Changing the way we think about green building
So what’s sustainability? Technically, it’s the process of using without depleting and/or destroying, and in full function, it has four pillars in which it works: environment, society, finance, and culture. Landmark Group of Builders is a rare builder who engages all four.
Landmark has taken a firm stance on green building—their Product Development Manager, Dave Turnbull, chairs the Built Green Canada Board of Directors and often speaks on behalf of sustainable building. If you haven’t heard of Built Green, it’s a national, industry-driven organization with programs focusing on seven areas of green building: energy efficiency; materials and methods; indoor air quality; ventilation; waste management; water management; and business practices. Every Landmark home is BUILT GREEN® Gold certified or better, and as one of the largest BUILT GREEN® builders in Alberta, they make a substantial contribution to sustainable building across the province and are raising the bar across the country.
Landmark says that the biggest challenges around green building are the misconceptions: too many consumers believe that green homes are ugly and difficult to maintain, that beauty is forfeited for environmental stewardship. Strange, really, considering that sustainability has little to do with appearance, and that one of the most overlooked factors of a sustainably built home is durability.
The BUILT GREEN® program encourages the use of a variety of durable features, from engineered lumber that resists warping to extremely durable exterior features, such as 30-year shingles—many of the products BUILT GREEN® suggests through their Product Catalogue are made from recycled material, repurposed to be beautiful, useful, and environmentally friendly. And moreover, renovations are taxing on the homeowner and the environment: between energy consumed during the process and wasted materials—and therefore added stress to waste deposit sites—producing a home that will soon need renovations is something sustainable programs strive to prevent—another reason durability is emphasized in green building programs.
Environmental leaders like Landmark do more than build; they promote sustainability. Landmark’s done a fantastic job of this, while also fulfilling the social pillar of sustainability—something they’ve been doing for years through the Full House Lottery. The University of Alberta and Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundations put on this charitable lottery, with the help of local businesses like Landmark, to raise funds for much needed medical equipment. This year, they’re raising towards the purchase of the Gamma Knife, a robotic surgery technology that will mean those at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women benefiting from it will have a much shorter hospital stay, less pain, minimal scarring, and a significantly faster recovery. For those with life-threatening growths, like cancerous tumours, it means getting a treatment at home that they would have had to travel to get, spending out-of-pocket amounts many just can’t afford.
Of their participation in the lottery, Reza Nasseri, Founder and CEO of Landmark, says, “After I was appointed as a trustee of the University Hospital Foundation in the early 1990s, I soon realized the tremendous potential the Foundation had to help the U of A hospital in research and palliative care. Once I understood this, I decided to help their cause as best as I could. So Landmark started building the House of Hope for the University Hospital Foundation. All profits from each House of Hope were donated to the Foundation. In 1998, Landmark switched from building the House of Hope to building homes for the Full House Lottery. We continue to participate because it is a very big source of income for the Foundation—and I want to help them succeed.”
This year, Landmark built the Lottery “The Mendelssohn II”, a BUILT GREEN® Platinum certified, Net-Zero home—meaning it produces as much energy as it consumes. While giving to a fantastic cause, Landmark dispels misconceptions of unattractive green building because, as anyone who’s taken a walk through can see, The Mendelssohn II is completely gorgeous. As its certification suggests, it’s also been built to be sustainable: for the environment and the homeowner.
When people look at a home like The Mendelssohn II, they likely won’t understand why or how it’s sustainable—public awareness just isn’t there yet, but thanks to progressive builders, we’re getting there. Landmark is brilliant at showing with perfect simplicity how their homes are helping the environment and the homeowner. They call them “silent sellers”: decals with concise explanations of how a particular feature is performing. For instance, on Landmark windows, their silent seller sticker says, “Money-Saving Feature: triple-pane windows offer superior insulation and are up to 100% more energy efficient than dual-pane windows.” Simple, clear, and it tells customers just what they need to know.
Another decal says, “Money-Saving Feature: heat recovery ventilation transfers heat from stale outgoing air to fresh incoming air while reducing allergens and airborne contaminants.” These tips give the consumer insight into what it means for a home to be green built, while promoting the concept itself. This makes way for increased awareness, which means more people start asking for green building—for the environment, but also for their own health and finances. The method of educating consumers on green building doesn’t have to be complex—it’s far easier to digest if it’s not—but it needs to be communicated in a way that consumers can see benefits for all involved, which is what Landmark strives for.
The company says, “Landmark’s position for becoming a sustainable builder is not based on emotion, but on sound business principles, economics, and progressive thinking. It’s a responsible and conscious decision we’ve made to benefit everyone, including our own customers, communities, and our planet.” Simply put, environmental consciousness is a solid business plan and a responsible move for all involved. Financial sustainability, for stakeholders, employees, and community, is another pillar of sustainability. Without a solid economy, human sustainability is compromised. This is one of the reasons Landmark’s green building program of choice, Built Green Canada, encourages, through the program checklist, the use of local products—to fully engage builders in their local economy, while also reducing emissions required to transport materials from any distance.
Landmark takes their sustainability stewardship a step further to embrace the final pillar: culture. Landmark has taken an active role in supporting organizations such as the Citadel Theatre and Victoria School Foundation—a group focused on supporting Victoria School, an arts-centric educational institute. On the former, Landmark has sponsored the Citadel Theatre since 2006 and is currently supporting their work in audience development to address the needs of existing and potential audiences. Additionally, Landmark sponsors Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, and supports the Edmonton Opera and the Professional Arts Coalition of Edmonton.
As the world’s population spikes at an exponential rate, and the repercussions of our collective environmental footprint continually becomes more obvious and threatening, we can choose to support those companies pushing for a societal change towards the sustainable. Consumers can choose environmental stewardship when buying their home—and that’s the only way we’ll see significant change: if consumers levy industry through market demand.
The spectrum of sustainability Landmark has committed to is commendable. They’ve taken their responsibility to sustainable living further than you’re likely to see with many of their peers. Why? Because as Reza puts it, “If we leave our children a world which cannot sustain itself, then we are not only depriving them of what has been, but also what could have been.”
Bits & pieces of green
- Since becoming a BUILT GREEN® member in 2007, Landmark Group of Builders has built over 2,650 homes—all to a BUILT GREEN® gold standard.
- Landmark Group of Builders have supported over 30 non-profit organizations providing support to sectors including arts & culture, sports, healthcare and education.
- Staff at Landmark all receive an hour-long Sustainability Training Session as part of their first day orientation, must complete an online sustainability course, as well as come out for the company’s annual tree planting day. In the last few years, Landmark has shut down their operations and held a full two-day Sustainability workshop for all staff! On the lighter side, staff fully embrace Landmark’s commitment to sustainability as evidenced with organized activities including Climate Jeopardy and baking chocolate chip cookies in solar ovens!
For more information:
Jenifer Christenson, Executive Director Built Green Canada Phone: 780.485.0920 E-mail: email@example.com
Built Green Canada promotes, encourages, enables and recognizes environmentally responsible residential home construction practices. Founded in 2003, the organization is based out of Edmonton and has representation in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Ontario. Recent expansion included Saskatchewan and Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Since its inception, working with builders, we have enrolled and completed over 20,500 BUILT GREEN® certified homes represented in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario—including the units in multi-storey projects, the total is over 23,500. Together, we are leading the way in sustainability performance for residential home construction. For more information, visit www.builtgreencanada.ca