In this episode of Renewable we spoke with Reza Nasseri, a homebuilder whose efforts in maximizing production efficiency have allowed him to make a Net Zero home at market rate — a first of its kind in Edmonton. We tell the story of a young man arriving here with a vision of the future, and how he built a massive company around that vision. But there’s a part of Reza’s story that we only mention in passing near the start of the episode and that we believe bears noting.
In 2016, Reza Nasseri was inducted into the Order of Canada. The second highest merit in Canada, it’s accorded to those who exemplify the order’s Latin motto, desiderantes meliorem patriam, meaning, “they desire a better country.” When we talked to Reza about this honour, he was modest about it — surprised even.
“There’s tens of thousands of people who have done great things for this country,” says Reza, “I had to think, how did this come about?”
During our interview with Reza, we talk about how things like efficiency and innovation can be used in service of both profit and sustainability. It’s a decent point that warrants repeating, especially when there are so many narratives that frame the two against each other. But as the motto of the order into which Reza has been inducted states, sometimes it’s worth shining a light on people who not only desire things to be better, but go out of their way to make it happen.
That idealism sometimes seems at odds with the pragmatism it takes to make change in the world, especially with something like sustainability. Pragmatically doing a bold, idealistic thing is why Reza has won this recognition. Based on our conversation with him, this desire to make things better doesn’t seem to come after the fact. He is not driven by the businesses and the profit, but by the desire to make things better.
On paper, Reza has been recognized for projects that thread the needle between good business and good for its own sake.The Landmark community care program has donated over six million dollars to medical research, and his House of Hope program pairs builders with building material donors, with the resulting proceeds going to charitable causes. He provided a $10 Million incentive to the future engineers at the University of Alberta, an effort intended to spark innovation in a greener building industry. Building houses, and now Net Zero houses, that families with average income can afford, is the whole reason we wanted to speak with him. It’s an adage that’s beyond well worn in Silicon Valley (the place, not the TV show)— he’s doing well by doing good.
That’s worth recognizing, be it by an order, an award, or a fun six minute mini-doc you can watch right over here.
Renewable is a series about visionaries, creators, community leaders and above all else, Edmontonians, each with a unique vision of a sustainable future in the heart of Canada’s fossil fuel industry.
The Renewable Series Team is composed of the City of Edmonton’s Energy Transition group and the creative minds at Sticks & Stones.
For more information visit Edmonton.ca/RenewableSeries