Going Green

When it came time to select products for an office renovation, green was the only way to go for the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources in Winnipeg, Canada.

May 15, 2000

When it came time to select products for an office renovation, green was the only way to go for the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources in Winnipeg, Canada.

"Because of our mandate as an environmental organization, we wanted to take this opportunity to practice what we preach," says Rodney McDonald, a research associate for CIER. The group, which formed six years ago, builds the capacity of Aboriginal people to deal with their own environmental issues and problems.

Located in Winnipeg's historic Exchange District, the four-story building was built in 1893 as a printing company. It became a drygoods wholesale exchange until about seven years ago. A nightclub moved in for a short stay on the bottom two floors, and then the building sat vacant for few years. The building received heritage status in 1999, but was quite debilitated when CIER decided to use the top two floors for office space.

Construction on the building began in Fall 1999. Perhaps the most innovative product used in the renovation was composting toilets. Made by Clivus Multrum, the composting toilets are totally waterless and will save a million liters of water over the next five years, according to McDonald. "It's a composting technology that's been around for a while," says McDonald. "[but] it's the first application of this composting technology in a historic building in Canada."

Isoboard, a strawboard product that is manufactured from straw fibers and non-formaldehyde resins, was used to build all of the bookcases, draws, cubicle wall caps, and door and window trim.

Many of the hardwood floors were refurbished, but the designer recommended carpet in certain spaces for noise reduction. Sticking with the environmentally friendly products, CIER chose products from Interface Flooring Systems. Carpet is produced in tiles, but what's new is it can now be leased. Interface owns the carpet, and every 30 days it inspects the tiles, removes worn tiles, and recycles it into new carpet. As an added environmental bonus, Interface has eliminated water from their production process. "They've gone from using 120,000 gallons a month to zero," says McDonald. "It's amazing"

Even the paint on the walls, which is certified by Canada's Environmental Choice program for low VOCs, is an environmentally safe product. McDonald made sure to keep trucking and the subsequent use of fossil fuels and pollution to a minimum by selecting materials that were produced in the region. "When I was looking for products, I took into consideration not only what the product was made of and how it was made, but also where it was made," he says.

For McDonald, obtaining the renovation's green products was none too difficult. As part of his job, he was compiling a database of environmentally friendly products, a project that was commissioned by Canada's Public Works and Government Services Department. "It was easy for me because I had done most of this work and research as to what companies and products were available," he says. Builders and remodelers can access this green database at econexus.net.

CIER began using the bright and modern office space in January and was earned an award from Resources Conservation Manitoba, a group that recognizes individuals and organizations working toward conservation efforts.

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