5 Questions With Sustainability Advocate, Laura Paul

By PowerHouse Growers | Visionary

As we recently profiled, Laura Paul is an emerging leader in the field of green building. Recently voted in as Chapter President of the Ottawa Canadian Green Building Council, we looked to get some insight from Laura about her place in the profession of sustainability as well as what the future holds for up-and-coming professionals in the field.

PHG:Now that you’re Chapter President of the Ottawa CaGBC, how does this organization plan to stay ahead of the curve?

LP: “At a National level, the CaGBC continues to blaze a path forward, by working with their partners at the U.S. Green Building Council to work on continually improving the LEED Rating Systems. LEED v4 was opened for registration in Canada in November 2013. The new rating system will continue to encourage projects to strive towards better performance and market transformation, with a focus on:

  • Increasing thresholds for energy, water, waste, and IAQ (Indoor Air Quality)
  • Environmental product declarations, life cycle assessment, and material ingredient reporting
  • Increased focus on human health, biodiversity, green economy, and community

At the local level in the Ottawa Region Chapter, we have an exciting year ahead of us. There is a renewed focus on increasing the reach of our message as well as encouraging volunteer involvement. We hope to provide support for those currently in the industry, while expanding opportunities to advocate to untapped groups. Every person has a vested interest in buildings, as we all live and work in them. We need to stop talking just to ourselves, and start talking to everyone else.”

PHG: What obstacles are you overcoming working in a powerful role in a male-dominated industry?

LP: “It can be very difficult to hear misguided views of women in the profession, from people who are close to you or who you respect. Having said this, there are obstacles for everyone in all roles. In the end, I think the only thing that truly limits you, is your own imagination.

I also believe in being proactive and action-focused by supporting other young women to get involved and progress in the field. This is why I’ve recently volunteered to be part of WE MADE IT, a project to provide an accessible, informative and entertaining look at engineering through the perspective of real girls.”

PHG: What advice do you have for anyone starting out in their sustainability careers? Is the advice different for women?

LP: “Keep your passion alive, find ways to continue to inspire yourself, and surround yourself with people who believe change is possible. Believe in your abilities, and stretch yourself. You are capable of anything you put your mind to, but you have to be willing to work for it. Take calculated risks, always with the end in mind.

Specifically for women; ignore the barriers, perceived or real. Believe in your vision, talents and abilities first and foremost.”

PHG: Who do you go to when you need advice?

LP: “My dad, mom, and sister – I think the world of them, and find inspiration, advice and support in their company.

I also find young people inspire me with their enthusiasm, inquisitive nature, innovative new ideas, and hope. I have worked with the CaGBC to help re-establish Emerging Green Builder (EGB) groups in Toronto and Ottawa, as well as a National EGB Committee to further support this key demographic. EGB’s are the future, and have a huge potential for influence.”

PHG: What is your vision for green buildings?

LP: “Buildings that give back, and actually improve the natural systems around them. I believe that being less impactful cannot be the goal – even no impact is aiming too low. Initiatives such as the Living Building Challenge, are really encouraging teams to push the boundaries of current thought. Working within limits is necessary, and should be seen as a catalyst for creativity, rather than an insurmountable barrier.

I’m encouraged to see more and more green building policies with increasing sustainable requirements being implemented across Canada. As of mid 2013, there were approximately 30 municipalities mandating that buildings are LEED Certified. Thirty per cent of them mandate a level of LEED Gold or higher including: New Westminster {BC}, North Vancouver {BC}, Richmond {BC}, Vancouver {BC}, Calgary {BC}, Wood Buffalo {AB}, Kitchener {ON}, and Montreal {QC}).

The solutions are within reach, if we continue to work together.”

A special congratulations to Laura from PowerHouse Growers on her inauguration as Ottawa CaGBC Chapter President and her invitation to be part of Global Chorus. This project brought together 365 worldwide influencers to contribute their voices of hope and concern in regards to the current global environmental and social crises. Global Chorus is to be published as a book and will be available in the Fall of 2014. Proceeds from sales of the book will be selectively distributed to Earth-conscious organizations which take action to protect, recover, and sustain our planet.

Feature Image: Dirty vs. clean air. Image via

About The Author

PowerHouse Growers
PowerHouse Growers teaches you how to sustainably integrate urban agriculture into your cities, businesses, and homes. We provide clear solutions and benefits for better health, increased productivity, and lower environmental impact. By connecting you with experts, we bring awareness to solutions that may not be top of mind.