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Best Workplaces 2012: Best Workplace for the Environmentally Conscious

Manasc Isaac

May 1, 2012

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IT’S NOT EASY being the greenest in 2012. The usual standbys that used to qualify as forward-thinking environmental behaviour, from recycling to leaving the car at home or reducing energy consumption, are now the expected minimum when it comes to sustainability.

The team at Manasc Isaac, an Edmonton-based architecture firm, has been doing those sorts of things for a long time. It has, among other things, waterless urinals in its washrooms, a nearly paperless office – no easy feat for an architecture firm – and an interior lighting scheme that lets Mother Nature do most of the work.

But the company is still pushing itself to do better when it comes to going green, a philosophy that reflects the kind of work it does and the clients it has. “Part of it is practising what we preach,”says Shafraaz Kaba, one of the firm’s partners. “We want to show that we do what we encourage our clients to do.”

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In order to do that, the firm undertakes a new green project every year. This year, it plans to turn the rooftop of its office – formerly the federal weights and measures building – into a green patio. “That’ll be our next project,”Kaba says, “to show how we can occupy a roofscape and, with not such a great effort, make it a great space.”

Reduce
At Manasc Isaac, driving to work is actively discouraged. Those who do drive pay a parking fee that is put toward the cost of free transit passes available to any employee who wants one. There’s also a carrot: the company offers those who cycle to work a well-equipped change room, complete with secure interior bicycle storage and a shower.

Reuse
Manasc Isaac’s office is a testament to the power (and value) of reusing things. The company acquired the former federal weights and measures building constructed in the 1960s, stripped it down to its bones and turned it into an open and bright office space.

Recycle
Perhaps the company’s proudest achievement to date, at least when it comes to its environmental bona fides, is the solar panel sunshades it installed on the south side of the building. Since July 2011, the shades have provided about 10 per cent of the building’s power needs, saving an estimated 12,500 pounds of carbon dioxide.

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