Photovoice Study | Investigating human factors in the evolv1 green office building

Sustianable Building Features

What, if any, building features positively or negatively influence the sustainable values and practices of citizens and their organizations?

Citizens recognized that as a green building, many building features at evolv1 already positively encourage sustainable values, norms and practices. This includes, among others, the solar panels, EV chargers, secure tenant bike parking and living green wall. In contrast, features that were seen to be discouraging sustainability include, among others, the large parking lot, automatic handwash stations and paper towels in the bathrooms. Citizens discussed the reality that sustainability is not always ‘pure’, and hence some features may both promote and hinder sustainable values, norms and practices depending on their particular use and on one’s perspective. For instance, having EV chargers was seen largely as a positive for sustainability, with the recognition that this still promotes car culture which can be negative. Citizens also identified several ‘missed opportunities’ at evolv1 for further promoting sustainability, in particular emphasizing the lack of direct sustainability communication and education in the building, lack of accessible visitor bike parking, and lack of outdoor greenery as areas of potential future action.

Electric vehicle charging stations at evolv1

Theme 1: Many evolv1 features already promote sustainable values, norms and practices

A lot of people talk about getting an electric car just because the chargers are down there and plugged into the solar panels, and that’s impactful in itself.”

I think it speaks to our community’s direction forward and setting ourselves up for success by acknowledging the fact that we’re definitely moving in the direction of electric vehicles. A lot of these things are introducing conversations into people’s lives that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. It can help create new values.

There are many great things like the secure tenant bike parking and the EV chargers and obviously, the solar panels. Even though we’re not at the office now all of that solar power that’s being converted is directly contributing to supporting us in working from home also, because they’re delivering back into the grid. It’s clear with the net positive energy that we’ve moved to a new generation of building.

Theme 2: Sustainability is not always ‘pure’

Building features do not necessarily purely promote sustainability – some evolv1 features may both promote and hinder sustainable values, norms and practices.

“Each picture can be seen from both a positive and negative perspective, depending on what your view is.”

“The EV chargers are great, but the parking lot introduces this whole lens of cars first. For people who don’t have sustainability on their conscience it’s far too easy to say ‘Yeah, I’m definitely going to drive my car every day. There’s no reason not to. There’s not a quicker way to get there and there’s tons of parking so the building was meant for me and my car.’ So the parking lot encourages a non-sustainable behaviour, and the location of the building poses issues for transportation as a whole. The nearby light rail transit station is fantastic, but it’s not a fulsome solution.

Large parking lot at evolv1
Automatic sinks, soap dispensers and paper towels in the bathroom

Theme 3: Some evolv1 features are actively discouraging more sustainable values, norms and practices

“I brought this picture up because the soap continuously dispenses, which is counter to a culture of sustainability because it’s showing that we don’t care about wasting soap. This does the opposite of showing a culture where we reduce resource waste.

“Something that I often question almost every time I use the sinks is that we have access to both a hand dryer and paper towels, and I don’t know which is more sustainable and the better option. I think it’s an opportunity to educate the tenants of the building to foster that culture of sustainability.”

“The hand dryers show you put sustainability first, but there’s paper towels, that’s kind of a setback. So, I think the paper towels are more of a negative symbol.

Theme 4: evolv1 still embodies several ‘missed opportunities’

There are some building features that could better promote sustainability, but do not, and hence can be seen as ‘missed opportunities’ .

“We don’t have separated stream recycling, so having paper and recyclables separated is misleading because right now we just have one stream. So it’s really compost, trash and recycling. And the papers have so many things crossed out that are no longer accepted that I don’t trust the papers at all.

There’s a missed opportunity for education on the majority of the building’s features. I think most people in the building know little about how the building actually runs and it almost puts people in a compromised position, where people say ‘You work at the evolv1 building’, and then list off all these different questions that we don’t know the answers to, because that information isn’t readily accessible for the people who are in it.”

Waste disposal and signage in evolvGREEN

Note on panel captions: All captions that you see on the panels are based on participant reflections from the study itself, and have been de-identified and approved for sharing publicly in this exhibit by participants. Bolded text in the panel captions was done by the researchers, to draw attention to key components of participants’ reflections.