n_Zibi (online)
Sébastien Lajoie

The atmosphere felt like a school field trip as a busload of Algonquin faculty rolled through the gateway of the Zibi development on the Ottawa River for a site tour Sept. 18.

Last year, Windmill Development Group partnered with the college to create student learning opportunities at the future eco-friendly community. This year’s tour was meant to inspire college staff to create even more projects related to the site.

“We’ve had a great response for our first year,” said co-chair of AC@Zibi committee Richard Briginshaw. “But there’s lots of programs at Algonquin that aren’t involved that could be involved.”

Over 200 students have completed 68 projects since April 2014. These include reports on environmental problems in a 100-year-old building, a plan of historic exhibits for the site, early building designs and market research studies for a student-run hotel.

On the tour, faculty were greeted by Jeff Westeinde, co-founder of Windmill.

“We invite you to be as involved as you possibly can in this project,” he said.

Sébastien Lajoie, an actor from Théâtre Dérives Urbaines, toured staff through an historic pulp and paper mill. Lajoie explained that this spot on the Ottawa River has seen First Nations, explorers and settlers ford its falls.

“Do you realize how special this place is?” he said. “We are at the heart of our country’s history.”

Some staff did walk away inspired. Alex Yang, project manager at the college’s Construction Research Centre, wants to bring students from different programs together to work on projects subsidized by the Office of Applied Research and Innovation.

“The goals of Algonquin and Zibi for innovation fit very well,” said Yang. “I’m hoping to come up with some more focused projects that will more benefit Windmill.”

The event did generate interest in interior design, farming and landscaping projects, said Elizabeth Costello, a communications contractor for AC@Zibi. Staff also suggested creating a design space for students and root cellars for community residents.

“This project is a good example of how you bring a culture of sustainability to the college,” said college sustainability coordinator Sarah Dehler.

However, Briginshaw said later in an interview that some teachers worry about the extra time needed for a Zibi project, especially part-time professors who are really only paid for in-class work. But he is confident that the real-world experience for students outweigh the challenges.

Briginshaw added that ideally Algonquin’s involvement in Zibi will include a variety of programs, as well as a semi-permanent presence on the site such as a hotel or restaurant staffed by students.

“There’s no end in sight for Algonquin’s involvement in future,” he said.