Intern in Vancouver

  • Posted on: 16 March 2016
  • By: Jesper Menting

Travelling to Western Canada was one of my dreams for a very long time. In January 2015 the Dutch Consulate gave me the opportunity to do that in the form of a 6-months internship. This article will tell something about my experiences living and working in Vancouver for half a year. It will be a mixture of both the things I did working for the consulate as well as my travelling experiences in British Columbia.

The main reason for me to apply for this job was Vancouver's ambition of becoming the worlds greenest city by 2020. They explain how they want to do this in the Vancouver Greenest City Action Plan 2020, which you can find here. For me doing research on this plan seemed like a good preparation for my graduation project, which main theme is sustainable architecture. The other (just as important) reason was the chance to go travelling in British Columbia. Having the ideal combination of ocean and mountains it seemed like the perfect spot for someone who likes to do outdoor sports.

After arriving in Vancouver in January and spending some time looking for a place to live, I started working at the consulate. The first few weeks were meant to define my research assignment. For doing this I got a lot of help from Maarten den Ouden, the Trade Officer at the Vancouver Dutch Consulate. As he lived an worked in Vancouver for quite some time he knows a lot about the green building market in Vancouver. We decided to put my research focus on incentives to sustainable building in Western Canada. By this we wanted to explore how the local government stimulated inhabitans and companies to make their homes or businesses greener.

What I liked most about my work there was doing the preparations for the Canada Green Building Conference which was to be organized in Vancouver. Visiting this event was part of the Dutch trade mission to Toronto and Vancouver. Our main job was to prepare activities around the conference for the group of visiting Dutch companies. We decided to organize an architecture focused city-tour, a seminar and a networking event. We did this in collaboration with Light House Sustainable Building Center. They have a central position in the field of green development and knew exactly which parties to connect the Dutch companies to.

Besides my work for the consulate I also got the chance to work at DUDOC (Dutch Urban Design Center) for two days a week. DUDOC was founded as a center for showcasing Dutch innovative design and also provides space for events like presentations and workshops. A very nice event to participate in was the Discover Urban Resources week which focused on the opportunities of a circular economy. During this week we took part in a design charette, in which we had three days to turn discarded material like film plastic and scrap wood into new furniture.

Next to doing this work I was lucky to get plenty of time to go travelling. The most trips I did in the weekend and were to closer places like Cypress Mountain, Squamish and Whistler. These are great places to go hiking or skiing/snowboarding in the winter. There were also weeks were I could take a few days off to do longer trips. One of those trips was a road-trip across Vancouver Island. Together with a friend we took the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, which is the capital of British Columbia, and rented a car to drive to surf-spot Tofino. This trip was great as you drive across the island experiencing all the beautiful things British Columbia has to offer.

Another great experience was a camper trip to the Rocky Mountains. This is about a day driving from Vancouver City but we decided to do this in two stages. The first stop was the city of Kamloops, an important place during the gold rush of the 19th century. From Kamloops it is another five hours driving to the impressive landscape of Jasper National park. This park is connected to Banff National park by the Icefields Parkway, which is a beautiful route through the snowed peaks of the Rockies. Camping in both parks is great as you feel like being in the middle of nowhere, and having bears in your backgarden isn't an uncommon thing.

Travelling through British Columbia was very inspiring and definitely a nice addition to the experiences I gained through working for the consulate. And as I hoped for it also proved to be a good preparation for my graduation project. As I was in Vancouver visiting a lot of green buildings as preparation for the Green Building Conference, I noticed how much emphasis was put on the sustainability labels of buildings. In North America the most common used label is LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. More ambitious projects pursued a Living Building Challenge label, which requires among other things being fully self-sufficient in energy and water.

As most buildings in Europe are rated with BREEAM it was difficult for me to compare sustainable projects I knew from home with those in Vancouver. For this reason I decided to compare LEED's certification program with BREEAM's certification program and explore whether it is possible to use a universal system. With this research I'm also developing a program of sustainable requirements as a base for my design project. This project I'm planning to finish in June, with hopefully a lot of extra knowledge of designing sustainable buildings.

All together spending six months in Vancouver and working for the consulate and DUDOC was a very valuable experience for me. I learned a lot about Vancouver's plan of becoming the world's greenest city and how Dutch innovations can play a rol in this. I was also lucky to be working in a very social team which helped me finding my way in a new city. And last but not least it was amazing to travel across British Columbia, one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world where I definitely want to go back to one day.