Building co-owner Dennis Cuku spoke with Mark Connolly of CBC Radio. Listen here, or read the transcript below:
Mark: It is the longest day of the year – Summer Solstice – is today, so what better time for the owners of an Edmonton solar-powered building to celebrate? Dennis Cuku is the co-owner of the Mosaic Centre in the city’s Summerside neighbourhood and he joins us in-studio. Good morning, Dennis.
Dennis: Hey, good morning, Mark.
Mark: So why celebrate the Summer Solstice?
Dennis: Well, the sun powers the building 100% year-round, so we figured on the longest day of the year, why not celebrate what gives the building its sustenance.
Mark: Now for those who aren’t familiar, tell us some of the unique design features of the building and why you decided to go this route.
Dennis: Yeah, the building is fairly unique. When Christy and I started conceptualizing the building, we started looking at some of the funkier spaces like Google and Pixar and really tried to create sort of a mini Google campus in south Edmonton. So we have the Workshop Eatery (a really cool restaurant on the main floor), a daycare centre, a fitness and wellness clinic on the main floor. So those are open to the public but also serve the building occupants. And then the second and third floor have sort of a mixed use office where engineers, environmental scientists, agriculture, real estate agents – we all kind of share this space in an indoor community. So as cool as it is technologically and solar is kind of neat and there is an environmental facet to it, what’s been the most interesting is the social experiment – building community inside of a building inside of a community, if there’s such a thing.
Mark: So you try to get people, I don’t know, interacting outside of their businesses kind of thing?
Dennis: Yeah. I guess if you imagine in a traditional neighbourhood and in the ‘burbs like Summerside, there isn’t a lot of interaction between maybe somebody down the street from you. You don’t really know who your neighbours are. Whereas inside the building we all know the servers in the restaurant, we plan a lot of parties. We’ve designed the space so everybody shares the kitchen space on the second floor. The cafeteria creates a sort of mixing effect. The atrium was consciously designed to kind of have everybody bump into each other throughout the day, so you really get to see everybody. There is lots of glass. You don’t feel like you’re trapped away in a cubicle in a far corner somewhere.
Mark: So obviously you designed it that way and the people who came into the building to rent it had that idea in mind, so I assume that that sort of thing is working.
Dennis: Yeah. We’ve been holding to the vision. It’s not for everybody; there’s a lot of people that definitely kind of like their space and want to be kind of tucked off to the corner. So we’re at that, I guess, critical mass (if you’ll call it) now where it’s starting to attract more like-minded people and it’s really taking off.
Mark: So what’s going on today? You decided to celebrate the summer solstice?
Dennis: Yeah, for sure. We’ve got a little bit of a party today. We weren’t really sure how it was going to turn out, but now we don’t have a cloud in the sky really this morning. It’s a beautiful day today, so the ticket sales are definitely bumped up. We wanted to create, call it I guess a little mini carnival celebration way on the south side there. We’ve got a mechanical bull, axe throwing, live music, a DJ, and I guess the coolest part is all the platforms or movements that have been using the Mosaic Centre to create a little bit of awareness. They’re all kind of joining together and having their meetings on site today. So we’re going to create this little bit of cross-pollination between a bunch of the different movements in the city and see how that goes.
Mark: When you say “movements,” what kind of people?
Dennis: One good example is my good buddy Scott from Soulfront. He’s really getting a bunch of people in the city together to talk about their passion – getting people that are really passionate about business or music or art, and have them talk for maybe about half and hour but then creating a little bit of a social gathering around that. So they’re using the space. Another movement is the Zebra Project. They’re a group of business leaders in Edmonton that are trying to figure out how to make some changes I guess along the happiness routes in workplaces.
Mark: Okay, cool. So what are you looking most forward to today?
Dennis: Well, I’m kind of a fun guy so I like the fact that there’s going to be a party in the building. We got a little bit of a beer gardens out front. And yeah, just looking forward to seeing the community come out and seeing that mixing of different ideas and different types of people in the space, so it should be amazing.
Mark: When you put a building like this together, it can be not a cheap proposition. Part of it is trying to make it economically viable. Have people who moved into that building had to make any kind of sacrifice financially to be part of it?
Dennis: It’s really I guess like a shared economy inside the building, so it isn’t a traditional business model by any means. If you imagine, you know, we see these cars downtown now where you can kind of jump in and you can share the vehicle. You don’t actually own it. The building is designed that way where, let’s say, you were to come and rent a small office. But you don’t have to have your own kitchen, reception or boardrooms. What we do is we share all those, so it brings that cost of construction down, it brings the cost of rent down, and what we do is we pay by percentage for those additional spaces. So you get access to a whole bunch more square footage or space, but at a reduced cost.
Mark: And I hope everybody is recycling in the building.
Dennis: That’s kind of a given. We have a few rules to follow yeah. I would say arguably that we’re the most sustainable building in Alberta and maybe even stretch it out a little bit further than that.
Mark: From a water point of view, is there anything in the building that’s happening as far as grey water?
Dennis: No, that’s a little tricky. Our codes really don’t support that here yet, but we capture the rainwater off the roof. We’ve got a giant tank under the ground and we use that to water the vegetables in the garden out front. Paul from The Workshop (the chef) – he’s got root vegetables and spinach and all kinds of business growing out front. So we capture all that roof water and water his vegetables with it.
Mark: Cool. Well it sounds like a fun day today.
Dennis: Yeah, come on down.
Mark: Best of luck with it, Dennis. I hope it goes well.
Dennis: Okay, thanks, Mark.
Mark: Dennis Cuku is the co-owner of the Mosaic Centre in Summerside. They have events happening all day to celebrate the longest day of the year and they would love it if you would come down.