Voices of Leadership: Insights and Inspirations from Women Leaders

Pioneering Sustainable Design: Vivian Manasc on Green Building Movements, Design Collaboration, and Leadership in Architecture

July 10, 2024 Bespoke Projects Season 1 Episode 19
Pioneering Sustainable Design: Vivian Manasc on Green Building Movements, Design Collaboration, and Leadership in Architecture
Voices of Leadership: Insights and Inspirations from Women Leaders
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Voices of Leadership: Insights and Inspirations from Women Leaders
Pioneering Sustainable Design: Vivian Manasc on Green Building Movements, Design Collaboration, and Leadership in Architecture
Jul 10, 2024 Season 1 Episode 19
Bespoke Projects

On today’s episode, we talk with Vivian Manasc, an architect and pioneer in the green building movement. She is the Founding Principal at Reimagine, an architectural firm dedicated to collaboration, joy, creativity, and sustainability.

We explore Vivian's passion for sustainable design, her philosophy of optimism, and her unwavering dedication to fostering environments where community and creativity flourish. We also talk about how our Grandmothers were right.

Connect with Vivian:
LinkedIn
Website
Instagram

Key Takeaways:

  • Repurposing existing buildings is crucial for sustainability and reducing carbon emissions.
  • The green building movement requires a paradigm shift to prioritize sustainability and reduce the demolition of buildings.
  • Optimism and the belief in the world of possibilities are essential for overcoming obstacles and finding creative solutions.
  • Women in leadership roles in architecture still face challenges, but tenacity and envisioning the future can lead to success.


Books by Vivian Manasc

Old Stories, New Ways: Conversations About an Architecture Inspired by Indigenous Ways of Knowing

Agora Borealis: Engaging in Sustainable Architecture

What did you think of today's episode? We want to hear from you!

Thank you for listening today. Please take a moment to rate and subscribe to our podcast. When you do this, it helps to raise our podcast profile so more leaders can find us and be inspired by the stories our Voices of Leadership have to share.

Connect with us:
Voices of Leadership Website
Instagram


Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

On today’s episode, we talk with Vivian Manasc, an architect and pioneer in the green building movement. She is the Founding Principal at Reimagine, an architectural firm dedicated to collaboration, joy, creativity, and sustainability.

We explore Vivian's passion for sustainable design, her philosophy of optimism, and her unwavering dedication to fostering environments where community and creativity flourish. We also talk about how our Grandmothers were right.

Connect with Vivian:
LinkedIn
Website
Instagram

Key Takeaways:

  • Repurposing existing buildings is crucial for sustainability and reducing carbon emissions.
  • The green building movement requires a paradigm shift to prioritize sustainability and reduce the demolition of buildings.
  • Optimism and the belief in the world of possibilities are essential for overcoming obstacles and finding creative solutions.
  • Women in leadership roles in architecture still face challenges, but tenacity and envisioning the future can lead to success.


Books by Vivian Manasc

Old Stories, New Ways: Conversations About an Architecture Inspired by Indigenous Ways of Knowing

Agora Borealis: Engaging in Sustainable Architecture

What did you think of today's episode? We want to hear from you!

Thank you for listening today. Please take a moment to rate and subscribe to our podcast. When you do this, it helps to raise our podcast profile so more leaders can find us and be inspired by the stories our Voices of Leadership have to share.

Connect with us:
Voices of Leadership Website
Instagram


Vivian:

And so, in order to create great buildings, but also great ideas, we really need the strength of the group, the collective. The art of architecture is, in part, the art of convening the room, or bringing people together to co-create a future. Remember that all of the work we do doesn't yet exist. We live in the space of possibility, in the space of the future, and so to create that together is really joyful.

Amy:

Welcome to Voices of Leadership, the podcast that shines a spotlight on the remarkable women of the International Women's Forum. I'm your host, Amy, and I'm inviting you on a journey through the minds of trailblazers. Each episode is a candid conversation with women leaders who are reshaping industries, defying norms and being instigators of change. Through these conversations, we aim to ignite a fire within you, whether you're a budding leader, a seasoned executive or simply someone with a passion for growth. On today's episode, we talk with Vivian Manask, an architect and pioneer in the green building movement. She is the founding principal at Reimagine, an architectural firm dedicated to collaboration, joy, creativity and sustainability. Vivian talks about her journey in architecture and her endless interest in co-creating a better world. She believes deeply in fostering environments and spaces where community and creativity can flourish. We also talk about her philosophy of optimism and her belief in a world of possibilities. Hi, Vivian, it's lovely to meet you.

