The City of Calgary is known for its bustling downtown core. Densely packed cities are not often known for their sustainability, but people like Kerry Ross are seeking to change that with the creation of more green spaces.

“I think being involved in sustainable architecture makes you think about what you design, what its contribution — positive or negative, to the environment is. And then that translates into [my] everyday life,” Ross says.

Rooftops are often neglected areas that lack aesthetic appeal. Rather than letting huge amounts of space go unused, companies are opting to create an area on their building that promotes habitat creation, absorbs storm water and improves air quality.

Ross is working to make sustainable architecture a staple in Calgary through her work as the owner of Green T Design.

Expressing her passion is important for Ross. She does this by creating living walls and green roofs that are custom-made for her client’s needs.

“You’re turning what’s rather a blighted space into something useful, environmental and beautiful to look at,” Ross explains.

Ross’ passion for the outdoors grew from her active childhood, where she spent a lot of her time skiing and hiking. She took some drafting classes in high school and completed her bachelor of architecture at the University of Montréal. The rest is history.

Ross was motivated to create sustainable architecture after many people told her that it wouldn’t survive the cold Alberta winters.
KerryRossNEW copyKerry Ross, owner of Green T Design. Photo courtesy of Kerry Ross
“I knew that there were green roofs in Iceland, Scandinavia and various other cold parts of the globe and just kept researching how it could work,” she recalls.

Changes to Calgary’s skyline are following in the footsteps of cities such as Edmonton and Toronto. Toronto has established a municipal bylaw that requires green roof coverage on large buildings. It is feasible that action similar to this will take place in Calgary in the near future.

In fact, Ross now has had numerous clients in the area, including the City of Calgary, The Royal Alexandria Hospital, ATCO Gas and the Rocky Mountain Soap Company.

Most of Ross’ work involves creating green areas that include different kinds of plants and other elements that are both practical and beautiful.

According to Ross, Calgary is in need of some more education on why green roofs are necessary.

“I think a fuller understanding of the costs and benefits is lacking here, compared to cities like Toronto where they’ve had numerous research projects, outreach and education campaigns and numerous demonstration sites that people can visit.”

Dr. Caroline Hachem-Vermette, who has four degrees in the field of architecture, is adamant that projects such as green roofs are necessary in this day and age.

“It’s becoming not only a value, it’s really somehow imperative to start thinking about sustainability and sustainable architecture because of all the issues that we are wanting to address [like] climate change, related to the resilience of our communities.”

Sustainability isn’t just a part of work for Ross; she has integrated green elements into her home and enjoys looking at architecture while traveling with her common-law partner, Bob Thornton.

“We take up space in the land and we should try and improve upon it ecologically. We should live lightly on the land and make buildings that produce energy rather than consume energy.” – Kerry Ross

Thornton is also an architect and runs his own company, Studio T Design, which often collaborates with Ross’ company on projects.

“I would say Kerry works 100 hours a week, every week,” says Thornton. He chalks this up to Ross’ passion for her profession.

When Ross isn’t planning or building projects for her clients, she is advocating for green roof development in Calgary and educating others on the value of her work, including a proposal to make sustainable architecture a priority for Calgary City Council.

Former councillor Brian Pincott issued a notice of motion in 2017 that proposed the requirement for all existing city buildings to examine the benefits of green roof installation when the building is due to be re-roofed.

The suggestion received some discussion but was ultimately tabled. It was requested that more research be done before council made a decision.

Ross is currently working on a pitch in response to this motion, which was set to be presented to the council’s Committee on Utilities and Corporate Services on March 20, but was rescheduled for April.

Her plan is to present her completed research and outline the economic benefits of sustainable architecture.

“We take up space in the land and we should try and improve upon it ecologically. We should live lightly on the land and make buildings that produce energy rather than consume energy.”

Editor: Rayane Sabbagh |

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