Man and woman smiling, sitting on staircase with bright windows behind

Donna Zeeh Chorley and David Prestley, Timms Centre Renovation

Forward-thinking University of Alberta staff, Donna Zeeh Chorley and David Prestley, turned a routine renovation into a signficant eco-friendly upgrade of the Timms Centre for the Arts.

In May 2012, the University of Alberta’s performance centre was in need of new window coverings. As the centre’s lobby is wrapped in two storeys of glass, special coverings were needed to keep the building from heating up in the sun; thereby reducing the air conditioning load and the institution’s energy use and costs.

As a procurement specialist with the university, Donna saw an opportunity. Part of her role involves finding the best products that will meet the institution’s needs. And she aims to seek out the greenest products possible.

“Sustainability is very important… for our children, and for generations to come,” said Donna Zeech Chorley.  “I support sustainability wherever I can.” she adds, “It’s very important for me both as an individual and as a procurement professional.”

Before arriving at the university, Donna put in years developing an expertise finding and supporting sustainable window coverings.  With her experience, it was easy to determine what the Timms Centre needed.  She recommended getting new blinds that are half as transparent as before.

“This would reduce the amount of heat coming into the building [in the summer], and also, in the winter it will keep the heat in. So it serves a dual purpose,” said Donna.

She recommended looking for a product with Greenguard Gold certification, which would be safe enough for hospitals and daycares to use.

New ways to recycle

David, the Drama Department’s Theatre Administrator and Timms Centre Events Coordinator, was ready to get behind her. He has been with the university for half a decade, but before that he worked in opera, both as a singer and later on in the production side. He learned from working in opera that there are many ways to recycle and reuse production materials, such as sets and costumes.

“Especially being in a post-secondary environment, a forward thinking environment,” David said, “we can lead by example and we should. You just have to ask the question: is there a sustainable option?”

David found several ways to channel these concerns into the Timms Centre renovation. With the help of the project managers, Garth Langner and Terry Higgs from Facilities & Operations, they found ways to recycle and reuse most of the previous window coverings. The closure and hem bars were incorporated into the new blinds. The old motors and fabric will be used by the Drama Department for sets and props in upcoming theatre productions.

The new blinds are considerably thinner and lighter, so less energy is needed to draw the blinds.

Collaborative Decision

While Donna had the expert knowledge to find a sustainable product, it took everyone involved—David, Garth and Terry—to ensure that the whole renovation was environmentally friendly.

“It took the four of us. We all came into agreement, and we all supported looking for a sustainable product,” said Donna. “We are all really happy to be part of this project” she said.

For David, this experience was a great opportunity to show leadership.

“If there are products out there that are available and competitive, then we can lead by example and we should,” he said.

He encourages everyone at the university to make sustainability a part of their profession in at least a small way.

“If there are one or two choices you can make to improve things—and you just hammer away at them over a period of time—ultimately everyone’s going to be better off for it.”