Vivian Manasc knows what it’s like to push boundaries. As one of the first architects in Alberta to prioritize sustainable, energy efficient buildings, Manasc takes an innovative approach to her architecture. She demonstrates, however, that in order to be innovative and move an industry forward, it is instrumental to understand the nature of the industry, and how its operated in the past.
“The nature of architecture is that we work in the space of the built environment, which is inherently slow moving and conservative and very set in its ways,” she says.
“The barriers are always around: the challenge is how we create willingness to do things differently in an industry that is very inclined to do things how they have always been done.”
Blazing a path towards sustainability
Manasc’s intimate understanding of her industry has certainly allowed her to take wide, innovative strides toward environmentally sustainable design. Having studied architecture during the first energy crisis, she trained in the midst of discussions around the impact of architecture on the world and the environment.
“Architecture is always about innovation and imagining what the future will hold. It’s about how we can create a journey as well as places and spaces that are regenerative for people and the planet.”
With this foundation, it’s hardly surprising that one of Manasc’s proudest career events is her involvement in the early development of the Canadian Green Building Council and its LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System.
“In the early days there were no standards by which we could measure whether buildings were better of worse. So, the early days of the LEED Green Building System and the Canadian Green Building Council were institutions that I thought were extremely important that we create.”
Creating a common language around sustainability
LEED and other Green Building systems helped to develop a common language with which architects, engineers, builders and owners could discuss sustainability and energy efficiency, as well as other aspects of sustainable design and construction.
“I think it was really important to create that common language around green buildings that everybody in in the architecture, engineering, and construction worlds could subscribe to. And that’s something that I’m quite proud of – I was very involved in encouraging people to look at a consistent language.”
Her foundational role in establishing practices of developing sustainable architecture has given Manasc experience in knocking down barriers. Some of the buildings that she has led the design of, including the LEED Gold Water Centre in Calgary and the LEED Gold Athabasca University Academic research centre help show others how these principals really play inthe real world of cold climate buildings.
“I kept powering through. No matter what is in the way, just keep going and knock over those barriers.”
With mentors like the late Jolie Whetzel, who was an environmental planner and an early advocate for the integration of architecture, economy, and the environment, one of Manasc’s driving inspirations has been sustaining the connection between those elements.
“I would tell my younger self to be even bolder. Always look for the space of the possible and go into that space fearlessly..”
Encouraging women in architecture
One of Manasc’s new driving forces is her desire to help women establish careers in architecture.
“This is not a profession that has a lot of women in it, especially at senior levels. In our firm, there are a lot of young women coming up through the ranks, and I feel that it’s important to create environments where women can thrive, including of course young moms,” she says.
“What’s important is that we are constantly thinking about the impact that we have as women, as professionals, as entrepreneurs. The impact that we have on our community and our planet. As much as we are innovating, we need to be thinking about how that innovation is going to make the world a better place.”