Adam Cochrane is the Director of Construction at Ledcor, a Vancouver-based construction company. Ledcor has managed the construction at Zibi, a One Planet Community in Ottawa, since 2016.

Zibi's latest One Planet Living Annual Review has revealed that it continues to be a Global Leader in One Planet Living so I wanted to hear from Adam about what this looks like in real life.

What’s been your experience of using One Planet Living?

Ledcor has a long-standing commitment to sustainable construction. We’ve been involved in about 140 LEED projects, in addition to several Living Building Challenge projects, and WELL building standard and BOMA best buildings (a Canadian Green Building standard). We’re also a founding member of the Canadian Green Building Council.

I came to Zibi with a lot of understanding about sustainability – at least from the LEED side of things – about what needed to be done and where the challenges would be.

So, I didn’t think using One Planet Living would be a lot of learning because of the experience we have – I was wrong! The approach Bioregional takes to sustainability is different to the other frameworks we’ve worked with.

I like that it’s not as prescriptive, it’s not simply about box-ticking – it gives our teams a lot more latitude in finding solutions to challenges and achieving a better result for our project and, ultimately, for the planet.

With more traditional sustainability frameworks, you are told what you need to do and how to do it. And honestly, our trade partners like that: “Here’s the methodology, go build it.”

But One Planet Living helps our project managers understand sustainability better – why it’s important and why one decision might be more sustainable than another. It’s an organic process and enables us to come up with a unique solution to something that still achieves the desired goal.

For example, with LEED if you aren’t using FSC wood you won’t get that ‘point’. But what if we can source local wood that we know was grown and milled sustainably and can track how it came to our site? One Planet Living understands that.

How do you include One Planet Living in your communications with staff?

We try to include One Planet Living in every conversation we have. It is one of our pillars of the project, alongside safety and partnering with Indigenous Peoples. We try to make sure that every person we hire has a passion for these three pillars. Because if they don’t, it will just be like any other project and we are trying to do something different at Zibi. It’s also vital that the senior project leaders believe in these objectives, so the culture is led from the top. I like to think we do a pretty good job of this.

What do you think the benefits of One Planet Living have been onsite?

I’ll tell you what I really like about One Planet Living – it’s not just a design thing. You don’t choose it as a framework and then hand it over to the contractor and forget about it.

It’s about embedding sustainability into the entire process and we have taken the ‘health and happiness’ principle to heart. We make a lot of effort to encourage our workers to bike to work, to eat healthier, to be happier, to care for the planet.

Some of Zibi's construction workers get around site on bikes

And this approach contributes to the success of the other principles. If we promote and support the health and happiness of our workers and show that we care about them, and about the planet - and why that’s important – it’s easier to get them onboard with the rest of One Planet Living.

We really try to make them aware that Zibi is a special project and that they should be proud of it. I absolutely think One Planet Living has made Zibi a very different construction site – our workers care about the goals of the project and the quality of their work reflects this.

Are there any anecdotes about this that you can share?

As on any construction site, we have a lot of metals leftover for recycling – from aluminium and steel recovered from buildings to soda cans. On a standard project these would all get recycled by our trade partners or a vendor but Francois Charette, our Health and Safety officer on the Quebec site, saw an opportunity to do some good with these materials.

Francois got permission to collect this waste metal and strip it down in his spare time. He takes it all to local recycling facilities himself and receives money in return. On a yearly basis, Francois donates that money to a local food bank. So far, he has raised $35,000 CAD.

We also have workers who bike to work which I have never seen before! I sent our sustainability project manager Ashley a photo of three bikes locked to our site trailer and said: “Look our guys are biking to work – can we get a bike rack over here?!”

I was talking to one of our superintendents yesterday who suggested we use some non-standard sized wood, that would typically be waste material, to create planters for the site when it’s finished being used for construction.

These are just some of the examples of our workers really taking the values of Zibi as a One Planet Community and running with them on their own.

Have there been any challenges?

Balancing costs with sustainability is always challenging. If we do something a bit differently to what our trade partners are used to, they do get a bit nervous about production or non-typical materials.

Constant communication and education is key to talking them down off that ledge. We let them know it’s not scary by explaining our end-goal and connecting them to suppliers who can help with questions and concerns.

Would you recommend One Planet Living to other projects?

We work with a lot of clients who are more comfortable using a particular sustainability framework or who use one because their last project used it. One Planet Living is definitely something that I would suggest as an alternative to the other frameworks because of its flexibility and its emphasis on the social side of sustainability.

I like that One Planet Living includes our construction team members in the entire approach. I feel less like a commodity using it. Rather than ‘fill in this form with all the data and hand it over and that’s all we need from you’, One Planet Living requires that you adopt a philosophy throughout your whole organisation that benefits everyone. And it makes it much more likely that you will achieve success as you’re including everyone in the process.

Read Bioregional's review of Zibi's One Planet Annual Review 2018.

Find out how we support developers to embed One Planet Living into construction.

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