Building The Future

Many would probably consider me an environmentalist, but I prefer to think of myself as someone who just cares. Not about the dumb things like money and power and possessions, but about life. And the world. And not the world as in my 600 Facebook friends or my small town. The world - like everyone, everywhere. And the everyone's everywhere who aren’t even here yet, i.e. future generations. Unfortunately, from what I’ve observed over my few years, this perspective isn’t that common. And for that reason, I guess I have to accept a label such as ‘environmentalist’ or ‘philanthropist’, but really, I just wanna be normal. Hopefully that time will come. 

What does this have to do with Vigilant? Firstly, I do feel fairly normal at the office. Everyone else on the team wants to make a difference too. Maybe not concerning the same things as me, but at least they care about something - mostly construction projects. Secondly, Vigilant may be one of my platforms. I’ve always had a desire to change my province for the better, and I may have found a place to do that. 

Prior to being hired at Vigilant, I never really considered working in the construction industry. I’ve always helped my mom with home renovations and I love any type of design and creation, but the thought never really crossed my mind. I entered engineering so that I could contribute to the fight against climate change. I never knew how, but I knew that it was the one thing I had to work toward. Renewable energies like solar, wind, hydro, and tidal, methane/carbon capture, efficient devices, recycling methods - there’s a lot going on. But unfortunately, not so much here in Newfoundland. 

When I was researching places that I may like to work, nothing relating to these areas seemed to come up. There are few distributors of solar panels or home insulation consultants, but nothing “engineer-y” enough for me; nothing that excited me. Many may think of green engineering as developing new technologies or improving older ones, and though important, I believe that a lot has been figured out already, it’s just under-utilized. The technology is there to transition to a carbon-free economy. We just have to initiate it. 

Again, how can Vigilant address this? Well, what requires all this energy that we want to harness? Buildings. Sustainable infrastructure is becoming a larger and larger sector of the industry. Buildings that heat and cool themselves, generate energy for other uses, and even recycle their own water. They exist! All over the world buildings like these are popping up - Germany, England, Norway, Denmark, Brazil, the US, and even in Ontario and BC (although to a lesser extent). Perhaps Vigilant can help clients to incorporate sustainability into their projects; to encourage green investments and prove their financial benefits; and help with all the management stuff along the way.

The immediate reaction of many is probably that these types of buildings must be way more expensive - that is incorrect. David R. Boyd (a Canadian environmental lawyer and professor whose book The Optimistic Environmentalist I finished reading just days ago) states: “today’s green buildings provide superior comfort and performance at a cost that is equal to or even less than conventional buildings”. The cost of technology such as solar panels continues to decline because of demand and the lack of utility costs over the buildings lifetime will allow such investments to pay for themselves in no time. If you’d like to know the details of this and some examples of existing buildings, you should read the aforementioned book. Chapter 8 and 9, specifically.

So why aren’t new Newfoundland buildings being constructed to be sustainable? Why can’t they be? Maybe with help from the Vigilant team, I’ll be able to contribute to the change. The change is going to come, but I’d like Newfoundland to not be the last place on board. The resources we have here are incredible and every day so much of it is wasted. With the right people leading the way, and the right legislation in place, I think that we can make progress. 

Who knows where I’ll end up or what the future holds, but Vigilant has opened me up to this possibility. It may not lead to groundbreaking discoveries or instant solutions, but building by building, it could make a big difference. Whether it is something I pursue or not, whatever I do will be in the best interest of my children, and yours. For anyone reading who is unconvinced - climate change is real, it is happening, and even if things change dramatically, our home may be underwater in the not too distant future. If you love this place as much as I do, I would try my hardest to keep that from happening.

PS. Compost, recycle, conserve water, shop local, consume less (food, products and otherwise - you really don’t need it), and eat less meat (this is really important, but that’s another story). What you do matters. Just care. Just a little. Please. 

- Emma