Amy:

Welcome to the podcast. Hi, Amy, so great to meet you as well. I'm so glad you were able to make time for this. Now, I know that you are in Edmonton, but I also know that your journey is through Romania, through Montreal, to Edmonton. So did you join IWF in Edmonton or elsewhere?

Vivian:

I joined IWF here in Edmonton. I've been in Edmonton for most of my professional life. So yeah, I've been here an IWF member for a good 10 years and have had opportunity to do lots of great things with IWF, including traveling all over the world to various conferences.

Amy:

What has been your favorite conference so far?

Vivian:

Wow you know there have been many. I definitely remember the conference in Tel Aviv. That was a real highlight. The caliber of speakers was amazing and it was just great to be in Israel with so many remarkable women. More recently, I was in Helsinki, finland, last summer just about a year ago in fact and that was pretty great. I was definitely on my list as an architect to go to Helsinki. Just needed an excuse to get there, so that was terrific. I was in Detroit last summer, which was amazing, and, of course, another highlight was in Chicago when I actually got to speak at the conference, so that was pretty fun.

Amy:

Oh, congratulations, that is exciting.

Vivian:

Yeah, I aspire to go to as many conferences as you've been to they are definitely a big highlight of our IWF family, of course, in addition to all of our local gatherings and get togethers and events here.

Amy:

I assume your dine arounds are just as fun as ours. They are, and we just had a dine-arounds are just as fun as ours.

Vivian:

They are, and we just had a dine-around here at the penthouse last week, as a matter of fact.

Amy:

Oh, nice, lovely. Well, let's talk a little bit about you. You are an architect by trade, but really you are so much more. You are a pioneer in the green building movement and a Canadian leader in sustainable design. Where did your passion for sustainable design come from?

Vivian:

Well you, you know, when I studied architecture, it happened that I was in architecture school right at the height of the first energy crisis in the early 70s, and so it was hard to not be paying attention to energy and the effect of the built environment and energy efficiency and solar energy and even nuclear energy, but alternative energy, off-grid all of that was right in the conversation right from the early days when I was a student, and it was pretty clear that as architects, we had a big obligation to do something about energy efficiency and about the impact of energy on our built environment as we design our buildings.

Amy:

And so the things that were top of mind then have any of those sustainable design ideas. Are they still around today?

Vivian:

Oh, absolutely Absolutely. I mean certainly. One of the key things that was around at that time was a focus on solar energy. One of the key things that was around at that time was a focus on solar energy, and solar really was quite actively being developed in the 70s and then it sort of fell by the wayside in the 80s and 90s and didn't really come back to life until the 2000s. But you know, both passive solar energy and active solar energy design strategies were very much in the discourse way back in the 70s when I was in architecture school.

Amy:

That's very interesting that sustainable ideas are still sustainable today.

Vivian:

They are. You know, there are some things that are just basic. They are, you know, the non-negotiables right the sun, and the wind and the rain. Those are the things that you have to work with, and so, as an architect, you play within those parameters.

Amy:

So one of your philosophical pillars seems to be centered around designing with, rather than for, communities. How does this idea inform the work you do on the projects and causes you're involved with?

Vivian:

Great question, amy. You know, we started very early in our journey working with First Nations communities here in Western Canada, and working with people is actually really inspiring, because there's a lot that the community knows about what their needs are, what's appropriate in their community, what works, and so, in order to create great buildings, but also great ideas, we really need the strength of the group, the collective, and so the art of architecture is, in part, the art of convening the room or bringing people together to co-create a future. Remember that all of the work we do doesn't yet exist right, and so we live in the space of possibility, in the space of the future, and so to create that together is really joyful.

Amy:

Wow, I love that that the work you do doesn't exist. So very true, but I have read a little bit about how you talk about we need to repurpose what we already have, and I feel like that's very important today, because our spaces are getting filled up and we always seem to want to build new, but you have sort of the thought that it's better to build with what we already have.

