IMG_0720.JPGWell, it’s February already, and here is our UrbanWorkbench Newsletter to kick start the month off. Mike, Robyn and the girls have been pretty busy over the past month, so join us as we look at some of the newsworthy items in our life and around the world. You can also read this newsletter online. You are receiving this (as an email) either because you signed up on, or are a friend of Mike and Robyn Thomas. If you no longer wish to receive this monthly email update, there is a form at the bottom of this article to unsubscribe.

Moving to Castlegar

Firstly, we’re settling into life in the small town of Castlegar, BC, Canada, Robyn is keeping pretty busy with the girls and meeting new people. We’ve been skiing a couple of times at Red Mountain and enjoying winter activities like tobogganing at the local hill. We’ve met lots of great people and even got invited to a party on Sunday. Neither Robyn or I knew what sporting event was on, (we don’t have a TV), and Robyn was confused as to why the Grey Cup was in February, which it wasn’t, it was the Super bowl. Anyway, you can tell that life has been too busy to try to keep up with sport or world news.

Mike travelled from Newcastle to Castlegar about two weeks ago, with a 17 hour daytime layover in Honolulu. Mike got to travel around the island of Oahu for the day, enjoying a bit more warmth and sunshine before heading into the depths of winter. Almost as punishment for taking such a leisurely trip, the weather conspired against Mike and many fellow travellers for the flight from Vancouver to Castlegar.

After two flights being cancelled and three beers later, Mike decided to team up with a couple of other travellers and catch the next flight to Kelowna, then get a ride with one of the guys brother in law. Of course the roads were terrible, with the three hundred kilometre journey taking the brother in law about five and a half hours, and we still had to drive back. We made it to my new house at around midnight, only 12 hours after I was intending to fly in, not bad considering the conditions… the Greyhound wouldn’t have made it until seven am the next morning.


Since then, Mike has been working as a Design Engineer and Project Manager for WSA Engineering, a local firm providing Civil, Geotechnical and Materials Engineering services to the region. Mike’s been learning the ropes and getting involved in design and writing proposals for subdivision work. There’s a bit of a transition from 12D to Civil3D, as well as local Canadian design standards, but generally, the work is pretty similar. Mike will be working in the capacity of design and project management as well as business development as opportunities arise.

There is a fair bit of development going on in the region with property prices increasing significantly, and demand for new housing high. We’ll keep you updated as things progress, there are some pretty exciting developments on the radar. I recently wrote a post about one of the challenges in starting this job – Productivity in a New Job.

Robyn is working out what she wants to do as far as work goes. She is currently looking into funding opportunities for research or accreditation in sustainability or environmental programs such as LEED. There are lots of options including project managing the construction of our house, if we decide to build. One of our options is the Whisper Creek Log Homes System, designed in Utah, which are being marketed locally in the Kootenays.


There has been a bit of news and views on sustainability around the globe this past month, with a site I’ve been beta testing launching today…

  • Green Options Website Launched | UrbanWorkbench

    These guys talk the talk and appear to walk the walk, founded by two like minded sustainability and environmental professionals, this site built on the drupal community platform, (like this blog) has information pages, a wiki and of course blogs. The layout is fresh, the content is original and up to date, this is a site to keep your eyes on. A great source of news and links to the world of sustainability, environmental consumerism and the choices we can make in our day to day lives. Head over, sign up, subscribe to their feed, that’s my tip for the day.

  • New Winnipeg University Building LEED Accredited | UrbanWorkbench

    This project is estimated at $30 million dollars including internal lab fit-out, sounds like a pretty good deal for a showcase building. This appears to be the second in the city, with the Winnipeg International Airport being the first airport terminal in Canada to receive LEED certification.

  • Too Much City

    Two hundred years ago, the average person on Earth might meet 200 to 300 people in a lifetime. Today a resident of New York City can live and work among 220,000 people within a 10-minute radius of his home or office in midtown Manhattan.

  • Earthy Anchors

    Made from natural clays and recycled industrial waste such as marble dust, American Clay is available in 40 plus colours and 3 finishes. It’s mold and fade resistant and easy to repair if you get too carried away at your next party…

  • Is burning wood really carbon neutral?

    This fundamental question keeps coming back to me, and I have proposed it previous posts. But before hitting your “flame this toothless tree-hugging moron” button (again), realize this question is not as simple as it appears.


IMG_0624.JPGRobyn and I are still looking at Green Roofs as a concept for building a sustainable house, we’d love to go to this conference, chances?

Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference April 29 – May 1, 2007 Minneapolis

Urban Planning

I recently came across this resource for Urban Planning, sounds like the book to get if you are into the urban design stuff…

Planning and Urban Design Standards (Wiley Graphic Standards) is the Gray’s Anatomy of city and regional planning. It outlines the cells (neighbourhoods, blocks and parcels), skeleton (plans), circulation (transportation) and muscles (implementation) of the field. And, like an anatomy text, it includes detailed illustrations of the various elements. Reading the book recalls the famous hand-slapping-the-head gesture and cry: “It’s the economy, stupid!” But in this instance, the cry is “It’s the standards, stupid!” Indeed, until publication of this text, the field has had no comprehensive reference book of this nature. – Forum for Urban Design


In some breaking news, we’re pleased to announce that Mike will be attending the Northern Voice Conference in Vancouver this year! Mike has been awarded a travel bursary by the committee and is looking forward to meeting lots of new bloggers from Canada. If you’re going to be there, drop me a line, or leave a comment on this newsletter on the website.

feedlogo.jpgThanks for reading and keeping in touch, now that we’ve settled down a bit in Castlegar, I’m hoping to get a few more design series posts up, and to keep posting about the new marketing concepts that are changing the face of business and marketing. The website’s a bit of a mess as it’s in the middle of a renovation, I’d love to get your comments on how you think the facelift is going!

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Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.