By Todd Royer
There are so many people, organizations and communities working on amazing and wonderful projects all around the world in an effort to fight the greatest fight humanity has ever faced (the climate crisis). Our story is joined with their stories.
It began in 2016, when Philip Ling, now the owner of the Maitland Tower property, was riding his bike from his home in Markham to Halifax where his son was beginning university. An avid nature lover, Philip chose the scenic ride along the St. Lawrence River as his route, which led him right to the Maitland Tower, an abandoned 80’ stone windmill dating back to 1829. He stopped to take a picture, and while looking at the picture later, he noticed a For Sale sign in the frame. As he continued down the road, he couldn’t stop thinking about the property, so he called the realtor, and after much back and forth, somewhere in New Brunswick, he bought the 6.5 acres Tower property.
Philip began to repair and renovate the old buildings, and brought me in to help manage the projects he was undertaking. We both have long backgrounds in environmentalism and green buildings, and found ourselves asking, “how do we rebuild these buildings to be responsible to this community and its past, while at the same time build responsibly in light of the climate crisis?”
With years in municipal environmental action groups in his hometown of Markham, Philip felt this was an opportunity to demonstrate his leadership on this special property. We began to assemble a team to explore how to best do this. As we began to cobble together ecological building practices to use on the project, a colleague connected Philip with the Living Building Challenge (LBC). As the most robust green building certification in the world, it was definitely a challenge, but what attracted the whole Maitland team was their guiding question: “What does good look like?”. The founder of the LBC, Jason McLennan (an architect who grew up in Sudbury, Ontario) asked the question, ‘Why do we try to make things less bad? They are still bad for us and the planet. What would it look like if we focused on the question: ‘what does good look like?’
This simple question became the guiding principle from which unfolded the Living Building Challenge and a suite of other programs at the International Living Future Institute, whose mission is to catalyze the transformation to a world that is socially just, culturally rich, and ecologically restorative.
The Maitland Tower team has shamelessly adopted this question as our guiding light: “What does good look like?”. The team registered with the Living Building Challenge for the first major renovation we are undertaking, and also registered as a Living Community Challenge, to treat the whole 13-acre site as a demonstration of how to make decisions that will be life-enhancing for every person who visits, as well as the eco-system.
In 2019, Philip acquired an adjacent 6.5 acre property which had at one time been connected, to reunite the site, a beautiful 13 acre property with nearly a kilometre of riverfront on the St. Lawrence.
In 2020, the Maitland Tower team established this not-for-profit social enterprise, DoorNumberOne.org, to animate and amplify the work we are doing at Maitland Tower.
Our north star is found in this one burning question about the future: “What does good look like?”
We are determined to join others in answering this question, and lead towards a just, beautiful and regenerated world.
Will you join us?