Alumni Western Be Extraordinary The Campaign For Western

Building Green Earns Green

by Stephen Johnson

thm dockside

Jonathan Westeinde, BA’92, is promoting a new type of capitalism – one that puts equal importance on the environment and making profits. Westeinde is the founder and managing partner of Windmill Development Group. The company has completed a number of high-profile green building projects in cities like Victoria, Calgary and Ottawa. They have won many local, national and international awards for their commitment to green building.

Considering these credentials, one might think Westeinde had a PhD in Environmental Studies. He actually has a Bachelor of Economics from Western University.

“My mother and father (John, BESc’62 & Shirley, DiplN’63) went to Western,” said Westeinde. “I had a very enjoyable time there as well. I found the courses useful and had fun as a member of the rowing team.”

After completing his degree, Westeinde worked for a consulting firm setting up Canada Post outlets across western Canada. He began to consider how to blend an interest in the environment with a career in business. “In 1998, when I completed my MBA from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, I was actually considering doing a degree in Marine Biology. Around this time, I read a book called Natural Capitalism. It really helped frame my ideas about green buildings and the business opportunities available within that context.”

In 2003, Westeinde founded the Windmill Development Group. “I formed the company with the intent to be a visionary real estate development and services group with expertise in brownfield redevelopment and green developments,” said Westeinde. “We also wanted to adhere to a triple bottom line approach placing an equal emphasis on people, profits and the planet.”

Having family members at Windmill who are Western engineering grads helps with that mission, too. Jonathan’s father, John (class of ’62); his brother Jeff, BESc’89 and sister-in-law Colleen, BESc’91, and his sister Julie Westeinde, BESc’89, were all involved in the setting up of Windmill Developments and are still involved in varying degrees today.

Windmill was quickly able to put its green credentials to work. The company became one of the founding developers behind the high profile Dockside Green project in Victoria, B.C. Dockside was a 15-acre brownfield that the City of Victoria became owners of through default. The plan is for the project to be built over seven years being a model sustainable community. Some of the unique features of the project include an on-site biomass gasification plant that transforms wood waste into biogas, which is burnt as fuel to provide hot water and heat.

The project also provides onsite treatment of its own sewage. Dockside Green has been awarded a LEED (green building rating system) platinum status. Windmill also achieved LEED platinum for projects completed in Ottawa and Calgary.

While constructing green buildings is a laudable goal, it is not always easy to do. “The word to describe building green projects is perseverance,” commented Westeinde. “It certainly takes a lot more time and the learning curve increases. Mostdevelopers are risk-averse so we are doing something that is against the norm.”

There are a number of benefits to green developments beyond the obvious environmental ones. “We found with Dockside Green and our other projects, the green features are a natural advertisement. We calculated about 2.5 million dollars worth of free advertising for Dockside Green. Less marketing is required to fill occupancy with our projects. Also we find selling the health benefits of not using toxic materials is almost greater than the energy benefits of green construction.”

Westeinde sees his business evolving over the next few years. “We are still developing new green projects but the material and labour are getting very expensive. Windmill has teamed up with the Ledcor Group in Vancouver to form LedcorRenew. In the coming decades, there will be a huge opportunity to retrofit existing buildings to make them more energy efficient. This will help to reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.”

This article appeared in the Winter 2013 edition of Alumni Gazette
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