Vivian:

Yeah, exactly, reimagining existing buildings which is sort of where the name of our firm came from is really critical, because, of course, existing buildings have embodied carbon and so if we're talking about decarbonizing, you know, tearing things down and building new is not the most carbon effective strategy. If we work with existing buildings, we can repurpose them either to a similar purpose to what they had before, but just more efficient, like improving the energy efficiency of the walls, windows and roof, improving the efficiency of the heating systems and so on, or you can completely repurpose a building like you know. We see it all the time where old, you know schools are used as museums or as cultural centers or other facilities. And I always think that the best buildings do have the longest life and they do get repurposed because people love them and so they keep finding new uses for them, even when the original use is no longer relevant.

Amy:

So you mentioned Reimagine, but Manasq Isaac has a Reimagine initiative. Can you tell us a little bit about what that is and why it's important?

Vivian:

Well, manasq Isaac is actually our old name. Reimagine is our new name, so Manasq Isaac is the name that we went by as a firm for many decades until we rebranded. So it was an initiative at one time to focus on the repurposing of existing buildings, but then we transformed that term and we are now called Reimagine as a firm. So Reimagine is the name of our practice and Manasca Isaac is no longer in use. It's been put to bed.

Amy:

So what was that like? Rebranding is always a challenge, so what was that process like?

Vivian:

It was actually quite cool because we did it as a COVID project and so it was actually really timely. We had the opportunity to, you know, engage a lot of our staff. You know, fortunately, government was able to provide funding, so we didn't have to lay off all of our staff and, as a result, we had a bit of time and we had a lot of creative people, a lot of talented people, and so we really used the rebranding as a team building process. During the pandemic, the vast majority of the work was all done by our internal team, and so the rebranding was. It was challenging, but it was fascinating to see how our team came together around the many aspects of things that we needed to do to, you know, to just kind of reposition ourselves.

Vivian:

Our firm has grown a lot. You know, when we started out as Manasq Isaac, there really were a handful of us, and now we're almost 100 people, and so it really did make sense to have a new name that was more inclusive of more voices. We do have like 10 principals in the firm now, and we're, you know, quite a large enterprise. We have offices in Calgary and in Vancouver, as well as in Bucharest, romania, so we're definitely reimagined now.

Amy:

And global congratulations. So then, when you're taking on a client, are you looking for clients that have the same mindset with sustainable design, or will you take other clients and teach them sustainable design?

Vivian:

We definitely look for clients who have aligned values. It's not that they have to actually know what sustainable design is, but they have to care about the well-being of our planet and about the work that we do and most of our clients. I mean. We do a lot of work, as I said, with First Nations communities who are, of course, committed to stewardship in the long term and to being respectful of one another and of Mother Earth. But we also work in collaboration with many other sorts of client organizations who have aligned values and who really want to make a difference in the world, both through, you know, short-term implications of efficiency and long-term implications of living lightly on the planet at every level.

Amy:

You mentioned a couple of times your work with the Indigenous communities. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got involved in some of the work you do and how it has influenced your perspective on sustainable design in some?

Vivian:

of the work you do and how it has influenced your perspective on sustainable design. Very much so. I think that we began working with First Nations back in the 1980s and they really informed our practice in a very serious way, both in terms of how we work, as I said, sort of together as a collaboration, and how we design respecting all of the elements of earth and air and water and fire. But I think, even more importantly, the process that we use in design. The actual steps in the process are actually very much informed by a gift I was given many years ago of grandfather teachings, and so I've actually written a book about this called Old Stories, New Ways. So if you're curious to learn more about it, that book is probably in your local library or at Amazon or your local bookseller. The steps or the phases of the design process have been very much influenced by some teachings that were given to me over the years and how we've applied those lessons in shifting from a linear to a circular design process.

Amy:

So can you give us some examples about that? I think a lot of us are familiar with the design process, sort of the standards. How did the First Nations sort of focus on that, change the design process as we may understand it?

