The Green Protocol Blog

13Aug 2015

An interview with Andrew Bowerbank of Ellis Don Sustainable Building Services

Wendy Reed: Mr. Bowerbank, can you please offer a summary of a few areas where our economies are failing to meet the environmental imperative?

Andrew Bowerbank: By reviewing the efforts of some of the leading sectors driving a transformation towards “environmental” strategies, green building design has been at the forefront of collaborative thinking that has the potential to drive change. The building construction sector is a $4.7trillion global industry, yet only 8% of all construction and renovation can be classified as green. We compare this to only 6% of transportation driven by Alt fuels and only 15% of energy generated by renewables.

Even with the success of tools such as LEED, Energy Star and others, we have been unable to transform markets. Yet populations will reach 9 billion by 2050 (of which today 900 million at risk of starvation), energy use will double, farm land the size of Brazil will be needed (it does not exist), and temps are expected to rise 2-3 degrees.

Why have we not been able to drive change? What does low-carbon economic thinking look like for Canada? I led a group of 50 CEOs in 2010 to discussed this very point. This was an eye opening deliberation with 4 definitive outcomes needed to drive change -None of which is taking place in today’s market:

  1. better communications needed across sectors
  2. find a common voice / a common interest
  3. celebrate successes (we are terrible at this in Canada)
  4. ensure participants get a return on investment

WR: You have spent some time in China meeting with senior officials and keynoting conferences, can you provide your view of strategic efforts in China?

AB: Here is the Situation:

  1. China’s Population =1.3 billion
  2. 17 cities with pop over 2million
  3. Currently building cities to house 30million
  4. China’s Energy:
  • 21% of global energy (USA 19%, India 4.4%)
  • 880GW of total gen capacity
  • CO2 emissions doubled in last 6 years
  • 562 new coal fired plants under construction
  • 90GW gen will be added by 2020 –size of Germany’s total capacity

Although there are dramatic issues to be faced by China, they are striving to do something about it. China now a global leader in clean technology investments. Investments have grown 77% per year since 2008. China’s Leadership is striving to find ways to reduce fossil fuel dependence whereever possible; they are looking to other countries to find solutions through new strategies and technologies, but it is not easy with the size and population of China…

WR: Do you see any creative innovations within a reasonable time frame which could address the increasing CO2 emissions challenge in a major way?

AB: In order to drive change we need systems thinking. Technology is advancing very quickly; we need to leverage these advancements to support low carbon strategies. Very soon many of our cars will be plugging into a building and drawing energy from a grid. Strategies need to support that will ensure the buildings and grid are smart, renewables offset peak loads (even better, charge the vehicles), and the cars educate the consumer. Systems thinking comes from nature. The field of biomimicry is a new design science that will have us learn from natural systems. Today’s built enviro must adopt biomimicry and transform from a parasitic state to an ecosystem.

How to adopt systems thinking? Examples:

  • Collaboration across sectors for a common cause.
    • ie buildings and infrastructure –owners/developers/users. We spend 90% of our time in a building; it should be a point of common interest!
    • DCL Healthcare project: striving for 70% better energy savings and latest green targets to support healthcare. Will replicate across Canada.
    • 3P initiatives to support developments (Canada global leaders in 3P Projects), we need to look to leadership projects showing success including Partners in Project Green, Carbon Neutral, and the Archetype Sustainable House hosted by TRCA, BILD, Enbridge Gas and others.

WR: Will companies see economic advantages as opposed to increased costs in “greening” their own growth paths?

AB: It is imperative that we do. There needs to be a return on investment that is attractive to companies or we will only keep clean technologies on the fringe of the market. Only a transformation of the market will have lasting impact and these changes need to happen in our lifetime. We have seen effective market transformations in a generation before, so we know this can happen. Examples: analog to digital, medial genomics, smaller –auto sector carb to fuel injection. Never before has triple bottom line thinking been more important, but this time environment cannot be the driver, economic strategies and profit targets need to be the driver.

We also need to consider the transition process. We cannot expect instant shifts, but ROI can foster rapid shifts. We can see strategic starting points for corporations taking place:

We can look to Loyalty One for example of internal corporate change:

  • Expanded Work at Home program – 47% of our Customer Care associates now work at home.
  • Reduced CO2 emissions by 8% per associate.
  • Reduced waste by more than 5% after implementing a
    four-channel waste management system.
  • Recently achieved LEED Gold Commercial Interiors Certification for our Calgary office.
  • Collected and recycled 850 pounds of electronic waste in the first month of our pilot e-waste program at our Corporate Head Office.

We can look to Magna as an example for external corporate change:

  • Largest Auto parts supplier in the world with over 350 manufacturing centres globally.
  • Committing to diversify 20% to non automotive.
  • Sees renewable technology as primary opportunity. Now working with Ontario, USA, etc to develop large scale solar energy farms through their Closures and Cosma divisions.
  • Also work developing in Wind, LED lighting, other.

Transformation takes place when both paths merge and balance: Interface is a great corporate example of this:

The mission [of Interface] is “to eliminate all negative environmental impact by the year 2020”. That means no more use of non-renewable energy, only using recycled materials in our products, zero waste to landfill, zero environmental footprint. Nadine Gudz of Interface said. “We’re about 60 per cent there.”

WR: The global community currently uses a little over 16 terawatts ( TW) of energy at any one moment in time. That is the base energy load. (We are told that the earth absorbs approximately 120000 TW of solar energy at the same time).

Can the alternative of clean green energy, which contributes a small percentage currently, serve as an effective response to global energy needs? Does it include hydro and nuclear and possibly in the future, fusion?

AB: Apr 23, 2012 -UN chief Ban Ki-moon made a call to double global consumption of renewable energy over the next two decades in order to ensure sustainable economic development. “It’s possible if we show political leadership,” Ban said about the goal that falls under a sustainable energy initiative aiming to have universal access to power by 2030.

Read more: What will it take for industry to transform markets to low-carbon industry?