York and World Green Building Council form a partnership

A new partnership between York and the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) hopes to see several new initiatives introduced by next spring, including an international internship program, a summer school looking at sustainable design and an online research portal, in a bid to reduce environmental degradation.

York and the WorldGBC, a union of consensus-based, not-for-profit national green building councils from around the world, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in May. York students and faculty will conduct research in partnership with the WorldGBC as well as develop strategies to effectively disseminate the research.

The partnership came about through York biology Professor Dawn Bazely, director of York’s Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability, who immediately saw an opportunity that would benefit York and the WorldGBC.

Right: Wind turbine, photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

“When we started talking about an MOU with York, so many great ideas came up,” said Melissa Ferrato (FES ’07), supervisor of projects & research at the WorldGBC.

Members of the WorldGBC are leading the movement to globalize environmentally and socially responsible building practices. They represent over 50 per cent of global construction activity affecting more than 10,000 companies and organizations.

“This aligns well with a number of York strategic initiatives,” said David Phipps, director of the Office of Research Services at York. “I think there is a lot of opportunity for research, knowledge mobilization, undergraduate and graduate work.”

York graduate students as well as York faculty on sabbatical will have the opportunity to pair up with green building council or industry partners to conduct research on environmental topics of interest to both parties, such as sustainable development, energy conservation and climate change mitigation strategies. A research translation service being piloted by York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit will assist in the process.

In addition, York will work with the WorldGBC to develop a knowledge mobilization strategy and a WorldGBC online research portal. York, in partnership with the University of Victoria, is leading the development of ResearchImpact, Canada’s emerging national knowledge mobilization network. The WorldGBC identified York’s role in knowledge mobilization as a key factor in choosing to partner with the University.

“They’re looking at York’s knowledge mobilization as a model for partnerships with other universities internationally,” said Phipps. “We’re the test case in bilateral work between international universities, the WorldGBC and the national green building councils.”

As part of the partnership, an International Summer School on Design for Sustainability is in the works for next spring, offering students from around the world the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of sustainable design and development from an international perspective. The course would be open to 30 undergraduate students – 10 from York and 20 from York’s international network of partner universities.

Left: A cityscape. Buildings and communities account for 40 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

The students would be housed at York while completing a three-week undergraduate study program, for academic credit, taught by York faculty at the Earth Rangers Centre, a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold-certified building at the Toronto & Region Conservation Authority’s Living City Campus at the Kortright Centre for Conservation.

In addition, York International is hoping to launch an international internship program in May 2009 with the WorldGBC. An undergraduate student from York would work with a green building council in another country for three months along with an undergraduate student from one of York’s partner universities in the country of placement.

A WorldGBC Secretariat Internship is also planned. One York student already tried it out working with the WorldGBC Secretariat over the summer.

"The mission of the WorldGBC is to accelerate the transformation of the built environment toward sustainability. We are rapidly building an international coalition that represents the entire global construction industry. This is a critical response strategy to support cities and countries worldwide in their efforts to reduce carbon emissions and address other environmental impacts,” said Ferrato.

York’s KM Unit provides services and funding for faculty, graduate students and community organizations seeking to maximize the impact of academic research and expertise on public policy and professional practice. Working in partnership with the University of Victoria, York’s KM Unit is supported by grants from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and from the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation. For more information, contact Michael Johnny at mjohnny@yorku.ca.