JASPER, AB—Michal Wasuita and his mother, Connie Bjorkquist, owner/operators of Pine Bungalows in Jasper National Park, have long been proponents of living lightly on the earth, implementing environmentally friendly measures on their property for decades.
Recently they decided to have an independent third party review their steps to make their accommodations more sustainable and walked away with certification and an award.
Pine Bungalows has been in service to the mountain traveller since the 1930s. The rustic individual bungalows are now historic. The owners aspire to retain the historic aesthetic and keep upgrading the bungalows to be more efficient.
In 2003, with only three years remaining on his lease with Parks Canada, Wasuita and Bjorkquist, who spent her lifetime working on the property and is still actively consulting with her son, had some serious decisions to make about the property.
“The cabins needed updating and the infrastructure was slowly failing,” Wasuita explained in an article in Perspectives, the newsletter of the Alberta Chapter of the Canada Green Building Council. He knew some of the cabins were prone to flooding, conditions were right for mould in some of them, the interiors had used oil-based paints and the failing water, sewer and gas lines needed modernization.
Seeking LEED certification
Wasuita decided that, “Remodelling the existing cabins was just putting lipstick on a pig. Contractors and developers told me just to rip them down and start over.”
Rather than just replicating the old cabins, Wasuita did some research, and found EcoAMMO Sustainable Consulting Inc. in Edmonton to help secure LEED certification.
Since he was operating in a national park, Wasuita needed to submit a master plan to Parks Canada.
“I’m breaking new ground. I want to certify a residential building located on a commercial property inside a national park,” he said.
Wasuita says his research gave him the tools he needed to guide Parks Canada through the process.
“They developed an appreciation for the project and for LEED. For instance, they questioned the fact that I hadn’t included plans for irrigation to water the landscaping. I told them I had no plans to water the landscaping because I would use all native plants that would adapt to local water conditions.”
One bungalow for approval
They chose one bungalow to put through the LEED for Homes certification system to confirm that the environmentally friendly initiatives they were implementing on all their bungalows would in fact meet this international standard for green building.
Pine Bungalows recently received a LEED Silver certification for their cabin upgrades and sustainability initiatives.
Initiatives included the following:
oreaching an Energuide rating of 81 (Building Code is currently at 72);
orecycling construction waste;
oinstalling efficient plumbing and lighting fixtures;
ocreating a 100 per cent native plant species landscaping plan that requires zero potable water; and
oreducing air leakage by 94 per cent.
The construction process is being phased and Wasuita says they will see additional LEED certifications as phases progress. Wasuita has just completed phase four of nine phases approved by Parks Canada, with eight cabins completed. “The toughest parts were the first couple of phases, replacing the infrastructure one section at a time. So far, I’ve invested over $4 million in capital, with another $2.5 million to go.”
And as he renovates, Wasuita is laying the groundwork to target LEED Gold certification.
For example, the cabins are solar ready, with the electrical panel ready for the change sometime in the future. Wasuita may also consider a hot water loop in future rather than the current central hot water system.
“I get a lot of satisfaction over what I’m doing,” Wasuita told Perspectives. “The Jasper town folks thought I was crazy at first. Now, people understand my motivations and have taken a real interest in the project. And education is an important part of LEED. The process is pretty cool. You get a point if you do an open house to educate your staff and the public.
“I like the LEED system. If you comply with all the categories, the points add up quickly. And you end up doing the right thing.”