What is GROW?

Green Roofs Over Waterloo is a group of University of Waterloo students, staff, and faculty with a passion for sustainable development and environmental design. Our goal is to promote sustainable building design and environmental education. Along the way, we hope to:

  • Pressure UW to include sustainable building requirements in their construction and building operation policies;
  • Develop student leadership, communication, and design skills;
  • Raise awareness about green buildings and sustainable solutions;
  • Build upon the University's reputation as a leader in technology and innovation.

Why should universities build green?

"As places of learning, they can serve to educate their occupants about the environmental benefits of design features. Schools have tremendous potential for conveying a message about sustainability that will help to further its implementation throughout society." -- A. Wilson

Ignoring sustainable practices on campus encourages people to maintain the status quo, and to not think about or understand their surroundings. Incorporating environmentally friendly building design practices exposes people to new ways of thinking, expanding their horizons and leading them to push the envelope in their own studies, research, etc.

Studies have shown that green buildings increase performance and decrease absenteeism of their occupants. Universities rely on professor and student research to attract new members and sources of funding. If groundbreaking results can be achieved faster, simply by adopting such methods as increasing daylighting and choosing interior finishes that don't off-gas toxins, why isn't every institution of higher learning adopting these measures?

Why arenít more universities building green?

Cost has been a major deterrent because green building technologies are still new and perceived to be expensive. While some "green" technologies are more expensive than conventional ones, efficient applications such as decreasing mechanical system size, and orienting windows to the north have no cost increase, or even a cost decrease.

Why, then, is the University of Waterloo adamantly against putting some thought into their building designs? If techniques are proven to have no cost premium, and can decrease the operating cost of the building, how can they say green buildings cost more? Green buildings go well beyond the glamorous photovoltaic panels and ground source heat pumps. Their technology can be as complicated or as simplistic as the designer wants and the owner can afford. Itís time these aspects of green buildings find a place on campus.

Food for thought: Since when did universities not want to support forward thinking?

What is the University of Waterloo doing?

The University of Waterloo is greatly behind the times among post secondary institutions. UW is the only university among Canadian institutions with an academic interest in this field that has not created an environmental policy, a green building policy or built a practical example of a green building.

So why did a recent issue of the Alumni Magazine have a cover story advertising how green the campus is?

  • $1.5 million dollar retrofit to increase energy efficiency of the central plant services and one computer lab. Neither of these initiatives are advertised.
  • The lowest energy use of all Canadian universities. Ask for hard data to support this claim and you will be met with resistance. UW is also the only campus to not have a website devoted to Plant Services.
  • A building incorporating radiant flooring, orientation and window shading to decrease solar heat gain, and a green roof. (Although the University takes credit for this building, it is a privately funded endevour on north campus and falls largely under the radar.)
  • WATGreen: The first committee of its kind to bring staff, faculty, administration, and students together to increase the sustainability of campus. (The spearhead position was recently cancelled, and WATGreen has effectively disintegrated.)
  • UW Sustainability Project: A student service supported by the Federation of Students aimed at increasing environmental awareness on campus on issues including native species gardens, renewable technology, waste reduction, and green buildings.

Some schools are getting the idea!

Here are just some of the institutions who feel that green buildings are worth their money, time, and resources.

Building Location Notable Points
Adam Joseph Lewis Centre (Oberlin College) Ohio
  • Building operation and performance is monitored using 150 data sensors
  • Data is analyzed by students and provide the core content for several courses taught at the Centre
Beamish Munro Hall (Queen's University) Kingston, ON
  • Exposed structures provide research and course material for engineering students
  • Data from sensors monitoring stress, temperature, air quality, heat transfer, and energy consumed by the building, is published online and can be used by instructors or for research
Technology Enterprise Facility III Building (University of British Columbia) Vancouver, BC
  • Signage throughout building illustrating green building strategies employed
  • A case study detailing the building's environmental attributes which is accessible through the US Department of Energy, High Performance Building website and the Canadian Green Building Councilís website
Applied Computing and Engineering Sciences Building (Fleming College) Peterborough, ON
  • Natural ventilation reducing cost of running heating/cooling units


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