Dayle Laing

The ‘coolest shade of green’ is the sustainable choice. Dayle Laing is a Professional Speaker and Author who uses her experience and training as an educator, a designer and a LEED Accredited Professional to empower Conscious Consumers to make practical yet beautiful choices for sustainable living, reducing their carbon footprint while enhancing their body, mind & spirit.

cagbc_christine_heyman_dayle_laing_300Christine Heyman & Dayle Laing at CaGBC SymposiumAs a LEED Accredited Professional, I am often asked the trends in beautiful sustainable interior design. I recently attended the Canada Green Building Council Symposium in Toronto to find out the latest, and discovered that old is new!

At the CaGBC conference last year in Vancouver (see links at bottom of this article to previous posts), I was once again struck by the genuine positive “can do” attitude that prevailed at this symposium. The professionals attending were all helpful, cooperative and the mood was uplifting.

The trend for reusing existing materials is one that would have gladdened the hearts of people like my father, who lived through the great depression of the early 20th century. He believed “you never know when you might need something”. We have attained a level of sophistication where valuable resources are preserved, bought, and sold, or donated. They are not stored to gather dust in the basement.

Mark Gorgolowski, Ryerson University professor presented some inspiring examples of “resource salvation”. For example, Mountain Equipment Coop tore down an old building in Ottawa, catalogued the materials, and then incorporated the components into the new design. He noted that the “Building reuse” credit is one that has not been well used in LEED certification, and added we need to overcome the perceived risk that “used is 2nd best”. Older components may be in fact of superior quality! Design fees may be higher and contractors may take extra time to become familiar with the materials, but materials are typically less expensive or may be free if already on site.

Gorgolowski said this requires a cultural change, whereby the owners need to become more flexible, committed to the process, and understand that there might be design constraints that might take longer. Used materials may need to be purchased early and stored, to ensure availability. The number of waste material websites is increasing. Designers need to develop links with salvage yards and demolition contractors so they can think about reuse from the start of the design process. As transportation costs rise, the economics of this will make this design approach the standard, not just a trend!

Vera Straka, Ryerson University professor, presented the concept of “design for disassembly and adaptability”. Buildings may have lives in different forms – a power station is converted to an art gallery! Durability of materials has a special meaning when a building is assumed to last indefinitely! She cited the benefits of preserving the community and heritage. When buildings are designed to be reused, HVAC is placed in a convenient location, structural frames are built so that partitions can be easily removed, and connections are standardized. Everything is documented so de-construction will be easier. (See CSA Z782 & CSA Z73.)`

Brad Guy, a professor from Catholic University of America, Washington DC, explained the difference between “deconstruction” and “demolition”. Deconstruction is a slower process that selectively dismantles in a labour intensive manner to lessen the contamination of other components. There is less dust, noise, but space is required for cataloguing the materials. The benefit is an increase in skilled green jobs, since knowledge is required to assess components and responsibly deal with hazardous materials. Valuable materials can be cherry picked for reuse in the design and other materials sold.  This concept is appropriate for small home renovations as well as whole building construction. There are companies that bid and pay for the rights to deconstruction due to the value of the materials! A good deconstruction should cost less than a demolition! So much for the wrecking ball!

As municipalities deal with waste management issues, this creative approach to handling our materials will gain popularity due to fees for disposal, scarcity of materials, high cost of materials and transportation. Most importantly, the great creative challenge is to “design with the end in mind” (McDonough and Braungard) and use existing and available components in a unique way that pleases the client and brings the designer joy.

This is the first of several articles on trends from the symposium. Comments and questions are welcome.

Links to previous blog articles about the 2010 CaGBC Vancouver conference:





Comments (2)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Thank you Dayle. Indeed "old is new". Common sense is finally being heard.<br />Helene

Helene Combret
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Helene,<br />Common sense sometimes seems to be be not that 'common'. I think conscious consumers have an abundance of common sense and think about things first before they act. Then they make responsible choices because they have the power to...

Helene,<br />Common sense sometimes seems to be be not that 'common'. I think conscious consumers have an abundance of common sense and think about things first before they act. Then they make responsible choices because they have the power to vote with their feet!<br />Cheers,<br />Dayle

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