Helping green Jasper National Park

Jasper res­idents know to expect the unex­pected with Michal Wasuita. Michal is a 2013 pioneer, proud of taking the path less traveled — and very excited about where that path has led.

Michal is an envir­on­mental pioneer, proud owner/​operator of Pine Bun­galows, nestled just north of the Jasper townsite and a fixture of Jasper National Park. Pine Bun­galows is one of Jasper’s oldest estab­lished bun­galow camps, built in the 1930’s, located on the banks of the World Her­itage Ath­abasca River. It has evolved as one of Jasper’s premier resorts with an inspiring ded­ic­ation to sus­tainable tourism, an appre­ci­ation of the “part­nership with nature” and a passion for the legacy of cul­tural her­itage and family history.

The Parks Envir­on­mentally Responsible Citizen (PERC) was awarded in 1998 exem­pli­fying an ongoing social respons­ib­ility with Parks Canada. The Audubon Green Leaf Eco-Rating Program merited Pine Bun­galows with a 4 leaf eco-rating. In 2009 the Envir­on­mental Lead­ership & Awareness Award was received from the Muni­cip­ality of Jasper.

In fact, Pine Bun­galows has wel­comed vis­itors from across the world for the past 70 years.

Leed-2013LEED Certification at
Pine Bungalows Begins

That lengthy history ulti­mately took its toll on the rustic pine bun­galows — and that’s where Michal’s story with LEED cer­ti­fic­ation begins.

In 2003, with only three years remaining on his lease with Parks Canada, Michal and his mother, Connie Bjorkquist, who spent her lifetime working on the property and is still act­ively con­sulting with Michal, had some serious decisions to make about the property.

The cabins needed updating and the infra­structure was slowly failing,” Michal explains. He knew some of the cabins were prone to flooding, con­di­tions were right for devel­oping mold in some of them, the interiors had used oil-based paints and the failing water, sewer and gas lines offered an oppor­tunity to mod­ernize and right these ser­vices.

Michal had to think about what he wanted to accom­plish. “Remod­elling the existing cabins was just putting lip­stick on a pig. Con­tractors and developers told me just to rip them down and start over.”

Changing Times …
The times they are-a-changing, as Bob Dylan sang in 1964 and so, too, has Pine Bun­galows.
We drew up a master plan for Pine Bun­galows in nine phases thanks to All Things Wild. Phase 1 received a new 42-year lease with Parks Canada so we would have time to do all the work that needed to be done; thanks to Grant Potter and Ron Hooper.
Under Phase 2 (winter 2000/​01) we tore down the old office and replaced it with more office space and a much needed basement with storage, along with new manager’s quarters.

Phase 3 (winter of 2006/​07) saw us burning down the old buildings that housed units 52–59 (formerly the old cook house and staff quarters). On the same site we built two Lodge Buildings, Walkeden and DeFoort (named for former owners), which now house our Con­ference Centre with 25 lodge/​motel type rooms, a self-catering kitchen, dining hall and meeting rooms.

Under Phase 4 (winter of 2011/​12) we removed eight cabins (44–51). We rep­licated them on the ori­ginal foot­print and made these cabins a bit bigger so we could put in queen size beds to accom­modate 4 people (no kitchen) instead of the double beds. This was our first attempt to follow the L.E.E.D. (Lead­ership Envir­onment Energy Design) cer­ti­fic­ation program. We were proud to have achieved the Silver Level.

In Phase 5 (winter of 2013/​14) we razed twelve cabins (27–38) and rep­licated them except for making them larger with queen size beds to accom­modate 4 people (with kitchen). These cabins are also built to L.E.E.D. standards. It has been expensive and chal­lenging being the Project Manager, dealing with budgets, banks, con­tractors and Parks Canada. However, as Mike Hurd, CEO at Hewlett-Packard once said, “Vision without exe­cution is nothing.”

The only place for WiFi on the property is the Con­ference Centre. I wanted the Cabins to be devoid of elec­tronic inter­rup­tions and to take you back to a simpler time when people spent quality time with each other — to what hol­idays could and should be with a chance to reconnect with nature and recharge.