Vivian:

focus on that change the design process as we may understand it. Well, you know, really, it goes back to the time when I was asked by an elder during a design meeting, you know he said Well, we have all these dreams, we have all these visions, and then you know we need you to get us to a building. How do you get us there? And I got up to the flip chart and neatly drew a bar chart, as one does First you do detailed design and then you do construction drawings, and then you put it out to tender and then you get contractors. And it was my nice linear graph. And our elder said to me well, that's all very well and good, but you've got it all wrong, dear. And he said you know, you need to think about the process as circular. And that circular process really begins with an idea or a dream and it continues through its development into a building, but then finally, when you have a building, you really go back full circle. And he said you know, think about the grandfather teachings and think about how that could apply. And so what I did was take those grandfather teachings and sort of walk through them and develop. And I wish I could share my screen with you because I could show you what this looks like, but just to explain it verbally. So the first of the grandfather teachings is courage, and so it seemed to me that you know, at the beginning, when we're dreaming and envisioning, that it's really important to have courage in that process. And so the first sort of part of the circle is to envision with courage. And then the second part, second one of the teachings and there's seven of them, so bear with me A second one is to is love, and so planning with love, planning with love for the community, planning so that the spaces and places that we're creating reflect the love that we have for the community, is really, really important. The third one is wisdom, and so we design with wisdom, and we bring the wisdom of both indigenous ways of building and Western ways of building and, of course, the wisdom of the years of architecture and engineering expertise that we have. We bring that into, you know, the drawings that we prepare for construction. And then we see what have I missed? I've missed one of them, anyway.

Vivian:

Then we build, and then there's moment of truth, and so, oh no, we detail with respect. That's what I forgot. I forgot respect. So when we detail our buildings, we detail them with respect for craftsmanship and knowing that somebody has to actually build these things. So, as we're designing, we draw in a way that we're designing, we draw in a way that keeps in mind that the craftsmen and the trades people who have to build the things that we do. And then we get to construction, which we call the moment of truth.

Vivian:

So truth is the next teaching and, of course, construction always feels like a moment of truth, because that's when you know what you've designed and what you've drawn actually makes sense and can be constructed. And then, finally, we celebrate with humility, and so we remember that when we celebrate the work that has been built, we do that with the whole community. It takes a lot of people. Architecture is definitely a team sport. It takes a lot of people to plan and design and build a building. So to remind ourselves as architects, but also the whole community, of the humility of how large of a team effort that it takes to actually successfully build something. And then, finally, we evaluate with honesty, and so that brings us back full circle, so we continue to be in contact with the community, and that then informs future work. So around the circle we go.

Amy:

Wow, that is a much better design process than a linear bar graph, for sure our graph.

Vivian:

for sure, it is a much better design process, and it's one that we have found makes a very big difference to all of the ways in which we approach every single project, whether it's a First Nations project or not.

Amy:

So I have a couple of questions on that. Now you talk about that design process in the terms of architecture, but can it be used everywhere else? The design process is used. For example, my children are in grade eight and they are building a robotic car and they are learning the design process. Could these ideas be applied there as well?

Vivian:

Absolutely, absolutely. Any design process is open to being reinterpreted in this manner. So yeah, if you want to read more about it. The book is called Old Stories, new Ways, and so I'll put a plug in for the book. Absolutely All the proceeds from the book go to Red Crow College.

Amy:

Well, we'll definitely put a link in the show notes to both of your books. So on the topic of the book both books. I gather your passion for learning about this new design process prompted you to write the book. But what was that experience like?

Vivian:

Well, the first book. So there's two books, as you mentioned. The first book is called the Golden Borealis and it's about engaging in sustainable architecture, so that's an older book that was written really more just, broadly about sustainable buildings and it has a little bit about our First Nations work, but not so much. And then the second book, which was the more difficult book to write, was and is about our work with First Nations communities and how that has transformed our practice.

Amy:

That's fascinating, I mean it's, it's. I can't imagine even writing a book, but then taking a whole new way of doing things and putting them into a book as well.

Vivian:

Yeah, it was definitely a difficult book to write. It was a struggle and I have to thank to Fritz Panacook, who was my editor and partner in crime on this to try to help make it happen, was my editor and partner in crime on this to try to help make it happen. And then my co-author on the first book was actually Cheryl Haffey and she's a remarkable journalist and writer and also a huge help. So without my partners in crime I wouldn't have been able to pull off these books.

Amy:

Well, it's definitely on my reading list now and I think there's a lot of focus which is good on in high school, on tech and introducing various aspects of technology to students, but I think this would be a great complement to a curriculum like that as well.

Vivian:

Absolutely, and I'm glad that they are teaching more design Because, you know, we used to just see like sort of scientific method taught but design method was not taught and design method is a different way of thinking than scientific method and it's useful for, I think, young people to learn both of those things and to be exposed to both of those things in order to be able to develop their own pathways.

