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Starting in 2013, Guelph Campus Co-op developed an ecologically designed townhouse complex, Campus Co-op Commons (CCC), classified as one of the leading buildings in sustainable innovation and development in Guelph. The main purpose of this ecological design is to promote and inspire sustainable development across Guelph, contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure (SDG 9)
In 2013 and 2014, Guelph Campus Co-operative developed one of the most ecologically designed buildings in Guelph, the Campus Co-op Commons (CCC), located at 1 Hales Cres, Guelph, ON. This complex is made up of 18 townhouses which consist of 4 bedrooms, two washrooms, a kitchen, living area, laundry room, storage room, and balcony in each. These townhouses are unique and distinct from other buildings due to their ecological innovation. The passive solar design allows for the collection and distribution of energy through its windows to either collect or reject heat, depending on the time of year. In-floor radiant heat uses thermal radiation to radiate heat off the floor and throughout the apartment. A rainwater collection system is used for flushing toilets and augmented by city water if the R/W tank is fully used up. The design also includes a living roof: back in 2013, this was the only building in all of Guelph that offered a living roof. While these ecological designs help combat operational costs they also reduce the number of electrical devices needed to distribute heat. This innovation contributes primarily to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 9) on Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure as well as Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11) and Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG 7). This development is one of the leading innovative sustainable infrastructures in Guelph while also creating an inclusive, safe, and sustainable environment for University of Guelph students.
Guelph Campus Co-op was established in 1913, first called the OAC Students Co-operative Association. This co-operative was developed by seven students in Guelph and Wellington County for the purpose of being a cost-effective business to sell textbooks and supplies to students. At the time, the only other bookstore present was in downtown Guelph, making the Johnston Hall bookstore a prime location for students. Later in 1962, it was officially changed to Guelph Campus Co-op, the organization's current name. The co-op has always been socially and economically responsible by providing affordable housing, textbooks, and supplies for students. So, what is the source of inspiration behind this innovation? Tom, the Housing and Member Relations Manager, states, “the inspiration behind the Co-op Commons construction project came from both an economic and environmental standpoint. The Co-op needed a new project to remain economically viable (particularly when the bookstore sales declined and could no longer be counted on as a source of revenue), while also knowing that any venture we undertook would have to align with our deep-rooted commitment to promoting sustainability. So, we set out from day one, knowing we were going to have a challenging time creating affordable housing for students while at the same time building a high-quality, environmentally progressive legacy project. It was bloody difficult. And we did it. It just took 15 years!”
Guelph campus coop focuses on providing affordable housing and improving student life on campus. Contributing to industry, innovation, and infrastructure gives students short-term and long-term benefits.
In the short term, students gain housing with affordable rent and utilities. This benefit is especially valuable to students as tuition and textbooks are already expensive. Each house was built in a specific way to maximize natural energy production, reducing utility and water costs. For example, the houses are oriented due south to maximize solar exposure, which heats the water using solar collectors. Furthermore, the innovation will create opportunities that will help students’ mental health. When a coop student becomes a resident, they also become a member, giving you two things: a job and reduced expenses. Students gain work experience that pays and can strengthen a resume and support transition to employment.
In the longer term, the model decreases the collective carbon footprint, and promotes students' resilience through well-being and future employment. As the business progresses, operational costs will continue to decrease, creating more reserve revenue to be used for other projects including more affordable housing to be built.
Guelph Campus Co-op provides a sustainable and economic outlook on how businesses should operate. Designing an affordable and sustainable product, whilst promoting an increase in market share, is something that very few businesses do well. Not only does the innovation provide customers with an incentive to purchase due to the substantial decrease in utility payments, but also promotes sustainability at the same time. The sustainability element of the housing is a great marketing tactic and separates Guelph Campus Co-op from its competitors. As an organization whose mission isn’t to increase profit, it’s inherently difficult to portray the benefit simply through monetary value: the innovation mostly benefits the organization because it supports their mission, to provide affordable and sustainable housing to students.
Guelph Campus Co-op benefits society in many ways. As Guelph Campus Co-op operates as a cooperative, they can obtain many benefits many other businesses cannot. First, they can bring students together into the city of Guelph, increasing the population. As a result, these students are integrated into the Guelph society for as little as eight months a year. This means they will be purchasing and working at local stores and restaurants, allowing Guelph's city to benefit. In the long-term, students will also be more inclined to move to Guelph after completing their degree, bringing in more revenue to the city while allowing for its expansion and local community engagement.
Guelph Camus Co-op also benefits the environment. Each home is powered by solar energy and is made in a specific way to maximize natural energy and keep the environment greener. The engineering and technology put in place allow each house to use solar exposure, which heats water and is the main power source for electricity. Not only does this positively impact on the environment but keeps costs lower and affordable. Guelph Campus Co-op has been contributing to society and the environment since they opened back in 2013, and the plan is to continue that in the future.
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Tom Klein Beernink, Housing and Member Relations Manager
The Guelph Campus Co-operative is run by and for students to provide eco-friendly and affordable housing for University of Guelph students. A board of directors is selected by student members who are responsible for membership policy and procedures.