Guelph’s New Scandinavian Friend: 10 Benefits for Sustainable Innovation in Ontario


Children play in the most climate friendly daycare in Denmark – engineered by Ramboll.

Children play in the most climate friendly daycare in Denmark – engineered by Ramboll.  The building produces 8 kilowatt hours per square metre per year, which is surplus to the building’s requirements.  When not used for solar panels the remaining roof surface has been planted with sedum – a hard wearing plant, which not only encourages biodiversity, prevents water run- off, provides both sound and temperature insulation, and also helps to cool the solar panels.  Photo via

Scandinavian firm Ramboll is opening an office in the City of Guelph in order to pursue opportunities in the growing market for district energy in North America. 
Ramboll has 200 offices in 22 countries with $1.4 billion in annual revenue. 
Inside the firm are 11,000 consulting engineers, designers and management consultants committed to creating sustainable and long-term solutions in sectors including building, transport, environment, energy and telecom.

What does Ramboll coming to Guelph mean for Sustainable Innovation in Ontario?


Guelph has the first city-wide district energy network in North America.  With the news that the Scandinavian firm will be helping manage the district energy project with Guelph's Envida and is setting up its first North American office in Guelph, we thought it worth taking a look at some of the benefits a firm like Ramboll brings to Guelph and Ontario – and to local businesses like ours!  

A recent Toronto Star article by Don Tapscott (ranked one of the top 5 most influential thinkers in the world) - "As Toronto dithers, Guelph sets sights on 21st century"-  highlights Guelph's sustainability efforts, including the Community Energy Plan and waste diversion.  

Here are 10 benefits we see with Ramboll coming to Guelph and Ontario - we hope our thoughts prime some creative collaboration:

1. Ontario Climate Action: Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government, and her new Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray, are fully focused on climate action.  District energy is a proven approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while providing many economic benefits. Guelph will be leading Ontario climate action efforts with cost-effective district energy solutions that can be adopted and adapted elsewhere, especially areas that can take advantage of low cost natural gas combined with renewable energy.

2. CO2 Neutral Communities:  Ramboll is playing a key role in making Copenhagen CO2-neutral by 2015 – that collaborative planning and design expertise will benefit Guelph and communities across Ontario, Canada and North America.  We need more innovation around climate change & Ontario.
3. Coal to Biomass:  Ramboll is a leader in switching coal-fired generating stations to biomass.  So is Ontario as it works to ensure a clean, reliable and sustainable energy supply.  Ontario no longer uses coal for making electricity – the Atikokan Generating Station near Thunder Bay has already switched to biomass.  Ontario Power Generation’s massive Lambton and Nanticoke generating stations are getting ready to switch to alternative fuels which may include mixing natural gas with biomass, leading to new energy opportunities in Ontario.  Romboll’s expertise could play an important role in the North American shift away from coal.  

4. Biofuel and Biogas Research:  Ramboll is a leader in sustainable biofuel and biogas research – including bioethanol and sustainable jet fuel.  Air travel is one of the major carbon footprints of human activities as a result of burning fossil fuel derived jet fuel.  The University of Guelph is a leader in bioenergy and biofuels – collaboration in this area could yield exciting new commercial biofuel and biogas opportunities.    

5. Sustainable Transportation:  Ontario is finding ways to deal with gridlock and climate change.  Ramboll is a leader in sustainable transportation planning and design.  For example, the firm is collaborating with the UK Highways Agency climate change adaptation strategy and carbon reduction program.  It would be good to see this expertise applied in Ontario.

Ramboll aims to attract and retain more women into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers

To attract and retain more women into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers, Ramboll provides a a vision of the future with opportunities to do exciting things and make a better world, “whilst accommodating and respecting the things that are important to women at a personal level"



6. Vibrant Sustainable Communities:  We need more new ideas for fitting human infrastructure with the environment and sustainability needs.  Ramboll is a leader here too.  For example, Tanner Springs Park in Portland Oregon is an intense community participation and a stakeholder steering group.  The urban skin of one downtown block, 60x60 meters was peeled back to create a new city park. 

Tanner Springs Park in Portland, Oregon


At Tanner Springs Park in Portland, stormwater runoff from the park block is fed into a natural water feature with a spring and natural cleansing system.  An “Art Wall" recycles historic rail tracks, oscillating in and out and with inlaid hand-painted fused glass pieces with nature images by Herbert Dreiseitl.  Ospreys dive into the water, art performances unfold on a floating deck and children splash and explore in a natural refuge in the heart of Portland. 



7. Sustainable Business Structures:   We need new business models that focus on future generations and long-term sustainability, and are not fixated with quarterly earnings reports.  Thanks to initiatives such as the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing’s efforts to foster Ontario B Corp development, we are seeing more B Corp Ontario innovations across the province – we know because we’re one of the firstRamboll brings a unique Scandinavian business model that avoids quarterly earnings fixations in favour of multi-generation thinking. The Ramboll Foundation is the main owner of the Ramboll Group A/S. The Ramboll Foundation is a commercial foundation with a long-term ownership perspective, which in turn influences its choices for long-term strategic priorities such as dealing with climate change and climate change adaptation.




8. Renewable Energy Innovation:  Guelph is a renewable energy innovator, especially with the presence of leading global firm Canadian Solar.  Ramboll brings a unique Scandinavian edge to solar – a special Scandinavian concept for solar heating is large-scale plants, supplying energy to the local district heating network through a heat accumulator. Ramboll has participated actively in the development of these solar heating plants and performed research as a firm that has helped develop 15 of the largest solar heating plants in Scandinavia, including the world's largest plant in Marstal at the Danish island of Ærø

The world’s longest solar thermal plant on the Danish island of Ærø

The world’s longest solar thermal plant on the Danish island of Ærø. According to Ramboll, large-scale solar thermal plants like this will probably be the first renewable energy technology that will be fuly competitive with fossil fuels



9. Guelph Innovation:  Synergies with Guelph firms – it will be exciting to watch how synergies develop with other Guelph area firms – especially around sustainable building and manufacturing design, energy and engineering.  With leadership from Innovation Guelph and the Guelph Chamber of Commerce, there are sure to be some creative sustainable business ideas that emerge.  Imagine, for example, the potential around Linamar’s leading sustainability initiatives - fuel economy, resource consumption, solar and other ecological footprint projects. We think Local is the New Black, and local innovation is key to successful business development.


10. Blue-Green Cities:  Ramboll’s scientists and engineers are experts on managing climate change through   “Blue-Green Cities” initiatives.  The lessons learned and best practices can now more easily travel to North America via Guelph.  Here are the two of most important pieces of advice from Ramboll's experts on managing climate changes:

  • Work across the traditional fields of expertise from the very beginning of the project in order to create the best possible solution
  • Create blue-green cities with room for water and welfare, where water basins and parks are able to collect the larger rainfalls



Romboll Guelph: We're obviously excited to see that the City of Guelph has attracted such an amazing new Scandinavian friend to our home community.  We look forward to more news on Guelph's innovative approaches to sustainable business, sustainable innovation in Ontario, and the Ramboll Guelph friendship.

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