In Her Field: Laura Paul, a Green Building Expert Who Knows No Limits
Like most fields of work today, the green building industry is a rapidly evolving one as its leaders and experts race against time. Professionals in the green building world are tirelessly working to convince the traditional construction industry of the value in ecological practices for the long-term benefit of society. We’re faced with food, energy, water, and air pollution problems all of which can be made better by sustainable construction. The leaders in the field know they have their work cut out for them, but their passion and burning desire to see the change is what steers them down the correct path.
Inspired By Change
Laura Paul is one of these determined green building leaders and in April was voted in as President of the Canada Green Building Council Ottawa Region Chapter. At a young age, Laura has accomplished many social and professional achievements that make her a true inspiration to other leaders across diverse fields.
An engineer by schooling, Laura fell into a passion for sustainability that was born out her natural social conscience coupled with her ambition to be the change in the world. During school, Laura was exposed to typical construction concepts that didn’t align with her ethics and values: the massive consumption of resources; the use of products which negatively affect health; and above all the scars that the buildings left on the earth. While working in the field with PCL Constructors, on a federal government LEED Gold Certified project, she was exposed to sustainable building concepts; “It really resonated with me: highly efficient, low water consuming, less impactful materials – both to the environment as well as the future occupants.” This particular project made considerable efforts during construction to divert landfill waste, manage indoor air quality and control erosion and sedimentation (so as not to affect a local stream). The project was also designed with “natural daylight, access to views, a green roof, and even a herb garden”. Laura had found her field.
Now a LEED AP, Laura is a rare commodity who has created a life of giving back to others. Currently working at Morrison Hershfield as a Sustainability Analyst, she is able to apply both her professional knowledge and her personal passion for ecological practices to help businesses lower their impacts on the world through the built environment.
Laura has been the recipient of many awards including a CaGBC National Leadership Award (2013); the Carson Award of Excellence for Community & Environmental Leadership (2013); New Brunswick Innovation Fund, Student Entrepreneurship Prize (2007); and where it all began, the peer-nominated Biggest Heart Award (2004) in secondary school.
Guiding Laura in both her daily life and in her vision for the future are her values and beliefs: compassion to our earth’s systems and creatures through not only less impact but positive change; a belief that anything is possible; and advocacy through non-violent personal action. These principles lay the foundation for Laura to have come this far and still have so far yet to go. Admittedly there are obstacles to overcome in green building, but Laura sees the bigger picture and knows that the role of social responsibility is an important one. According to Laura, the selling feature of green buildings “is not necessarily that it’s “green”- but because it’s a better building for a host of reasons such as: healthier, happier and more productive occupants, reduced energy, water, and waste, not to mention operational savings.” As Laura sees it, green buildings in fact offer additional peripheral benefits by being a means to stay competitive, resulting in attracting and retaining the best employees and customers all while increasing property value.
One of the less developed elements of sustainable building is the integration of agriculture. The evolution of sustainable construction needs to see a “strong marrying of the two” says Laura of food production and the built environment. “Urban planning must account for all aspects of life, and this includes food.” Communities will be enhanced as a result of local food production which, as Laura describes will decrease associated transportation emissions and foster appreciation for our natural environment. “When you know where your food comes from, and better yet get involved in the process, you become a more conscious consumer.”
Getting children interacting with green buildings and agriculture will help instill curiosity in natural systems and environmental values at a young age. “Integrating sustainable building concepts into curriculums is extremely important” Laura says. Building-specific knowledge “will help students to question and explore the importance of the built environment.” For our future generations to build and improve on what leaders like Laura have created, she believes our society must establish a foundation of compassion. “I think this is the basis of all things. When we expand our circle of compassion to encompass natural systems, exploring innovative solutions will be prioritized. We instinctively protect the things we love.”
Laura Paul’s lifelong commitment to sustainability advocacy is encouraging to those who share in her vision of a better tomorrow. Her dedication and action-inspiring energy are sincere values that we can all learn from no matter what field we’re in.