Kreek lowers heat in Victoria condo, from Vancouver

Low-e glass in all windows and exterior sun shades for south- and west-facing windows are among the energy-efficient innovations at Victoria's Dockside Green, where Power Smart Leader Adam Kreek has been living since the spring of 2009.

Blaine Kyllo

Even over the phone, Adam Kreek's grin is obvious. He's got good reasons to smile. He loves where he lives, his family is growing, he's got a new adventure on the horizon and he was in Vancouver for the Olympic Winter Games.

An Olympic athlete himself – he won gold in Beijing with Canada's rowing eights – Adam spoke to me while waiting to catch the ferry from Victoria.

He and his wife, Rebecca Sterrit, were on their way to spending February at a Vancouver condo. It was a chance to be in the midst of the Winter Games where he could soak up some of the energy the participating athletes exude, and where he volunteered with Clean Air Champions, which had an information booth inside the Athletes Village.

He's on the board of the organization, which works to improve air quality to enhance environmental and personal health. "We'll have a big booth to educate athletes on how they can, if they hold similar values, choose to live those values and demonstrate them," he says.

Living (and teaching) the value of conservation

Adam is also a proud Team Power Smart Leader, and lives the values of conservation. In May 2009, he and Rebecca moved into Victoria's Dockside Green, the world's greenest mixed-use residential development.

They have 1,000 sq. ft., two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with a large balcony, and Adam appreciates the sense of community in the condo. "In my experience," he muses, "most of life is about the people you meet and who you interact with."

Among Dockside's many green and sustainable initiatives – which include hard-wired CFLs, LED corridor lighting and Energy Star appliances – are built-in energy monitors in every residence. The monitors track electricity and water use, and estimate the amount of carbon being emitted by the suite.

The information is sent to an interactive panel on the wall of the apartments, which Adam says resemble programmable thermostats.

Even better, he says, is that the system can be accessed online, so you can get the information anywhere. The online connection also provides remote access to the apartment's systems.

"I'm heading to Vancouver and forgot to turn down my heat," Adam said en route to the Games. "So what i'm going to do when i get to Vancouver is I'm going to log onto the Internet, and for the days that I'm away, I'm going to turn off the heat for the house so I'm not wasting any energy."

Adam finds the feedback fascinating. "You can observe what's happening in your house, and I can see it becoming valuable as a family would grow. ... You can teach your children about the same values and ethics that you think are important for their generation and generations to come."

Rebecca and Adam's first child – "We just found out today that it's a boy." – arrives in July, and Adam thinks children will have fun interacting with devices like the energy monitor. It will also provide an opportunity for them to learn the value of energy conservation just by using it, and by experimenting.

"Take as long a shower as you want today, and tomorrow take a really short shower, and we'll see what the difference is between the two," says Adam. "It becomes a great teaching tool and a great learning experience."

Living with less

While energy monitors provide an opportunity for people to become more conservation-minded, Adam hasn't changed his behaviour. Of course, before moving to Dockside Green, he and Rebecca had been living on a houseboat where a toaster and hair dryer couldn't be operated at the same time. They are used to living sparingly.

That training will come in handy when Adam rows across the Atlantic Ocean in December 2011.

Adam and teammates Jordan Hannsen, Greg Spooner and Rick Tarbill, who hail from Seattle and Tacoma, are competing in the Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race, and will be attempting to set a world record.

The current record for the trip from the Canary Islands, off the west coast of Africa, to Antigua, in the Caribbean, is 36 days. Columbus, who travelled the route in 1492, took 76 days. Adam and his teammates hope to more than halve that time, rowing around the clock. Two men will row at a time, two hours on, two hours off.

Their race is in support of Right to Play, an organization that uses sport to lift children out of poverty, disease and war. Adam says they hope to raise $500,000 for Right to Play.

It's a purely person-driven endeavour, he says. "No wind. There'll obviously be some currents that will pick up the boat. We'll be doing a lot of surfing. Catch some 40-, 50-foot waves."

It's not just an exercise in endurance. Adam calls it a "challenge of the mind".

"How can you manage risk effectively? We want to make sure that we've thought of and accounted for every worst-case scenario prior to our departure."

The four men will be living on an ocean rowing craft that is six feet wide and about 28 feet long. "We make our own water on board, most of the food we pack is dehydrated so we can fit it in such a small space. ... It's a pretty small space for four guys to be."

Blaine Kyllo is a Vancouver-based freelancer and frequent contributor.