Christopher Sweetnam‑Holmes (BEDS'01)

A day in the life

Christopher Sweetnam‑Holmes (BEDS'01)

Christpher Sweetnam-Holmes

It’s always good to be an entrepreneur in a field you are passionate about. You’re really into it and excited about it and that’s what drives your interests.

Building streets of green in the city

Christopher Sweetnam-Holmes’ company EcoCité built the first green condo and the first 100% solar-run condominium building in Montreal.

 He sees huge career opportunities for new architects in his field of green building.

“The growth in green buildings is exponential. It’s off the charts right now,” he says.

At EcoCité, he also runs a busy consulting service helping people do green retrofits to older buildings. He’s even started selling green construction materials.

But to build green, he says, you have to first understand the technical aspects of building. Most green building problems he faces relate to systemic issues in the business and process of building.

"These are very functional problems,” he says. “People want to do it, but they ask how am I going to do that?”

The advantage of a Dal education

He believes that Dalhousie’s architecture program sets graduates up to be instigators of change, because here you learn to create designs that understand the construction process.

“There was definitely a strong focus on integrated design and sustainable thinking in buildings,” he remembers, “but I would also say a real focus on actually constructing buildings and thinking about how things are actually built.”

“That has proved incredibly valuable to the work that I do, because if you want to make change, you have to understand why the current system works the way it does.”

Each building is a test lab

As a student, he won the coveted Berkeley Prize Essay Competition. Writing that winning paper helped him firm up his career aspirations. He left Dal wanting to build the buildings he wrote about, but found no firms did that kind of work. So he decided to build something himself.

Now Christopher works and lives in the second floor of his award-winning solar building. He’s building another one next door. Every day, he can go grab a coffee and see his designs realized from the ground up.

“I build projects that are like test labs to see what’s possible to do as a developer,” he says. “I could do bigger real estate developments, but that would be no fun for me. Then I would become a professional manager and I wouldn’t get to be involved in every project like it’s my baby.”