Amy:

I agree for sure. So we've talked a little bit about sustainable design and the green building movement. I was wondering what your thoughts are. Is more embedded, but in different ways, right?

Vivian:

And so, depending on the place, like, for example, helsinki, finland, which is a design capital and has been for many years, is a very environmentally friendly place, but the ethos of the entire culture is to live much more lightly and much more simply. So you know people's homes, for example. I mean everybody lives in a you know six-story apartment building. So you know people live very differently and so it's hard to say who does green buildings best, because cultures and ways of living are so very different from country to country and place to place.

Vivian:

Yeah, it's just important to think that wherever we live and whatever we are doing, there's ways to improve, like how can we do better? You know, whether you live in a sprawling North American city or a dense European city or you know a more dense Asian city, what can you do to improve the environmental impact, reduce carbon emissions? So you know we can do things to improve, like developing new materials, developing new technologies. I've been involved in some of all of those things, but we can, in addition to developing new materials and technologies, we can just think about the very basic things, like how we orientate a building to the sun, and those are things that we can do universally if we're building a new building. You know its orientation to the sun makes a significant difference in terms of how much energy it's going to consume over its lifetime.

Amy:

So how can we do better in Canada?

Vivian:

Ah well, we can do lots better in Canada. I mean, I think we've had some significant improvement in building codes, but we, you know, we can make buildings that consume far less energy. So energy has definitely been one of the things that Canada has been very good at because of our extreme climate. But we can improve even further. We can be more stringent with our building codes and standards to really more radically reduce energy use in every aspect of our buildings.

Vivian:

Materials are important, so choosing materials that have lower embodied energy, we can definitely do that. Also, environmental toxicity is something to be paying attention to. So there's materials that we use in our buildings that are quite toxic and we can eliminate those without too much trouble. So using more natural materials is definitely healthier for people and the planet. We have to remember that. You know, human health and wellbeing is also part of the story, right? It's not just planetary health and wellbeing, it's all of us the planet, because it's the only one we've got, and us, because we need to be here to also be stewards of other creatures. What happens to animals, what happens to birds? So how do we reduce the amount of toxins in the ecosystem? I mean, I think that's definitely an issue that we haven't fully grappled with and something that we can get better at, but, yeah, I think Canada's on a good path and we could be even, I think, the net zero by 2030, 2040, 2050, when are we going to get to net zero? I don't know, but sooner rather than later would be good.

Amy:

Yes, it would be. What would be an example of toxic materials that we could eliminate? Someone like me may not think it's a toxic material, but perhaps it is.

Vivian:

Yeah, exactly. Well, a good one is vinyl or PVC. There's a lot of vinyl in our building materials, and vinyl is toxic, both from the point of view of when it's manufactured it's highly toxic and it off-gases volatile organics, and so it's also toxic while it's in situ. So if we replace all vinyl products in our buildings and that includes floor coverings, and that includes floor coverings, windows, blinds, cladding, siding, everything, all things vinyl you can certainly make a difference by eliminating that.

Amy:

That's a great example, because I wouldn't have thought it. And then when you start listing off all the things vinyl is a part of in a building, it's quite significant.

Vivian:

It is, and there's replacements, there's alternatives, there are choices. So we don't need to use vinyl.

Amy:

We can use fiberglass, we can use wood, we can use much more sustainable materials. Well, that's good to know. We can hopefully start working on that sooner than later.

Amy:

Yeah exactly so. In my research, I came across a lovely quote that you said, and I would like your thoughts on it. So you said every day, in every way, I see something that is hopeful Wherever there is a glass that could possibly be half full. I've got it more than half full, at least by a drop, and so I am endlessly optimistic. I always believe in the world of possible. Where did you learn and develop this philosophy?

Vivian:

Good question. I think I come by it from my grandmother. I think that my grandmother was an endlessly optimistic woman and had the good fortune to have her live with us when we were children, and she lived to the age of 102. Wow, so she was with us for most of our adult lives, and so I think she was the one who brought us that philosophy. But I think I was just fortunate that you know, whatever things happen that go sideways, there's always a way around, there's always an up and over, there's always a space of possibility, and so I think it comes also from the idea that we live in the future, and so, as an architect, I live in a future space, and that future space is open to being designed in the way that you want it to be designed. So that's where optimism emerges from. I think, at least in part.

