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Environmental Sustainability

Faces of Sustainability

Geoff Murray Instructor, Carpentry

“I am always pushing the agenda. Sustainability as a topic within the Carpentry curriculum will ensure students are up to date” says Geoff. With his passion and extensive teaching experience, Geoff is able to prepare carpentry students for the real world, ensuring that sustainability is a key learning outcome! .

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Geoff Murrary

“If we all do these little things, it can add up to make a big difference.”

Geoff Murray – Learning by Doing: Sustainability through Camosun’s Carpentry Program

 

Geoff Murray, an instructor within Camosun’s Carpentry department, inspires learners in multiple programs. Current best practices for environmental sustainability is one of the knowledge areas Geoff sees as important to include in curriculum and has been working on introducing as the Chair of the Carpentry Articulation Committee and lead Subject Matter Expert in the revision of the provincial Carpentry learning resources.

“I am always pushing the agenda. Sustainability as a topic within the Carpentry curriculum will ensure students are up to date” says Geoff. With his passion and extensive teaching experience, Geoff is able to prepare carpentry students for the real world, ensuring that sustainability is a key learning outcome!

The construction and demolition industry uses a lot of resources and produces a lot of waste. Almost 10% of waste at the Capital Regional District’s Hartland Landfill is wood and wood products, and just more than 6% of waste is from construction and demolition. Some might think of sustainability as an insurmountable challenge in a sector like this. On the other hand, those most passionate about sustainability see the many resources used and the waste produced as areas offering potential for major improvement; Geoff Murray is one of those people.

Geoff has been instructing Carpentry at Camosun since 2006. However, his instructional experience began much earlier and in an entirely different setting – leading Outward Bound outdoor adventure courses all over Canada and the US, from the Arctic to the Everglades. Throughout his adventures Geoff began to place greater value on the natural environment and embraced the “learning by doing” way of teaching.

“Learning by doing” is something Geoff believes in. His academic background (he received his B.A. in Economics from the University of Manitoba in 1980 and LEED AP in 2008), experiential education based leadership, and more than 20 years of local carpentry experience provide a great foundation for his role within the Carpentry Department at Camosun. He considers himself very fortunate to work with others, both students and colleagues, who share his passion and who each bring their unique strengths to campus.

Geoff inspires learners in multiple programs, including all levels of the Carpentry Apprenticeship program, Women in Trades, and the 25 week long Foundation Carpentry program which teaches skills and knowledge necessary for initial entry into the carpentry trade. Current best practices for environmental sustainability is one of the knowledge areas Geoff includes in his curriculum and has been working on introducing it when he was the Chair of the Carpentry Articulation Committee and currently as the lead Subject Matter Expert in the revision of the provincial Carpentry learning resources.

Sustainability through durability, quality, and efficiency

“I am always pushing the agenda. Sustainability as a topic within the Carpentry curriculum will ensure students are up to date” says Geoff. For the seven week apprenticeship programs Geoff admits that the industry-driven curriculum leaves little wiggle room for introducing new content. He continues to emphasize the importance of sustainability in keeping students relevant with their education. In the meantime, Geoff finds space to ensure his students are at least aware of sustainability and what it means to the trade, not just in terms of building certifications and rating systems such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) or the Passive House movement, but also that sustainability can be as simple as incorporating great craftsmanship and constructing high quality buildings that last.

Geoff highlights the importance of durable buildings to every class as he and others come to realize that the natural “forces acting on a building” (wind, rain, sun, etc.) are becoming increasingly intense as a result of climate change. Not only will well-built structures perform more efficiently – allowing its users or inhabitants to be more comfortable, and use less energy -- the buildings will also last longer (helping to minimize waste) and be more resilient to a changing climate. Geoff has been able to work within the constraints of the curriculum by highlighting the importance of good craftsmanship, and continues to look for more opportunities to have something official within the curriculum province-wide.

Regarding the movement towards greater awareness and importance placed on environmental sustainability, Geoff says he has noticed slight changes in behaviour over the years – such as students carefully considering which bin is most appropriate for his or her waste. “If we all do these little things, it can add up to make a big difference.” The program’s wood “waste” is made available to the public for free in the hopes that it can be used for some small projects or firewood, and the program recycles hundreds of pounds of nails each year.

Student learning and collaboration

When discussing the importance of collaboration to further sustainability, Geoff emphasizes that is it absolutely imperative to do so within the trades. “In the field, carpenters will frame a home, electricians will wire it, plumbers will plumb it; one trade cannot work alone to create a healthy, functioning, structure. . . . our students know they will have to work together with other groups to achieve their final result.”

Collaboration is also at the heart of getting real-world projects done for community good. Carpentry Foundation students have worked on buildings for Habitat for Humanity, Women in Need, and YMCA’s Camp Thunderbird. Not only do students get to see a product, they also get to work on something that will have a positive impact on the lives of others. These projects are a great use of learning materials and Geoff exclaims “we build something that stays!” (Typically students build a structure only to deconstruct it immediately afterwards). By building for non-profit organizations, students get hands on experience, feel pride in the work they’ve done, directly collaborate with others, and are able to give back to those in need – a great example of Camosun’s role within the greater community and social sustainability as a whole.

A Vision for a Living Lab

When asked about his “dreams” to make Camosun a more sustainable place, Geoff talks about real-world exposure, and he sees this “exposure” as even broader than what his students experience when they have the opportunity to build something real. He says exposure to Camosun’s buildings’ systems should be available to all students, staff, and faculty. He would like to see the entire campus as a Living Lab, a vision he shares with the greater Camosun Community. “Most people have no idea how our buildings function, and how would they?” he asks. He would like to make utility rooms visible by adding glass, allowing students to see the systems operating within a building. Currently Geoff tours his students around campus, inspecting foundations and checking out equipment on the roof, etc. but these are all exceptional “behind the scenes” peeks, not right there for everyone to see.

Geoff seems completely in his element at Camosun, including sustainability within the curriculum, teaching students at all levels of their apprenticeships and seeing them the entire way through the process, and of course having a hand in “building things” almost every day. Despite this, we learn he is most content when playing his guitar (made by himself, of course) alongside his wife as she plays her mandolin, or when at the curling rink with his carpentry team on Wednesday nights.

With his own unique blend of passion, creativity, and dedication Geoff has built something that makes the college a better place (and will continue to do so) well into the future. We are thrilled to highlight his commitment to environmental, cultural, and social sustainability. Thanks, Geoff!

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