Humber sustainability sets a standard

by | Nov 13, 2015 | Life

 Sveta Soloveva
Life Reporter

Eco-friendly development is vital today, Humber College officials say, but the sustainability efforts made at the school are not always reflected in efforts elsewhere, particularly with the creation of resort properties.

“Making certain adds (additions), we try to be environmentally-neutral,” senior director of capital development for Humber College Angelo Presta said.

“We are not adding more challenges, and we are trying to look into some little strategies like the green roof. If developers take everything out and then put a new resort there, it goes against the nature around it. I think it’s a problem,” he said.

He called green roofs, parking structure and energy efficiency the key points in building the college facilities.

Humber already has some green roofs that absorb storm water and roofs with dipper parapets that hold the water longer.

The school has also done other things that could be a model for properties elsewhere. For example, the parking area has not increased significantly over the last few years. However, it is important to look at the storm drainage system challenges when adding new parking spaces in the future, Presta said.

According to the senior facilities director, Humber has solar panels that help to use less energy.

The college is planning for new buildings in the future to replace older buildings and not take away more green space.

Humber’s efforts stand in stark contrast with many other examples in the country where developers think about money first and forget about nature, Humber safety director Rob Kilfoyle said.

“If you take primarily forest area that is native for deer and bears and you start to build there, houses, the animals get displaced, and they end up coming in the conflict with humans,” Kilfoyle said.

He said First Nations’ grounds have been suffering from ongoing or proposed construction across the country.

An example is a proposed ski resort in British Columbia’s Jumbo Valley, which threatens Aboriginal sacred ground and a population of grizzly bears. The animals use the Valley to roam between Canada and the United States.

The documentary Jumbo Wild that was screened on Nov. 5 in Toronto’s Patagonia store on King Street told about the problem and inspired visitors to sign a petition to save the sacred ground from the construction.

Bradley Foster who works for Patagonia said similar problems exist in northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire near James Bay. The government and developers plan to exploit the region for mineral resources, and it will have a negative effect on the environment, not allowing inhabitants to determine the future of their land, he said.

Presta said instead of focusing too much on economy, people need to develop a higher value for the environment, so they can use it in a way that benefits the economy with little impact on the ecosystem.

“I think there should be studies done on what the potential effect is on wildlife. Right now we want to make sure that here are jobs and economy, and this and that. But the environmental piece is more important,” said Presta.

Foster, who just finished a degree in geography, confronts people who think development can boost the economy because the jobs it provides are usually low-paid and low-skilled.

“They don’t provide the training to create sustainable work within the area. So it’s like short term jobs or jobs that don’t have a lot of mobility. When the project is over, workers don’t have the skills for another project,” he said.