Amy:

And how do you embody that today then, especially if you come up against an obstacle or something like that?

Vivian:

Well, you know, in architecture there are obstacles every day. It's a very complex undertaking to actually create and design and build buildings and there are a lot of moving parts and there's a lot of people and it's extremely complex. So there's obstacles all the time and so having this attitude of being able to get up and over and around those obstacles is helpful. I guess the longer I'm at it, the more I can see pathways. There's more open pathways available. So getting around the obstacle from the right doesn't work. We'll go from the left, or up and over or around, or there's always something right. There's always some way to find a way to make those barriers or obstacles move out of the way.

Amy:

Well, I do love it. It's a very inspiring quote and I would hope to embody more of that in my life.

Vivian:

going forward, oh well thank you and I think it's helpful. It's a helpful way of thinking. It makes it possible to find ways to solve messy things.

Amy:

You've mentioned a couple times how you work in the future and you work in the unknown, so I would love your thoughts on sort of what's next for the green building space, but sort of in the context of what new possibilities do you see for the future of the green building movement that those of us outside of the industry maybe haven't even considered yet?

Vivian:

That's a great. That's a great question, amy. You know, the green building movement that I guess I've been part of since the beginning really has so much upside, so much possibility, because what it does is actually twofold. It both envisions new ways of working together, so new collaborations, and it envisions new strategies or metrics for what we're doing in green buildings. And so of course, you know everybody looks at you, know how can you make a more energy efficient boiler or heat pump or a motor or something, and that's a part of it. But the bigger part of it is to look at how we pull together architecture engineering, urban design, landscape architecture to create buildings that are actually inherently more sustainable. And so that's both new buildings, which of course has many degrees of freedom, and existing buildings. So there's no doubt in my mind that the next 50 years we're going to be focusing a lot on existing buildings, and if we can persuade the powers that be to not keep demolishing buildings and I think this is like a call to action, I think, to all of our IWF colleagues who are on boards, who are on committees, who are in executive roles and organizations is to look at your buildings portfolio and say you know, existing buildings.

Vivian:

Older buildings can and should be reimagined and, by and large, they shouldn't be demolished, and that culture has to shift. Because we're still definitely here in Western Canada, very much in the thick of demolishing buildings and it is tragic. Every time we do that we're harming our planet and ourselves ultimately by continually demolishing existing buildings and tearing down trees and doing things that are unnecessary. There's opportunities to do something with what exists. So I think the biggest challenge to the green building movement and also to, let's say, women who are in leadership roles, is how do you effectively reimagine those existing buildings? How do you do that intelligently and creatively and cost-effectively with new materials, new technologies that can make those older buildings be net zero, make them more beautiful, more sustainable and more functional for the long term.

Amy:

I can see that. I mean you're right. Having a call to action to halt the destruction is a really good idea. Even where I am, I see it it's always about the new building because it's better than the old building, and that I find, in see it, it's always about the new building because it's better than the old building and that I find in some industries it's accompanied by well sustainable design is too expensive, but I assume that if you don't tear down the old building and apply some sustainable design principles, it's probably more cost effective and better for everybody.

Vivian:

Yes for everybody, yes, and to boot. Then you make the cycle repeat. If you build something poorly now because you think doing it well is too expensive, then you're just going to be tearing that down again in 25 years. So you're creating this cycle and we and our planet can't afford for us to be doing that. And I think, as women in leadership roles, we can do better than that. My grandmother, like probably yours, saved every piece of foil and reused every piece of plastic and made sure nothing ever went to waste. That ethos is not crazy right? Our grandmothers were not wrong. They were onto something. For sure they were onto something. And you know, we thought that as modern women, we could afford to just waste everything. Well, we can't, because you know the landfills are full and we're destroying our planet we are and it's hard to make a cultural shift.

Amy:

And it's hard to make a cultural shift with multi-generations still involved and there's a lot of challenges.

Vivian:

There are a lot of challenges. So I think that's where the green building movement is going. And you know, even from the beginning of the green building movement, there was always an aspect to it which was changing people's behavior and attitudes, and that's much more difficult than just changing. You know materials that you use, or pumps and motors right. But if we can start to make a dent in that and shift how people view resources and making sure that we think of our buildings as being valuable and we can repurpose them and revitalize them and reimagine them and find new ways to make them healthy places for people and the planet, you know we'll be onto something.

