Interview with Sandra Lester, Sustainable Design Consultant
Sandra Leigh Lester is Founder & CEO of affectingchange, helping nonprofits, NGO’s and corporations discover ways to use design to create more energy efficient healthy and resilient buildings.
Sandra is a sustainable design guru who has created many game-changing projects that have set precedents and have won, in total, over seventy-five awards. In her spare time she advocates for climate change solutions, and was a volunteer Community Engagement Leader for Project Neutral.
When did you realize your passion for climate change?
I came to realize that the severe weather events predicted by climate change scientists really trigger me on a post traumatic stress level. When I was eleven years old, a quarter of my city got wiped out by a tornado. It was Woodstock, Ontario, 1979. Within minutes I went from baking cookies at my friend’s house, without a care in the world, to helping my parents do whatever they could in a decimated war zone.
I didn’t realize until later on that buildings were designed in response to climate.
This became more apparent to me when I went to Australia as an exchange student. Before I had traveled only to similar climates as my own. Australia had a very different climate but similar colonial culture. So they had took the same architectural inspiration and putting this in a different climate.
I came back to Canada, and decided to study architecture. From there I went full out on the extreme of designing in response to climate. In 1994, my thesis as an architectural student was designing a manned mission to Mars.
Since then, my life has taken me in a variety of directions. In my twenties, I headed back to Australia, where I took on the position of Art Director for an ad agency. I also went into interiors and graphics, corporate interiors and project management. I moved back in 1999, and that’s when I really got into creating green interiors.
Fast forward to 2010, when I started up my own sustainable design consulting practice. I am now working on projects across Canada, the States, and overseas.
How were you first introduced to Andrew Simpson and his company Ecotone?
Andrew’s daughter and my son were in the same grade at a local school together. I met Andrew when the kids were quite young and I knew him from the neighbourhood. I also kept bumping into him at green events. We ended up chatting about green things happening in the city.
Andrew was looking for people with various backgrounds to sit on his company’s board, and he explained that my area of specialty would be a good fit. And so I joined.
What drew you to Ecotone and it’s area of specialty?
What I found in my years of sustainable design and buildings is that we have all the technologies we need in order to create net zero buildings right now. What’s stopping us are the decision making and financial systems that are in place. I found that the data Andrew would be gathering for his company clients allows them to make better decisions. Making those decisions from a place of power for the long term, instead of the typical corporate short term decision-making.
I see Andrew’s work as being the role of empowerment for corporate leaders. Andrew enables these leaders to take the data he provides to create more sustainable buildings, taking into account carbon footprint, and corporate social responsibility. Companies are then willing to invest in buildings that are beyond current code requirements, which is really what’s needed if we are going to keep the climate to less than six to eight degrees of warming.
On a personal level, I know Andrew is very passionate and dedicated about what he does both professionally and as a volunteer for several organizations. He is also incredibly supportive of both individuals and colleagues. For instance, on the side, I run a non profit called Cleantech Innovation Centre and Andrew lends his time as a Board member.
I would say, I can always count on Andrew to come through on whatever he sets his mind to—he’s a wonderful ally and a good friend.
More about affectingchange
Established in 2010, we help nonprofits, NGO’s and corporations discover ways to use design to create more energy-efficient healthy and resilient buildings. We work alongside architects and their design team acting as an impartial advisor. We are experts in passive design that will reduce your heating and cooling loads and save your capital costs. Our initiatives for corporate clients have a payback of nine years or less. Indoor environmental quality and design for wellbeing are our other area of expertise. Use our strategies to create workspaces that will attract talent and make them more productive. We have been enabling companies like yours to create award-winning facilities. Hire us and discover the affectingchange difference. We have a network of experts that can help you and we look forward to working with you. For more info go to: https://affectingchange.com/
Ecotone’s 2019 Integrated Report is available here: