S2, Ep. 6 - Architects of Tomorrow

May 15, 2024

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Welcome to Responsible Disruption, the podcast that takes you on a journey through the realm of social innovation and design. I'm your host Monique Blough, project director with the Social Impact Lab, Alberta. Today we're talking with Dr Douglas MacLeod, the Chair of the Center for Architecture at Athabasca University. Doctor Macleod's remarkable career spends over 3 decades marked by pioneering work in regenerative design, virtual design and pedagogy. Doctor MacLeod's book The Architecture of Hope gives readers a glimpse at the future in which we can live and work together to build better communities for tomorrow. Currently involved in a multi university research project, Doctor MacLeod brings a wealth of insights about the built environment, regenerative design community and so much more to our conversation today. Doctor MacLeod, welcome to our show.


Thank you very much Monique for having me today.

01:09 MONIQUE: I'm very excited about this conversation and I'd really like to give our listeners a glimpse into this fantastic career that you've had, you know, that spans more than 30 years. You've participated in many projects in art, architecture and education. And I think it would be beneficial for our listeners to hear a bit more about your story, a bit more about your background.

01:35 DOUGLAS: Well, that's very kind of you. I've been very lucky to have been given these extraordinary opportunities. So I'm actually an architect who is registered and practiced in California. But I came back to Canada for a variety of reasons, but the most important one was the virtual reality work that was being done at the Banff Centre. And I really intended to just stay for a couple of years and go back to being an architect, but the area of research—virtual reality, and then into the internet, and then into e-learning—was so exciting that architecture just by itself kind of paled in comparison. So I've been following around all of these trends that have been happening in the world and they're very game-changing. What's happening now is a total reinvention of the built environment.

02:33 MONIQUE: Fantastic. Thank you for that. I want to take a moment to talk about your book, The Architecture of Hope. I really enjoyed reading it and as you know, of course our work focuses on creating circumstances for communities to Co-design and cooperate in order to activate innovation and think about sustainability. And you speak to many of these points in your book, and you really outline an optimistic future where cooperative communities can live sustainably. So I'm curious as to why you feel so optimistic about the future.

03:10 DOUGLAS: I feel optimistic about the future because as I was writing the book, I began to understand that the future is ours to architect. We can architect our own future by looking at things in a comprehensive and holistic manner. I think of architecture now as not just focusing on buildings, but really thinking about it as an idea that applies to almost any human system. Every architecture has components of design principles right at the core, but also the use of available technologies, a policy framework, and a value system. If we continue going down the way that we're going, a lot of those things go off the rails. But when you look at it like this, you realize each of those things is ours to really decide how it should occur, and we can do better than what we're doing now with just the tools we've got.

For example, thinking about things in terms of co-ops or cooperatives is actually a much fairer way of distributing the vast wealth that this country has than the way that we currently do it. But at the same time, we know that we could make communities that emit less than zero carbon. In other words, they sequester more carbon than they emit, simply by using a few easy techniques in terms of construction and how we insulate our buildings, and how we operate our buildings.

But then, you know, the exciting stuff for me is when we look towards the future and what's possible in terms of energy systems, an architecture of energy essentially that could be much better than what we have today. I've set the book in the Okanagan, and the interesting thing about the Okanagan is that it's close enough to the high temperatures that are in the Earth's surface, just a kilometer down where you could actually generate electricity using deep thermal energy. And the amazing thing is that in Alberta, the same equipment that's used for oil and gas could be used for deep geothermal as well. As a matter of fact, there are abandoned boreholes right across the province that are deep enough that they could be converted into deep geothermal, and Alberta could be an energy superpower forever without emitting a single bit of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. So it's very exciting to imagine a better future for all of us.

05:56 MONIQUE: Yeah, absolutely. I love how you talk about there's all these kind of components that work together in this human system, the design principles, the value policy frameworks do. Each of these have the same weight. When we think about how they work together.

06:17 DOUGLAS: Well, ideally, they should, but what's happening is our value system has gotten out of whack, and as a result, it's starting to change our policy framework as well. We're not thinking as much about doing things for everybody as we used to. Sadly, we're seeing wealth accumulate at the very top 1%, and it didn't used to be that way. There are a number of reasons why that has occurred. One, we have flattened taxes to the point where it's become a very unfair and unequal system, and we have to change some of those things. But also, there is an attitude that's saying that investment in public things is bad when it's actually really, really good. For example, if we invested more in education, if we got more people into the post-secondary system, some people have predicted that the whole idea of wealth disparity would disappear. It was an astounding fact to me that if we really educated as many people as we were, say, in the 1980s.

And it's short-sighted of our governments not to do so because a person with a four-year degree from university actually contributes so much more over the course of their working life in terms of taxes. It's almost as if post-secondary education should be free, and that would actually generate more wealth for our governments. And if I could just make a plug, if you want the most cost-effective form of education, check out how inexpensive it is to deliver what Athabasca University does. Because we're open and because we're online, we're able to deliver education at a fraction of the cost of bricks and mortar institutions. There's no reason why we couldn't have a system of online education that could be totally free and that would serve people who can't attend university on a full-time basis. So that's the amazing value of Athabasca University.

08:23 MONIQUE: Thank you, Doctor MacLeod. I really appreciate some of those insights. And yeah, I definitely agree with the view of what Athabasca University is offering from an education standpoint, having taken some courses there myself over the years. Yeah, as you know, of course, we talk a lot about design on this podcast and we have, however, never discussed the topic of regenerative design. So I think it would be great if you could define regenerative design for Our listeners and I'm also curious as to why you believe it is so important.

08:55 DOUGLAS: One of the reasons why I became so interested in regenerative design is because I was confused as to why we know what to do in terms of climate change, but it's not happening. We could build better buildings today and it would make a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions, but it's not happening. So regenerative design is more than sustainability because we have to be more sustainable now; we don't actually want to sustain what we're doing now. We want to, in a sense, repair it.

The definition of regenerative design provided by the Living Futures Institute is socially just, culturally rich, and ecologically restorative. And if you think about it, you can't do one of those things without doing all of them. So if we can build incredibly energy-efficient buildings, but if they're not benefiting everybody, if they're not socially just, then we haven't really accomplished anything. Similarly, in terms of our own future, ensuring that all cultures are acknowledged and are participating in the built environment is very important.

But we would add to this definition that regenerative design is also about being economically fair, and also about enriching our physical, mental, and spiritual health. Providing equitable access to tools and technologies is really important as well, as these tools are enablers, and everybody has to be able to share in them.

10:26 MONIQUE: So how does a project or an organization focused on this concept of regenerative design balance all these elements together because some of them feel like especially in the way we're structured today as competing against each other. So I'm curious as to how you approach that And basically, is there a practice you might follow to do so?

10:49 DOUGLAS: Well, I'm going to share with you that we've actually learned a lot from working with the Social Impact Lab about how that can occur. We have conducted workshops and charrettes with communities right across Alberta. But what we found was that what your organization is doing with communities is even deeper. We've been able to learn from some extraordinary groups, not just the Social Impact Lab, but we're working, surprisingly enough, in Lesotho with a group called Rise, which is Relationships Inspiring Social Enterprise. They also have a process of involving communities right from the start and helping them really design their own future. And that's what it should be about. So there's a wealth of opportunity for how we can do this. We can keep refining our workshops and what we call charrettes in order to make them better and bring everybody into the fold.

But there are a couple of things in that respect that we really need to do. One of the things that we've noticed is that for capital projects, if a town, for example, wants to build a building of some sort, they have to be what's called 'shovel ready'. So when the funding is there, you have to be able to show the funding agency that you've got the plans, the sections, the elevations, the financial plan, and everything ready to go. And that's actually a big hurdle for a lot of communities who simply don't have either the people or the time or the resources to make a project shovel ready. So one of the things we think could be very effective is to create a 'Shovel Ready Handbook', and that's one of the things we're working on at the Quality in Canada's Built Environment to provide a set of guidelines so that people can make shovel ready projects.

12:29 MONIQUE: Sounds like we should discuss what that playbook might look like, because maybe we could support you in sharing that information and making it accessible to the communities that we engage with.

12:39 DOUGLAS: Yes, I'm working with a remarkable set of faculty members, community groups, and particularly research assistants. The research assistants have gone out and said, you know, the two things that we could do most are to decommodify both housing and food sovereignty. So what we're seeing is how can we return the idea of communities building their own housing and producing their own food. This would be a game changer, and it's some of the things that I do discuss in 'The Architecture of Hope' because giving a community control over those things is immensely powerful, and we see it again and again. What we really need to do, and there's some wonderful work being done by people like Sylvia McAdam in Manitoba with her project 'One House, Many Nations', where she is building tiny homes on indigenous land in order to help people, and she's doing it one house at a time. But it's taking housing back to the community, and that's so essential.

13:47 MONIQUE: Yeah, that's great. I'm going to look into that a little bit more. I find that quick fascinating. Her project that she launched. I think it would be great if we could move on and talk a little bit about the project that you're working on. It's the living Atlas of quality. I mentioned it briefly just in the intro that it's a multi institution research project. And so I'm wondering if you can provide us a brief overview of what the project entails, and I'm also very curious about where the inspiration from the project came from.

14:25 DOUGLAS: Well, that's a very good question. The Quality in Canada's Built Environment is a project that was originally developed at the Université de Montréal by Dr. Jean Pierre Chopin. He wanted to explore what makes for quality in the built environment. It's a tribute to him and his team that they have managed to get all of the schools of architecture right across the country working together to explore this issue from many different points of view. Some people are looking at the quality of the built environment, such as in the nightscape of Montreal. Others, like at the University of Manitoba, are actually looking at housing, particularly housing on indigenous lands. Most of the projects are urban in nature, but ours is really focused on regenerative rural communities. That's a huge topic, but that's why we started to focus on food and housing in rural communities to see how we could make a difference there.

The project is incredible in the fact that it has evolved extensively over the last couple of years. It's a SHIRK partnership grant that lasts for five years. We're in the third year now, and it will continue for a couple more years. But what's really happening is that people are bringing their ideas together, and we're really rethinking the idea of quality. At one point, we thought maybe quality is about whether a building has won any awards, but we quickly realized that's not what it's all about. It's much more than that. It's really about how you engage the community. Is it actually worthwhile for the community, or has construction in many cases become kind of an extractive industry where it comes in, pulls money out of the community, but doesn't leave behind jobs or skills because the skilled labor comes in and then leaves? That's what we've got to really rethink—how we make buildings and how they live in the community, rather than just a one-time capital expenditure and then that's it. So there are some companies that I would highlight, like Chando's Construction, which is trying to do things differently. They talk about social procurement when they do a construction project—how they can actually contribute something to the community in terms of jobs and skills.

16:51 MONIQUE: I love that. I really appreciated this view of how buildings live in a community for those of us that don't work in your space you know we occupy. These places spaces these buildings, but we often don't think of them as to how they exist in the context of the broader community, right and the impact that it has. I find that very interesting.

17:14 DOUGLAS: Increasingly, every building is part of a community of buildings, and that's why we talk about regenerative communities now rather than regenerative buildings, because an individual building by itself doesn't have the capacity to really change things. But a connected series of buildings which may, for example, share energy, water, or information can make everybody's lives better throughout the community. One practical example is the idea of co-locating ice rinks and swimming pools. Because of their different heat needs, they can move heat back and forth or cooling back and forth between themselves and make both of them more energy-efficient.

18:03 MONIQUE: Thanks for sharing that. So I was actually going to ask how does one start to think about building regenerative communities because I think what we're seeing in even in our city in Calgary and in many communities, rural and urban, is that OK, we have this need for this building. We just build. That we're not thinking about it in the greater context, of course. I'm not an expert, so I'm curious if you can share. How do we how do we plan for regenerative communities?

18:28 DOUGLAS: Unfortunately, in the book that I wrote, I do make a list of all of the things that a community could do, and there are ten of them, so I'll go quickly through them. Communities could restore more of the natural environment than they occupy. I have a perfect example of that in my community here in Lake Country, where every so often, the deer will just wander through my front yard in the middle of a video conference, and it is a wonderful thing to be able to see. Simply by maintaining trees and natural vegetation, we can accommodate wildlife even in our more rural communities. There's no reason why we can't live in concert with nature. It's also about purifying more water than a community contaminates. Communities can produce more energy than they consume. They can grow more food than they need and create income for their inhabitants through these activities. They can recycle more waste than they generate. They can absorb and sequester more greenhouse gases than they emit. They can maximize the use of natural light, which is probably one of the greatest gifts that we have, and minimize the need for artificial light. We've got to make communities that contain no toxic chemicals. Many building materials still contain toxic chemicals, such as formaldehyde, which is carcinogenic. We've got to get those chemicals out of our environment, and that will help us all. These are things that we can do, and they're all really accessible right now. None of those things are impossible.

20:30 MONIQUE: No, thank you for that. So if we go back to the living Atlas of Quality project, could you elaborate a little bit on? I think there's a number of areas that are being explored, such as I think spatial justice, resilience, inclusive design, how they all play. You know how they really contribute to the future of the built environment, and then what specifically is your work focused on or which cluster error are you specifically involved in?

21:04 DOUGLAS: One of the key things about the Quality in Canada's Built Environment is that it brings together four groups of stakeholders: municipal governments, citizen or community groups, professional organizations, and multidisciplinary academic teams. All of these are critically important. So when we started to look at that, and we talked to all sorts of people throughout our community groups and professional organizations, what we really saw was the need to address it at a community level and then focus on the two things where we could perhaps make the biggest difference, which would be housing and food. In terms of housing and food, how do we— and again I return to this architectural model, which includes not just design and technology, but also policy and values— how could we make it better there? Housing developments like co-ops, for example, have existed for many years in Canada and they're quite effective at keeping costs down. But we could also consider the idea of rent-to-purchase. Rent-to-purchase is not something that we do a lot of in Canada, but imagine if someone could get into the housing market by paying their rent and over time they would accumulate equity in their own living environment. That would be enormous for them because many Canadians are really depending on their houses as their retirement plan. But if you're not moving towards homeownership, then you're completely cut out of that, and that's going to be disastrous for Canadians. So we have to really think about those things differently.

Sadly, we also have to think about changing the way that we do a lot of our real estate. There are, for example, real estate investment trusts (REITs) in Canada that go around and buy houses and then rent them back to people. Every time you take a house out of the housing market and put it into the rental market, of course, that starts to incrementally push up the cost of homes. REITs have probably taken a couple of hundred thousand units out of the housing market. And then the incredible thing is, they made a deal with the federal government in 2011 and they don't pay any income tax. So you and I, and any other business, we all pay income tax, but the REITs don't. They push all of their profits out as dividends, which means they are the darlings of pension funds right across the country. But it's a bad thing, and we're actually rewarding organizations that are undermining all of our affordable housing strategies. So we have to reconsider this. There was even a backbencher's bill in parliament to make the rich pay income tax, but of course it died. It's a very powerful group, but it needs to change. Co-ops are really, in terms of being regenerative, a much better way to go.

24:27 MONIQUE: If we think about what is it the area that your team is focused on? Is it around housing them?

24:36 DOUGLAS: Let's think about things in terms of infrastructure. Yes, it is about housing, but not about individual houses, but rather about communities of houses that work together. It's also about food production. What infrastructure do we need in rural areas, particularly in rural Alberta, to maintain things like the family farm? Because just like in the housing industry, there are a lot of companies coming along, buying up the family farm and turning it into a corporate entity, which sometimes doesn't behave as well as it could. So how can we keep farms in the family? What sort of infrastructure is needed? I was very impressed by the Pay-What-You-Can food market that you developed in Calgary. How do we create the infrastructure needed to make that happen? What kind of infrastructure do we need so that people can grow their own food, whether it's through greenhouses, vertical farms, or other kinds of structures? They could grow their own food and not be as dependent on food being trucked in and put into supermarkets, but rather that there's local food production that provides local jobs and a local industry. What does the local industry need in terms of building homes, greenhouses, and other structures to really take off? That's what we're looking at right now. It will involve community groups developing small businesses. How do we protect those small businesses over time? It's tough to run your own business, and it's doubly tough if the infrastructure isn't there to help you succeed.

26:21 MONIQUE: Yeah, completely agree. You know, the work that we do in, in many communities, the structures that are in place prevent at many times the development of innovative opportunities or innovative solutions that we have. And so how can we create the circumstances, so either to disrupt those structures or to try and operate within them in some way, but it is an ongoing challenge.

26:51 DOUGLAS: Even to provide alternatives, one of the things that I think is absolutely critical to our rural communities is access to the Internet. But of course, it's becoming more and more expensive. When I first moved to Lake Country about 25 years ago, there was a local company that provided Internet for everybody. It was really inexpensive and pretty good quality. But then it was bought by a major corporation, and ever since then, the costs have gone through the roof and the service isn't as good. Of course, when I'm talking to somebody, it's usually someplace in another part of Canada for doing this. So we've got to rethink it. But the amazing thing—and I use the Internet advisedly—is that in New York City, for example, they've built mesh networks. They go up on top of buildings, put antennas up, and bounce an Internet signal back and forth across the city. They're asking people, last time I checked, for a $20 donation every month for their Internet service. So there are ways of providing infrastructure that are inexpensive and really better. They create kind of local jobs than other different approaches, and we've got to think not just of the Internet, but all the other services that are provided.

28:13 MONIQUE: Yeah. And I love that note because it really is also then about thinking about accessibility and then the inclusivity of whatever it is that's being solved for.

28:24 DOUGLAS: Yes. And so if we could think of food and housing in the same way as the Internet, people who provide a mesh network, that would be a game changer.

28:33 MONIQUE: Yeah, it certainly would. And you spoke to legacy farming or keeping farming in families. And I think that there's a lot we can learn from how our Indigenous communities live and operate. A lot of the traditional knowledge that they have of the land and how they share telling stories etc. And I know that the project that you're working on around the living Atlas of quality does play some significant emphasis on that, and I'm curious if you could expand a little bit on how some of those sustainable practices might inform a built environment. I think we've touched on it a little bit, but I'd like to maybe go just a little bit deeper.

29:18 DOUGLAS: One of the things that I've learned, particularly in working with some of our Indigenous scholars at Athabasca University, is that it starts even from the moment of consultation and thinking about how we do things. I've learned a tremendous amount from Dr. Josie Ojay, who is part of our QE project, as we call it. She has an amazing capacity to bring together different points of view and really show that we're not talking across purposes, but there are real opportunities for us to work together. Even that mindset, I think, is something that we can learn a lot from. We've also heard some extraordinary lectures from people like David Fortran, who's at the University of Waterloo, talking about land use in Canada. In an Indigenous world, the concept of private property doesn't exist, really, so the whole nature of land in Canada is a very sometimes confused and controversial issue. But there's a real opportunity for us to think differently. David talks about lines on the landscape and what those actually mean or don't mean. So there's a lot going on.

I mentioned the work of Dr. Sylvia McAdam, where basically she just decided to do something and work with the community in order to do it. I think that's really critically important. Even some of the practices that we've learned about— I live in the Okanagan, and last August, I was evacuated because of the fires. I was evacuated for eight days. Part of the reason is we actually live in a fire-regulated environment where fires are a natural part of the environment. Interestingly enough, fires were also a cultural activity for the Indigenous people in Western Canada. We have to return and appreciate some of those practices to deal with contemporary issues as well. Our problem really is in forest fires in BC is exacerbated by the fact that we became too good at suppressing fires. So when they do occur, they're enormous because the forests have actually filled in where they used to be. Patches and all sorts of debris are now on the ground. As I say, when they happen, they're massive. Where they used to be much smaller, much less dangerous, but they were a naturally occurring event, and that's some of the things we have to appreciate.

31:59 MONIQUE: Yeah, I agree. In fact, I was at a conference in Grand Prairie called Growing North and one of the keynote speakers has set up a practice and I would say really a rescue organization that focuses on helping communities come out of fires and some of the devastating fires that have occurred not only United States, but of course throughout Canada and her process is very much focused on a Co design view, but how do you create space so that the fires don't occur, so controlled burns and things that we've learned from our Indigenous communities but don't continue to practice.

32:39 DOUGLAS: And we also, again, this is where we have to change our value system. It's apparently well-documented that aspen trees act as a natural firebreak. So you think, okay, let's plant aspen trees. But we don't do that in BC. In fact, they spray them with something, like a chemical, like Roundup, to kill them because they're not valuable lumber, timber trees. And so we're destroying the natural fireblock in order to actually endanger the trees that the forestry industry considers to be valuable. So we have to think differently about these things and again change our values so that we can start to think more holistically about the way that we manage everything from forest fires to climate change, to everything in between.

33:31 MONIQUE: Yeah. So, Doctor MacLeod, in relation to the project that you're working on, this multi university project, what outcomes do you hope you're going to see?

33:43 DOUGLAS: It's a big and unwieldy project, and trying to figure out where we're going and what we're going to produce has been one of the things that's really occupied us for the first couple of years. So we are at the process where we're building roadmaps, we call them, for what we're going to do. We're going to be presenting these roadmaps at the conference in Halifax. And what we're seeing now is the idea of handbooks to make projects shovel-ready. We're looking at prototypes and pilot projects, but also a series of workshops or charrettes to engage the community to help them design the parts and pieces of the infrastructure that they need. That's really what the focus is on: providing tools to communities so they can start to manage their own housing and food production.

34:36 MONIQUE: How empowering for the communities.

34:39 DOUGLAS: Yeah, and those are just the first steps. If we accomplish those two things, if we get a blueprint for doing those two things, that's important. But the same kind of operational skills can be used for other areas as well. That's why we have to work together. We have to collaborate with the Social Impact Lab, companies like Chandos, and other universities. Individually, we can all do a little, but working together, we can do a lot.

35:08 MONIQUE: Yeah, agreed. I think that's our premise and all the work that we do is who can we collaborate with to actually really start to see change and impact change and not only that, but exactly as you're saying, leave the tools, the handbook, the frameworks so that communities can do it without us present and I think you know, we've had the opportunity to meet a number of times in Athabasca at the Athabasca Design Lab and it's always been a pleasure and I'm curious from your perspective, Doctor MacLeod, how has the experience been for you. So for our listeners, we have a design lab in Athabasca where we're working with the community to Co-design solutions that the community decides are important to them. So I'll go back to you, Doctor MacLeod. How has the experience been for you?

36:04 DOUGLAS: It's been incredibly important to me. We actually predate your work in Athabasca by just a year or two. We had a project, for which we're very grateful for funding from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, to look at rural and regional Alberta. We worked with four communities, one of which was the town of Athabasca. We learned an incredible amount. I'll be honest, we weren't as well organized as you guys, but it alerted me to the magnitude of the task. When you came in and started working with them, I saw all sorts of ways that we could do better, and I think that's really important moving forward to improve our processes. But I will share with you, we need to go even deeper. One of the things that really inspired me was looking at co-op opportunities. There's a small town in Spain, in the Basque area, called Mondragon. After the Second World War, the port town had been devastated by the Spanish Civil War. But after the Second World War, a new priest arrived in the town, saw that it was devastated, and said, 'Okay, we've got to change this. We need three things: an educational institution, a factory, and a financial institution.' So they founded a credit union, a technical school, and a factory that makes kerosene stoves. Today, Mondragon is an enormous organization that works all over the globe and still has a strong emphasis on education and financing things in the co-op.

Imagine in Mondragon, sadly, this rule has kind of eroded a little bit. It used to be that the highest-paid employee would only make 10 times the lowest-paid employee. That alone would be a game changer in Canada. There would probably be a rebellion from all the CEOs. But think about this: on January 2nd at noon, the top CEOs in Canada had already made as much money as the average Canadian would make in a year. Some of these CEOs, the top ones, are making 243 times what the average Canadian is making. That's where our value system has gone out of whack. I'm not saying that CEOs shouldn't make a good salary, but 243 times the average Canadian, that's just not right, especially when people are saying that if we raise the minimum wage for Canadians, it's going to undermine our productivity. Well, if raising the minimum wage is going to undermine productivity, think of what those salaries are doing to Canadian productivity.

So what I'm thinking is, you know, here we have this opportunity. You've talked about opening up the North and developing the North. Athabasca University is in a perfect situation to serve as the educational institution to help people get the skills they need. We are flexible, we are open, and we're doing micro-credentials. For example, with the AREF, we're making a number of micro-credentials, including things like learning from the land and economic diversification. So here we have the materials to help people move forward.

In terms of financial institutions, I'm very fascinated by the credit unions that we already have in Alberta. They're way better than going to the banks. It's a way better opportunity. I'd like to see more Canadians do that. But then in terms of factories. Well, now we have the opportunities to use new technologies like 3D printers, laser cutters, and other things to create a whole new way of looking at manufacturing goods. So if we start to put those things together, we've got all the elements to make an incredible change in the way that people live and work, particularly in rural and regional Canada.

40:17 MONIQUE: We're also very excited about the innovation hub that's going to be established at Athabasca University. I think it supports quite nicely with some of the initiatives we're looking coming out of the design lab. But what are your thoughts on it?

40:32 DOUGLAS: We're very excited about this as well because it provides a much-needed set of tools, not just for architecture students, but for all students at Athabasca. Imagine being able to have access to things like 3D scanners that can scan entire buildings or a kit of wireless sensors to monitor how a building behaves. Or imagine being able to send a file of a 3D model to a 3D printer and then get it back by courier. We're opening the doors to provide access to tools not just for our students, but we hope for the community as well. Maker spaces or innovation hubs can be critical to a community, and there are some beautiful ones being built in Alberta. The one at the Stanley Milner Library is a fabulous space, and everyone should know about them because they're so inexpensive to access. I think if you have a library card, you may be able to use their recording studio or their 3D printers. These are fabulous spaces, and they could make a huge difference in people's lives and livelihoods if we make them accessible. So yes, we're thinking that this is an opportunity, and we are going to do it differently. We're creating a kind of cyber infrastructure that will allow people to dip into it, get the tools they need, take them to where they need to use them, and send them back to us. It's a little complicated, but it's absolutely necessary in this day and age when people aren't as tied to physical places as they used to be. So we may take some of our scanners to Lesotho next time we go to scan some of the architecture there and really build up a new kind of set of resources for our students to learn about architecture from around the world. I'm very excited about it.

42:26 MONIQUE: Yeah, it sounds like it truly will be coming and retain experience for the community as well. We're excited to see the results of that just as we wrap up our conversation. I wondered if you had any words of advice for our future architects or designers for positive social change.

42:46 DOUGLAS: There are a couple of things, both practical and more future-thinking. Drawing by hand is still incredibly important, despite the availability of wonderful computer tools. Michelangelo said that drawing is the root of all knowledge, meaning that if you can draw something, you can really start to understand it. So the best thing you can do if you want a career in architecture or any other kind of design area is to draw. Get a sketchbook today and draw in it. It doesn't even matter what you draw, as long as you're drawing. Another practical initiative that Alberta could implement is called dual credit. In the dual credit system, high school students take university courses and receive credit towards their high school diploma and a university degree. It's free for them, as the province provides the school board with the funding to do this. For a couple of years, we've been running our first design studio with students in the Edmonton Public School board, and it's been a remarkable experience. The students receive three credits towards a university degree, as well as valuable experience. These workshops are typically taught by architects like Cynthia Deval, who is a wonderful architect and a natural-born teacher. She goes into the schools with some of her associates and creates a wonderful experience for the students. Expanding initiatives like dual credit could help many students, not just in architecture, but across various disciplines. It's a relatively inexpensive process, and with more support from the province, we could do so much more. Imagine the impact in the north, where people might not even consider a career in architecture. With mentors like Cynthia, students gain a sense of confidence and possibility, opening doors to professions where underrepresented groups are desperately needed.

45:18 MONIQUE: Thank you, Doctor MacLeod. I think those are great words of advice and we'll add a few links in our show notes for some of these individuals in the program that you're referencing and to our listeners, if you're interested in following the progress of the Athabasca Design Lab that both Doctor MacLeod and I briefly spoke to. You can read more about it on our website at thesocialimpactlab.com/work/athabasca. Doctor MacLeod, thank you for joining us. I really enjoyed the conversation. I love the fact that we are architects and designers of our future and I'm going to be spending some time thinking about how you know what that human system looks like and not only our design principles, which we hold very close but really around how does it inform policies and what our value systems look. So thank you for that. And I also look forward to seeing you in Athabasca soon. To our listeners, if you've enjoyed this conversation, be sure to check out more episodes of Responsible Disruption. Dr. MacLeod, thank you again.

46:18 DOUGLAS: Thank you very much, Monique. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me.

46:22 MONIQUE: My pleasure.

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That's all for today's episode of Responsible Disruption. Thank you for tuning in and we hope you found the conversation valuable. If you did, don't forget to follow, rate, and share wherever you get your podcasts. To stay up to date on future episodes and show notes, visit our website at thesocialimpact lab.com or follow us on social and until next time, keep on designing a better world.