By: Dali Carmichael 


Algonquin’s Centre for Construction Excellence will be featured in a city-wide eco-tourist initiative starting this month.

Sept. 14 marked the launch of the Sustainability Tour of Ottawa, an ongoing self-guided tour experience. It was created to encourage the city’s habitants and tourists to discover how Ottawans are living, working, learning and playing in ways that are sustainable, yet unobtrusive to their ways of life.

Jim Birtch, founder and board member at Ottawa Biosphere Eco-City Initiative, said that multiple community organizations and over 60 volunteers helped create the tour.

“The biospheric city model is meant to make it easy for people to get involved in sustainability,” said Birtch.

He explained that the tour was set up to exemplify different themes of sustainability throughout the city.

The tour officially kicked off at 8:30 a.m. at the Sugar Shack in Richelieu Park, Vanier. The site was chosen for its natural capital, described as the “potential of natural elements to meet human needs.”

Mayor Jim Watson, along with Rideau-Vanier ward councillor Mathieu Fleury, helped start the tour with a pancake breakfast, a ribbon cutting ceremony and a sendoff of environmentally friendly bicycles and electric vehicles.

“We’re proud of the work that’s been done by the community, in the community to make Ottawa a sustainable place,” said Mayor Watson.

“When people come into the capital, they don’t just want to see Parliament Hill,” said Fleury. “They want to discover in Ottawa, how we live.”

“We spent months trying to select the right sites,” said Birtch. “We developed a set of criteria, we wanted the sites to reflect a particular theme.

“For example, the Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence—because it’s on campus—is available seven days a week.” Birtch explained that the ACCE building was chosen to exemplify sustainable architecture and design.

“There’s a philosophy behind the ACCE building and part of that is sustainability,” said Glen MacDonald, faculty marketing officer for technology and trades at Algonquin. He explained that sustainability is a cornerstone in the development of trade programs at Algonquin. Students can see elements of earth-friendly design throughout the LEED platinum certified ACCE building. The building serves as a showcase for sustainable construction practices.

Participants of the ongoing tour are encouraged to stop by another educational institution, the Faculty of Social Sciences building at the University of Ottawa. Here, they will discover the “tallest biowall in North America,” according to Sonia Vani, the manager of marketing, communications and development for the faculty.

“The architecture (of the FSS building) reflects what the university should be: a space to exchange ideas and dialogue,” said Vani.

She explained that while the building—which is currently in the process of attaining a LEED gold certification—was an excellent start in integrating sustainability into students’ and staffs’ lifestyles, there is still more work to be done.

“Progress needs to be made and we’ve got all the tools we need to be able to progress,” said Vani. “Now it’s a question of educating or raising awareness and working together and it can’t all come from administration.”

Sarah Dehler, Algonquin’s new sustainability coordinator, agrees with Vani’s sentiments.

“I’m a member of the Sustainable Algonquin Steering Committee and we’re working with faculty and staff, working with students, working with external stakeholders like the City of Ottawa,” she said.

Currently, Dehler is in the process of creating further sustainability action plans for the college, in accordance to the framework of attaining social, environmental and economic goals previously established by the school.

While there are currently no events happening at the sustainability tour sites, participants are encouraged to check out these examples of modern, eco-friendly living in the Ottawa community. A bicycle route has been been pre-routed by the Sustainability Tour’s organizers, for those interested.