We are in a climate emergency that requires each of us to do our individual part, and encourage family, friends and all levels of government to act for sustainability in every area of our lives. We all can make a difference!  


seal cove harbour 300Our choices cast ripples that can impact in unexpected ways.

When I visited the Interface booth at IIDEX, I was struck by their gorgeous "Net Effect" carpet tiles, constructed from reclaimed fishing nets.

Local villagers on a remote Philippine Island clean, sort and sell their discarded nets to Interface’s yarn supplier, Aquafil, a pioneer in nylon 6 recycling. The London Zoological Society organized Net Works  to plan and manage this international partnership. CoMSCA set up community banking to provide savings and loan opportunities to the village members.

interface net effect carpet 300A rare opportunity to link conservation with new income generation has been achieved with this program. This cleans the beaches, earns much-needed income, and results in beautiful carpet!

The common elements of this story immediately reminded me of sea kayaking off Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick. My annual trip with my two sisters took us to the Bay of Fundy on Canada’s east coast.

ferns 300Sustainability is so overused, that one wonders what the true meaning of the word is.

A healthy bottom line makes a business ‘sustainable’. A good relationship is called ‘sustainable’. A product that can be recycled has even been confusedly called ‘sustainable’. It is used interchangeably with the more general term ‘green’.

Professors William McDonough (American Architect) and Michael Braungart (German Chemist), coauthors of Cradle-to-Cradle  (2002),said in their The Hannover Principles – Design for Sustainability (1992), that “sustainability is a loaded and slippery term”.

The Oxford Dictionary defines sustainable as, “able to be maintained at a certain rate or level”.

The Association for Contract Textiles (ACT),defines a sustainable product as one that has “no negative impact on natural ecosystems or resources”.

inline fiberglass window installation 500Embarking on window replacement this season?

What are the critical points you need to know for a successful purchase decision and installation? Learn from my recent experience.

Natural Resources Canada in their 2003 \"Consumer\'s Guide to Buying Energy-Efficient Windows and Doors\" said that the “best energy performance in window frames has been achieved using a fibreglass frame with foam insulation in the frame cavities”.

Our expensive wood framed windows rotted after only 15 years, and our Energy Audit reinforced what we already knew. The time had come.

installing casement unit 300 I researched fibreglass frame window manufacturers, and selected Inline Fiberglass Ltd. based on local manufacturing, esthetic and performance features, and price.

Design considerations

Consider style and operation. Does your window need to open or can it be fixed? Fixed as you might expect, provides slightly better performance ratings. Casement windows opening in the direction of the prevailing winds catch breezes allowing cooling and ventilation without air conditioning. Unless you are living in a smoggy area, it is more pleasant to be able to open windows.

What do the windows look like from the exterior? Is a casement style in better keeping with your façade or would double-hung look better? Casement windows are easier to operate and from most companies, provide a tighter seal for better performance. I selected some casement and some fixed for both performance and appearance.

What colour should the frame exterior be? Does the choice look well with the building façade? Is it too bland, or does it have so much contrast that the windows dominate? If you pick white, does it clash with ivory soffits and eaves troughs? Inline offers custom colours, as well as the standard brown that was perfect for our look.

oak wood interior finish 300What colour of interior options are available? I wanted brown for the exterior and white for the interior. Should I wish to change this in the future, the frame is paintable. For the formal living room, I wanted the oak wood interior finish option, which was not available from other manufacturers that I checked. The oak stained and sealed beautifully.

Performance Considerations

If I were building a new house, I would not hesitate to triple-glaze the windows. Since the energy efficiency of our 30 year old house is limited by the existing wall insulation, the extra expense of triple versus double glazing did not make sense. I selected double glazed, low E, argon filled windows, as I discussed in greater detail in my previous article on green window architecture.

energy star window 300All the windows installed were Energy Star® rated, and Natural Resources Canada states that models for your zone will “reduce your home energy costs by 7 to 12 percent”. In the Toronto area, Zone B has a maximum U-factor of .28 (equivalent to R3.6). Our windows exceeded the standard with a U-factor of .26 (R3.9).

