Canadian Architect

Feature

Road Warrior

RAIC Chancellor Barry Johns reminisces on long hours spent working--and celebrating--with Peter Busby.

June 2, 2014
by Barry Johns

TEXT Barry Johns

One of my most memorable encounters with Peter Busby was in Halifax at the 2001 RAIC Festival. It was the site of meetings foreshadowing the ofcial adoption of LEED measuring tools in Canada and the eventual birth of the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) in 2002.

Many of us there were already intimate with LEED–we were members of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and had several of the rst-generation LEED-accredited buildings in Canada completed or underway. We believed the ultimate selection of LEED in Canada to be inevitable, but competition with other models yielded spirited discussion at the time. Busby, a central gure in those discussions, would ultimately become a founding member of the CaGBC.

As is often the case at RAIC Festivals, there were many unscheduled post-mortem events, including a gathering of LEED proponents– Busby, Vivian Manasc, Kevin Hydes and me. Our animated musings soaked into the walls of a number of watering holes that night in party-famous downtown Halifax. Near dawn, with all of us quite, er, relaxed, we found ourselves in front of a terric live band playing at a high decibel level. My last recollection was of Busby in his ubiquitous white shirt, st pumping, eyes closed, head shaking, as all of us danced like no one was watching on a very drenched and slippery wood oor.

Fortunately no photographs exist (iPhones would arrive some time later) but the entire occasion was commemorated by Kevin, who weeks later gifted each of us with a black T-shirt shamelessly emblazoned with the moniker “Road Warrior” across the back.

Fast forward to Busby today–still the road warrior–but now, a road warrior newly based in San Francisco, whose work takes him around the planet. Having nurtured the sustainability movement from its roots, the tree is spreading further and further aeld. He and his team are proving that touching lightly on the earth anticipates a better world, and that beautiful buildings, campuses and cities can be the result. 

Ever the collaborator, we worked together for three years on Blatchford, an international competition-winning, carbon-neutral community for 30,000 people in Edmonton. My friend and project colleague Joyce Drohan leads the urban design group in Perkins+Will’s Vancouver studio, and was in charge of Blatchford. She says, “Peter’s genius is his ability to open everyone’s eyes to the inherent potential of a project–building, community or city–to enhance the lives of those affected, through extraordinary sustainable thinking.”

In the shadow cast by the old canoe hanging beneath a skylight in the Vancouver ofce, we toiled long hours on the project with experts from around the world. This is a culture of uniquely driven excellence, with no restriction on doing the right thing, and with constant research underpinning how to get there.Through it all we nd an inordinately serious leader: Busby regularly involved around the edges, pragmatic, terse, never letting go until all options are pursued and everything is to his satisfaction. Yet we also nd a leader who knows how to celebrate work well done: Busby is always on the lookout for a good time.

Congratulations from all those who couldn’t keep up that night in Halifax, Busby, and from three others who somehow did. CA

Barry Johns, FRAIC, (Hon.) FAIA, is Chancellor of the College of Fellows of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. He is the founder and principal of Barry Johns (Architecture) Limited in Edmonton.


A canoe hangs in the central atrium of Perkins+Will's Vancouver office at 1220 Homer Street. Completed in 2000, the design repurposed a 1946 warehouse. Nic Lehoux
A canoe hangs in the central atrium of Perkins+Will's Vancouver office at 1220 Homer Street. Completed in 2000, the design repurposed a 1946 warehouse. Nic Lehoux