Make Pine Bungalows Eco-Friendly!

Michal had a better idea than just rep­lic­ating the old cabins. This was his chance to make Pine Bun­galows an eco-friendly part of Jasper National Park. “My sense of place is very strong. If we can’t look after a national park, we’re doomed.”

He read, he researched, he found EcoAMMO Sus­tainable Con­sulting Inc. in Edmonton to help secure LEED cer­ti­fic­ation.

My strategy was simple. I had to change my attitude about how business is run, about how con­struction is done. We were abusing the earth – everything from David Suzuki’s teachings to my research into the broader sci­entific world rein­forced for me how important our planet is. I’m not on a crusade. I’m only doing my small part.”

Research & Ground-Breaking Strategy

Needing Parks Canada approval for any building project, Michal sub­mitted his Master Plan. The Pine Bun­galows concept proved unique, both for Parks Canada and for LEED.

  Please see Master Plan 2004 TAG

I’m breaking new ground. I want to certify a res­id­ential building located on a com­mercial property inside a national park.”

Michal says his research gave him the tools he needed to guide Parks Canada through the process. “They developed an appre­ci­ation for the project and for LEED. For instance, they ques­tioned the fact that I hadn’t included plans for irrig­ation to water the land­scaping. I told them I had no plans to water the land­scaping because I would use all native plants that would adapt to local water con­di­tions.”

Working with EcoAMMO Sustainable Consulting

Leed-2013-wallsHe says Edmonton’s EcoAMMO offered invaluable advice as they worked alongside each other. “Their enthu­siasm is great. I sourced everything from caulking to street lighting with EcoAMMO guiding me on the right path. They have the know-how and enthu­siasm and really helped steer some of my sup­pliers in the right dir­ection. Stephani (Carter) was very responsive and helpful.”

Michal says he’s learned a lot about sus­tainable building and LEED. “I’m getting more intu­itive about what I need to know.”

The master plan approved by Parks Canada included nine phases. He’s just com­pleted Phase 4 — with eight cabins com­pleted. “The toughest parts were the first couple of phases, replacing the infra­structure one section at a time. So far, I’ve invested over $4 million in capital, with another $2.5 million to go.”

I wanted to do the right thing – for my cus­tomers, my sup­pliers and myself. We’re still a cabin in the moun­tains – wel­coming any traveler from any­where to connect with nature and even with their own children. We’re a digital detox­i­fic­ation zone.”

The project is tar­geting LEED Silver, but some of the fea­tures Michal has included have the potential to boost the project to Gold cer­ti­fic­ation — when they are imple­mented. For example, the cabins are solar ready, with the elec­trical panel ready for the change sometime in the future. As well, Michal may con­sider a hot water loop in future rather than the current central hot water system.

I get a lot of sat­is­faction over what I’m doing. The Jasper town folks thought I was crazy at first. Now, people under­stand my motiv­a­tions and have taken a real interest in the project. And edu­cation is an important part of LEED. The process is pretty cool. You get a point if you do an open house to educate your staff and the public.”

I like the LEED system. If you comply with all the cat­egories, the points add up quickly. And you end up doing the right thing.”

Locally Sourced Materials

An example is Michal’s local sourcing of his materials and his use of modern building and con­struction tech­niques. He installed bathroom fans to coördinate with the lights. A bathroom timer pulls air out of the room for a set 15 minutes rather than using a humid­ifier.

Michal’s only real sur­prise is the minimal response to the green project as a whole as “I thought using all the right products and fin­ancial investment in sus­tainable tourism would elevate the tourist sales and be a bigger draw. My expect­a­tions around the dollar movement have not been met; the edu­cation and awareness is a slow process but hope­fully the project will be a draw in itself. I really am encouraged by the success of the LEED cer­ti­fic­ation process as it is the way of the future and Pine Bun­galows has made the fin­ancial and, more import­antly, the social and emo­tional com­mitment to a forward green movement.”