taught around the students acting as consultants for a real proposal from the city of Cambridge, using their urban planning skills learned in class to assess the situation and give the best feedback, with the winning team given $2,000.  

The city of Cambridge gives our students a request proposal on a problem the city wants them to get some research and work done on, so then the through the course of the year the students learn about various professional skills that they need to become good consultants since that’s the role they’re playing in the situation,” said Laine Young, the instructor of the course.  

“They propose ideas and then move forward and do a final presentation on their recommendation to the city on what they should do.”  

The problem proposed by the city of Cambridge was how to develop net-zero energy homes into the city’s west-end, however, the costs had to be feasible for three different parties; the city, the developer and finally the buyer.   

“Based on some of our research, we kind of realized that these houses are too expensive for the average homebuyer, they aren’t willing to spend the extra $5,000 to $10,000 on a new home, but it was feasible for the developer,” said Isaac Francis, one of the members of the winning consulting group Evergreen Consulting. 

 “The developer could offer them green tax incentive, so we were at a crossroads. We came up with the idea of hybrid homes; they’re not fully net-zero, so they’re cheaper for the homebuyer while still creating revenue for the city of Cambridge.”   

In the last five years, these students have worked on many different and very real problems for the city such as transforming under-utilized places of worship and updating the city’s heritage properties’ register to preserve historical sites.  

The benefit of these homes is definitely for the environmental benefit, it would help reduce climate change moving so rapidly and all those environmental factors.  

“The benefit of these homes is definitely for the environmental benefit, it would help reduce climate change moving so rapidly and all those environmental factors,” Francis said.

Not only is a cash prize up for grabs for the students, but the proposal is a genuine problem the city of Cambridge is looking into and these ideas are given by students are implemented into the city for future years. 

 “In the course, we have various guests who come in and teach them about things such as public speaking, handling questions in an audience, workshops on professional proposal writings and we also get experts like those in net-zero development, municipal lawyers and developers to get a skill set in what it takes to create a report for the city,” said Young.  

“I think this type, of course, is really integral to our students’ learning, it takes what they’ve learned in their undergrad degree and adds new skills to be able to use in the workforce moving forwards.”  

As for the students, the first step into the real world of urban planning had helped them solidify their passions for the planet. 

“Don’t be afraid to step out of the box a little and take risks, sometimes those risks can pay off. If everyone goes with the same idea it doesn’t stand out but when you stand out it can benefit you.”  

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