Credit: Flickr / SamBeebe/Ecotrust

Guest blogger series:

Crawling Toward Sustainability

This is the eighth in a series of guest blog posts in which Emma will track the progress of her office to become more sustainable. Next up, Emma finds her best laid plans to reduce paper use are not so clear cut.

Renovations are still rolling right along at BCA. We have a new front door and more walls have come down, which will be great next summer when they let more cold air from the basement flood upstairs. Not so great for the coming winters though… But, hey, we have user-controlled electric baseboard heaters to help us stay warm.

Haida Gwaii map


Haida Gwaii rainwater collection

For a place like South Beach in Haida Gwaii,

which get a ton of rain, rainwater collection is

important and easy.

Haida Gwaii solar energy

Many of the homes in the more remote

parts of Haida Gwaii (ahem, I guess

that's most of it), solar power provides

much-needed energy.

We also just had a bike rack installed on the sidewalk in front of the office, courtesy of the Strathcona Business Improvement Association and the City of Vancouver. Bike couriers, rejoice!

The recent changes at the office have been aesthetic, not environmental. More sustainable changes are coming, but sometimes it still seems that the most eco-friendly choice is pretty pie-in-the-sky. A recent trip to the Queen Charlotte Islands, however, highlighted that it really is possible to live and work completely off the grid.

A trip up the North Coast took us to the white sands of South Beach and open waters of the Dixon Entrance, near Masset. The largest community on Haida Gwaii, Masset has all the normal services, but journey out toward Rose Spit and Naikoon Provincial Park and there are a smattering of homes and businesses that have no access to heat, electricity, gas and only cold running water! But that doesn’t mean that residents on Tow Hill Road go without. They’re using many of the sustainable methods that we’re trying so hard to promote in the city to live comfortably on the island.

For example, cold running water comes from the rain. For a place with so much rain, rainwater collection is important and easy. All the rental cabins and summer homes on the beach had rainwater collection systems for kitchen sinks and small outdoor showers.

In our cabin, the stove was propane and there was no electricity at all, but other homes on the beach were using wind and solar energy for power generation. There were two small windmills and some solar panels generating energy for some of the homes.

There is even a bakery off the beach, Moon Over Naikoon, baking and serving up fabulous cinnamon buns by candle light.

The people in this little section of Haida Gwaii are using their climate and surroundings to their advantage without abusing them. Would it be feasible to follow suit and take BCA off the grid?  Probably not.

But are these methods—rainwater collection, solar energy, wind energy—easily translatable to an urban setting? Surprisingly, yes. We can’t run our computers off of a solar panel on the roof yet, but we’ll put one there anyway, and at least ease up on the grid.


The Bruce Carscadden Architect crew

bruce carscadden ARCHITECT inc is a boutique architecture and planning firm, based in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside since 2000. Specializing in recreation, institutional and commercial projects for public and private clients, BCA is committed to producing beautiful and thoughtful buildings, and finding green and sustainable solutions within a client’s budget. Almost everyone rides a bike to work.

Emma Carscadden is the promotions and marketing assistant at BCA, and writes proposals, submissions and copy for the website. She’s also in charge of setting up the office’s worm composter.