Fin MacDonald

Information on me and my current projects

Monthly Archives: August 2011

Final ThermalWise Update

With my summer work term at a close I can look back at a successful summer with ThermalWise. We were able to get the tasks done for the website we had set for ourself at the start of the summer, which feels great. AtlanticGreenBuilding.ca is really starting to take off!

We added a map to the website which shows products manufactured in Atlantic Canada. You can enter your postal code it it will zoom in on products close to you. This helps builders and owners find products that are from the area, and not shipped in. By buying locally you reduce transportation related emissions as well as help the local economy. Have a look at the map here.

Eight different videos were produced by us this summer, as well as 10 new or improved project profiles. The videos showcase green building projects in the area and include interviews with people involved whenever possible. These videos turned out very professional, and make the profiles much more interesting to viewers. The ThermalWise team has expressed an interest in hiring us to produce additional case studies in the future, which means they are obviously impressed with our work. You can view the project profile and videos here.

I’ve learned lots about green building products and services through this job. I was fascinated with all the innovative ideas that were put on the market in recent years. Researching these products has taught me a lot about green washing and how to detect it. By developing and sticking to strick criteria for listing products we were able to identify which ones were actually green and which ones were just faking it.

By developing case studies I’ve learned about and witnessed different building strategies. One of the most interesting was the combination of Passive House standards with LEED certification that was used by Passive House E-Design and Leonard Construction when building the Hawkins House. The Hawkins House is the first passive house in Nova Scotia and possibly the greenest home in the province. It uses Passive House which focuses on extreme energy efficiency, and combines it with LEED which contains the broader green strategies related to materials, energy and water use, sustainable landscaping, and design innovation. There is a workshop on Passive House and LEED combination at the Greenbuild Expo this fall and I will be attending for sure!

This job has identified a career path for me that I didn’t always consider. I’m really interested in Project Management. A lot of the work we did at ThermalWise was very dynamic. It was always different and required different skills and different planning. Project management is the business of working on different projects for a fixed time period with unique challenges and outcomes. When I look for my next job I’m going to try to find one that will put me to work in project management. This time of work ensures every day is different, challenging, and exciting.

NSYCC Debrief

This week is the end of my work term with ThermalWise through the Nova Scotia Youth Conservation Corps. The Corps held a debrief exposition at Mount Saint Vincent University to wind the program down. Each crew was responsible for putting a booth in the exposition to showcase our summer projects. Members of the community were invited to attend including the Minister of the Environment the Honorable Sterling Belliveau.

It was interesting to see what the different groups got up to this summer, and hear stories about their adventures. We all took part in a feedback session that tried to answer some key questions:
- What would you change?
- What were some of the challenges you faced?
- What did you learn?

Another event was a roundtable discussion with people working in the field of environmental science. They discussed what led them to where they were today and told us about what kind of work they did in their jobs each day. It was very interesting. This was followed up with a workshop on interview skills including some mock interviews. It is great to be told by someone who does a lot of interviewing what they are looking to hear!

I very much enjoyed my summer working with the youth corps and I think that it is a great program. I’ve learned a lot in my position and I’m sure I will take that knowledge with me as I move on from here.

Greenbuild NEXT Scholarship

When I heard that Greenbuild was being held in Canada (the first time ever outside of the US) this year Oct 4-7th I thought this is my chance to see the world leaders in the green building industry in action. I was overwhelmed by the conference cost so I explored other options. Students are allowed to volunteer 8 hours in exchange for admission. Getting to Toronto would be a big expense, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to afford it. The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) had scholarships available, but as far as I could tell they were for US citizens.

About a month ago I found out at the last minute that the Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC) was handing out 10 scholarships on behalf of the USGBC since they were the host country this year. Subsequently the Atlantic chapter was handing out at least one of them. I scrambled to put together an application, but I felt as though I still did an excellent job. As time went buy I assumed I didn’t win because I still hadn’t heard anything.

Recently I was notified that I was one of the recipients, and honestly I’m still kind of in shock. The scholarship includes conference admission, airfare to Toronto, and 3 nights accommodations at one of the conference hotels. I also get to meet and have my picture taken with Rick Fedrizzi, who is the CEO and founding chairman of the USGBC.

This is Greenbuild’s tenth anniversary and the theme will be “Whats Next for Green Building.” The conference will feature a job fair with green employers looking to network with green job seekers. There will also be a green job summit to discuss how to accelerate the creation of green jobs in the economy. Educational sessions will take up most  of the time during the 3 day event. I will get to choose from a wide array of topics, but I will focus my attention on presentations related to green building operations & maintenance and LEED for homes. Between education sessions I can browse the exhibit hall where over 900 companies will have info booths set up showcasing green building products and services. There will be lots of guest speakers, one of whom will be Michael Bloomberg the mayor of New York City.

Part of the deal is that I have to deliver a presentation to share what I learned. I will also use my blog to document the experience and share knowledge with the rest of the world.

ThermalWise Update

My two month work term with ThermalWise through the Nova Scotia Youth Conservation Corps is now half over. Things have been going spectacular so far. The office is a very dynamic place to work and there is always something new and different to do. The website Atlantic Green Building is coming along great and we have completely reviewed all the green products and services listed to make sure the information is current. We are working on adding a map of product origin so that builders can locate regionally manufactured materials. Buying regional materials cuts down on transportation related energy emissions. The LEED rating system also awards points for using a certain amount of regional materials.

The project profile section has been completely redone. We have been using a new format that includes background information, green features, and post occupancy performance. We updated all of the old profiles to the new format and added some new ones. The new project profiles we created so far are The Halifax Seaport Farmers MarketThe Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute, and Dalhousie’s Mona Campbell Building.

We have also been doing some video tours of buildings as part of some of the profiles. The most impressive one we have done so far is for the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market. I’ve embedded the video here:


Aside from the webpage I have also been able to take part in two different stages of the LEED for Homes process. ThermalWise is the LEED for Homes provider for Atlantic Canada and I was able to participate in a preliminary evaluation as well as a pre-drywall inspection. One of the LEED projects we are working on is also seeking the German Passive House standard. I was able to assist with the blower door test at this location.

The weeks remaining are going to be just as exciting and I will provide another update at the end of the term.

   

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