About this exhibit and research
This research project explores the perspectives and lived experiences of people who work in the evolv1 green office building in Waterloo, ON, Canada. Applying a Photovoice methodology, participants explore the links between the high-performance green building they are working in and its influence on their own personal wellbeing and sustainable values, norms and practices.
Through taking and selecting photos of their work environment in evolv1, participants in this project were able to share reflections on elements they appreciate, as well as constructive suggestions for areas of possible improvement in and around the evolv1 building. The photos were then discussed in groups and individual interviews to identify common themes and to select the most representative photos and captions for each theme for this exhibit.
This exhibit communicates the results of the project that six people who all worked at the evolv1 building at the time of the study participated in over a multi-month period. This period started in early 2020 with in-person sessions, and then was adapted to virtual discussions at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Clearly, work life has changed dramatically for many due to COVID-19, and some participants who once worked in-person in evolv1 now work from home. However, as more and more people return to working in office buildings, it is worth reflecting on their impacts on the sustainable behaviours and wellbeing of those who use them, and on the broader community of which they are a part.
What is Photovoice?
Photos are multi-layered and can often say much visually that words alone cannot say. The Photovoice method combines the strengths of both visual and oral communication, by empowering participants to take photos of their immediate environment and using these photos as prompts for discussion around topics of shared interest. The method was developed by Wang & Burris in 1997 as a tool that can be used by community members to speak out on issues of shared concern, encouraging critical dialogue and reflection. It is engaging and fun, and also serious
Photovoice projects have now been applied in many places around the world, raising up community voices to share how they feel about a given situation or environment, along with opportunities for action. As a participatory action research method, Photovoice is designed to help amplify the experiences of participants on issues of shared concern. With participants’ permission, these experiences can then help to influence decision-makers and a broader community toward specific actions, as the present exhibit is also designed to do.
As university researchers interested in the lived experiences of those working within the evolv1 building, we know that the best people to select pictures and share their reflections are those working in the building. These people are the experts of the content, and we as researchers are simply the facilitators who helped guide participants in the use of Photovoice. This exhibit is their story.
Note: This Photovoice study was led by two PhD students studying at Wilfrid Laurier University, Esther Abel and Kai Reimer-Watts, with supervision by Dr. Simon Coulombe. It is part of the evolv1 research program co-led by Dr. Manuel Riemer from Wilfrid Laurier University and the VERiS Research Centre and Dr. Joel Marcus from York University, in partnership with the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo and Dr. Simon Coulombe at Université Laval. The research program focuses on building cultures of sustainability, including considerations of wellbeing, within green buildings