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Spotlight: Peter Oliveira, Habitat for Humanity Waterloo Chapter President and Co-founder

September 11th, 2017

At University of Waterloo, you might find students who design model cars, toboggans, self-driving golf carts—or, in this case, actual, complete houses.

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization devoted to creating affordable housing for families in communities around the world. The organization has over 500 campus chapters in North America, but no one does it quite like a Waterloo Warrior.

“Campus chapters set out to educate, advocate, fund-raise, and volunteer,” explained Peter Oliveira, president and co-founder of the UWaterloo chapter. “What we’ve done is taken these four pillars they already had and we added design.”

Oliveira is a civil engineering student who began volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in May of 2016. A few months later, alongside co-founders Quynh Chau, Matt Roberts, and Ola Suchon, he was inspired to base his fourth-year design project on his work with Habitat, as well as expand the organization’s reach by starting a Waterloo campus chapter. The idea soon became much bigger than a culminating school project or new club.

“We were this group of students looking to form a design team as well as focus on humanitarian work,” said Oliveira. “It just all made sense and we went for it.”

After meetings with and passionate pitches to the parent organization, UW Habitat for Humanity and Warrior Home Design Team were born.

The two groups are separate in function but both are closely partnered with the parent organization. Interest has been high for both groups since the club’s launch in May 2017. Students from all faculties are welcome to join either the design team or campus chapter—or both!

“The design team deals with the core engineering design of the home,” said Oliveira, “but it’s not just engineering. We’re looking at environmental design, sustainability, financial analysis, outreach, all these areas.”

The design team plans to complete and perfect a home design in the next two to three years, officially dubbed the “Warrior Home.” Habitat for Humanity will be implementing this design in 2021, when construction will begin in Kitchener. Oliveira believes this presents a unique opportunity, especially for new first-year students joining the team.

“Students will do the design now and three years down the road they’ll actually be able to go on-site and build what we’re designing,” he said.

Hoping to get more students involved in the design process, the team is currently preparing a project for the Race to Zero Student Design Competition in Colorado. Meanwhile, the general campus chapter group continues to focus on community outreach, volunteering, and fundraising.

Oliveira and the other lead members provide free classes with material supplied by the Race to Zero competition. They will be teaching members every aspect of the design process from building science and best practices to software skills, drawing and calculations.

“With the campus chapter and even the design team, we’re trying to be extremely cross-faculty,” said Oliveira. “It’s great getting all these different students involved and bringing them here to the design bays, which usually only engineering students ever get to use.”

Even in his limited free time, Oliveira enjoys working with his hands, choosing to relax with activities like carpentry or arts and crafts. Channeling his passion into a project as large as this one has only increased his drive.

“It doesn’t feel like work,” said Oliveira. “I absolutely love what we’ve done here. It’s been so amazing for me that this feels like a vacation.”

Interested students can check out UW Habitat for Humanity on Clubs and Societies Day or visit the official Facebook page. For questions and queries, the group can be contacted at info@uofwhabitat.ca.

 

Written by Xin Niu Zhang, Communications Assistant.