Building a sustainable house 

Natural Step speaker to focus on renewable energy and home design

Type Dr. Donald Aitken’s name into any Internet search engine, and you’ll get back a long and prestigious list of links to universities, environmental and government organizations – which was lucky for me because he was busy lecturing up and down the East Coast this past week, and wasn’t available for an interview.

Dr. Aitken is one of the world’s foremost experts on renewable energy, and currently trains architects and engineers in sustainable building design. He will be in Whistler on Oct. 25 to give a lecture called Renewable Energy – The Right Choice, as part of a the Leadership Through Sustainable Innovation speaker series. The series, which is being presented by the early adopters of The Natural Step Framework – the municipality, Whistler-Blackcomb, Fairmont Chateau Whistler, Tourism Whistler, AWARE, and Whistler’s Photosource – will introduce Whistler’s sustainability initiative to the public over the next six months.

"We are very excited that Dr. Aitken is willing and able to share his knowledge with Whistler," says Dave Waldron, co-ordinator of Whistler’s Sustainability Initiative. "He’s a very dynamic speaker and we can learn a great deal from his experience and knowledge of projects in the area of renewable energy – something we can definitely take advantage of in our own homes and businesses."

In Whistler, Dr. Aitken will share practical energy saving solutions for today’s homes and business that are environmentally friendly, and both simple and inexpensive to put into place.

Dr. Aitken is vice president of the International Solar Energy Society and has twice served as national chairman of the American Solar Energy Society. In 1997 he received America’s highest award for his lifetime service to the study and implementation of solar energy alternatives.

He began his career in 1963 when he received his Ph.D. in Experimental Nuclear Physics from Stanford University. He remained at the university as a Research Physicist until 1972, when he created the Department of Environmental Studies at San Jose State University.

As a leader in the field of energy and environmental protection, he was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy to create the Western Regional Solar Energy Center in 1979, and was its executive director until 1981.

In 1991 he joined the Union of Concerned Scientists as a senior staff scientist for renewable energy, a position he still holds today. He is an adjunct professor at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, a consultant for the Taliesin Architects of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, and the principal of his own consulting firm that specializes in design work on environmental, daylighting and energy-efficient commercial buildings. He also lectures on energy, sustainable building practices, and global warming.

Prior to Dr. Aitken’s presentation, there will be an open house featuring energy efficiency displays by Natural Resources Canada and B.C. Hydro, as well as a profile of Whistler’s current energy uses done by Sheltair Group Resource Consultants Inc.

The presentation will take place in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Frontenac Ballroom, starting with the open house at 6:30 p.m. Dr. Aitken will speak at 7:30. Admission is free.

Meanwhile, a new date has been set for a presentation by Ray Anderson, who was originally scheduled to kick off the lecture series with a talk titled Doing Well By Doing Good on Sept. 15. Anderson was forced to postpone his trip to Whistler after the events of Sept. 11. He will now be in Whistler Dec. 1.

Anderson is the founder and chairman of Interface Carpets Inc., a Fortune 500 company with sales in the billions of dollars that was one of the first sustainable businesses in the world. He will share the business logic for his journey, his adoption of The Natural Step framework, and the business impact of this program financially and competitively.

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