Amy:

Well, if we all do our part, maybe we can make a change quicker, sooner than later.

Vivian:

I think that's a part of it. It's very much a community approach, right?

Amy:

So let's talk a little bit about women in architecture. So you've been in the architectural space for a long time and perhaps at some point you've been the only woman in the room, like many of us. What is the state of women's leadership in architecture today, and how has it changed over the years?

Vivian:

Great question. So, you know, in an architectural school there's been 50% women for quite a long time. Actually. Lots of women have chosen to study architecture. It's a great field that suits women well and historically, many, many women drop out of the profession because it's difficult, it's challenging, it's demanding, it's time-consuming, and for a long time, there wasn't a lot of accommodation for taking maternity leaves and taking other types of time off in life. More recently, I think, more women are getting to the point where you know they are definitely active in the profession and able to, you know, take their year off for their maternity leave and come back and continue working and bring children to work and like.

Vivian:

I think that culture has shifted, and for sure, in our office, there's kids in our office almost every day. Somebody doesn't have child care or somebody has to manage somehow by bringing their kid to work, and that works great. Women in leadership roles, though, are still few and far between, and we are definitely encouraging more women to find those pathways. But it's tough, it's really tough, and architectural profession as an endeavor is demanding. It's demanding of time and of energy and of tenacity, and it benefits from thick skin, and so, you know, I think some women prefer to not be in leadership roles and, to you know, continue practicing more in the background. Or, you know, as in other professions, women end up in public sector roles, which we see in law as well. Right, where young women end up in public sector roles because the practice side becomes untenable at a certain point.

Amy:

You're right about the law. It's very interesting that A the story you just told, but also the reference, because I did speak to a lawyer, rosa Lupa, who's part of the Waterloo chapter, and I asked her that question and she pretty much told me the same story about how school is 50-50, but then at some point women do drop out for a variety of reasons and it does have an effect on the overall leadership in the industry.

Vivian:

Yeah, yeah, it's very similar, For sure. Yeah, I have a husband who's a lawyer, a daughter-in-law who's a lawyer, a son who's a lawyer, lots of friends who you know at different stages of their careers. But, yes, we've seen this. But yeah, leadership roles are difficult. Seen this, but yeah, leadership roles are difficult, and both you know project leadership and practice leadership are challenging. So we don't see tons of women and you know, in some ways it hasn't changed in the last 20 years we just don't see tons of women that stay in practice long enough to be into senior roles. It's still a very, very small percentage. We actually have 30% women leadership in our practice, but that's pretty rare.

Amy:

Well, you and your industry are not alone.

Vivian:

So I guess we take comfort in that. Yeah, we are not alone and it's even more challenging in construction and engineering yes it is. You know, we're part of a large ecosystem, right, as architects, we're part of the architecture, engineering, construction ecosystem, and there are very few women in the room. So, you're right, it's very often that one is the only woman in the room, and so you have to get good at that.

Amy:

Yes, you do. It's a skill in and of itself. I come from automotive and spend a lot of time being the only woman in the room, so I understand. So, on that, what advice do you have for the next generation of women leaders in architecture or otherwise?

Vivian:

Well, I think that tenacity matters, and so I think, if you want to be in leadership roles, sticking with it right, because there's going to be ups and downs and bumps on the road and being able to see that future is helpful. And if you can imagine the future, you can create the future. You just have to have the curiosity to discover what that might look like and then the tenacity to make it happen.

Amy:

Well, that is great advice for all of us new women leaders and current women leaders. Thank you so much, vivian. This has been fantastic. I've learned a lot about the green building movement and sustainable design and your fabulous career and everything that you've contributed to the industry and beyond. So thank you for sharing all of your stories with us.

Vivian:

Thanks, Amy. This is a great initiative. Really appreciate that you took this on and happy to be able to be part of the story. And let me know if you have any other questions. We will.

Amy:

Thank you. Thank you for listening today. If you enjoyed this episode, please take a moment to rate and subscribe to our podcast. When you do this, it raises our podcast profile so more leaders can find us and be inspired by the stories our Voices of Leadership have to share. If you would like to connect with us, please visit the Voices of Leadership website. It can be found in our show notes.

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