The Installation

The installers moved quickly from room to room, using a crowbar and a reciprocating saw to neatly remove the old windows. In no time, they were installing and leveling the new units as they went.

interior caulking 300Most important was the attention to caulking, both interior and exterior. Polyurethane spray foam is the best option available now. By selecting a slightly wider casement moulding trim, wall touch-up painting was kept to a minimum.

Overall, a positive experience and we look forward to completing the other side of the house. Let the energy savings start!


sustainable interior design trends 300Recent research indicates the premium for green construction is dropping and barriers to sustainable design are being reduced. Increasingly consumers are choosing sustainability when green options are clearly explained. From a design perspective, sustainable choices become less popular if a consumer has to replace an item due to dissatisfaction or poor performance.

dayle speaking green building conference 300Dayle Laing spoke at the National Green Building Conference at Construct Canada in Toronto on November 28, 2012 to a large group of Interior Designers, Architects, Builders, Building Owners and LEED® Accredited Professionals. She discussed the sustainable trends that have a real impact in terms of longer term customer satisfaction and increased property value. As conscious consumers, people want to do the “right thing” for the environment and it certainly helps when that also saves them money during the life cycle of the product.

wolfe island wind turbine tilted 500Wolfe Island Wind Farm Analysis

We were shivering; bracing against a blustery, bone-chilling north-west wind, yet virtually hypnotized by the majestic beauty of the guardian towers and the gentle swish, swish, swish of the rotating blades. We wanted to linger far longer, but the cold won out as a freshening gust drove us back to the comfort of our car. It was a damp chilly day in early December 2012 and my wife Dayle and I were on Wolfe Island near Kingston Ontario, just finishing a visit to Canada’s second largest wind farm project. Our purpose was to get a firsthand perspective on the benefits and detractions of wind turbines as an economical power source for the Province of Ontario and also to understand the impact of those turbines, both positive and negative, on the local Wolfe Island community.

wolfe island wind dave laing 300The Wind Farm on Wolfe Island boasts 86 turbines, each capable of generating 2.3 Megawatts, when running at peak capacity. The 197.8 megawatt farm is just under the 200 megawatt limit allowed in Ontario. Of course theoretical capacity is not the same as actual output. The wind is fickle and the turbines aren't always spinning at their maximum velocity. Maintenance activity, both scheduled and unscheduled also reduces wind farm capacity. But, even considering these inefficiencies, Wolfe Island produces sufficient electricity to meet over 68% of the power requirements for the Kingston Metropolitan Area. [1]

toronto skylineCapitalism is outdated; is there a better alternative?

“We need to act like our future depends on it”; that was the opening line for the Capitalism 2.0 seminar David Laing attended on December 5th, 2012, organized by the Toronto Sustainability Speakers Series (TSSS).

The quote was from a recent TED talk by Paul Gilding, an Australian environmentalist, consultant and author. In his TED presentation Paul stated that our economy is a system operating past its limits and outgrowing the earth’s ability to support it. He argued that, rather than increasing happiness and well-being for the majority, the economy increasingly concentrates wealth in the hands of a few, demands ever increasing levels of workforce productivity, insatiably consumes increasingly scarce resources while spewing toxins into an increasingly less hospitable ecosystem. Following the laws of physics, he said, it will break down and the breakdown is already starting.

Evergreen Brick Works DSAIWe love to be inspired by a creative example that motivates and educates us. Such a jewel is nestled in the Don Valley of Toronto: the Evergreen Brick Works.

Last year, Evergreen Brick Works  was named one of the world’s top 10 geo-tourism destinations by National Geographic. This was the perfect site for the Green Building Festival 2012, organized by Sustainable Buildings Canada  on October 11-12th.  SBC’s motto is “enabling the building industry to measurably improve the performance of the built environment”.

dayle_moderating_evergreen_brick_works_300I was honoured to be engaged by Inline Fiberglass Ltd., to moderate the session on Innovative Technology Solutions: Envelope & Glazing Options. Inline’s fiberglass-framed windows were selected by Diamond & Schmitt Architects, contributing to LEED Platinum certification for the main building of the complex. Rated a U-Value of 0.125 (equivalent to R-8), these high performance windows factored into the building’s annual energy savings of 34% and a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 14 tonnes.

Architects and engineers gathered to hear presentations on this year’s theme: “New Codes, Better Buildings”. Effective January 2012, Ontario implemented Supplementary Standard SB-10 , an improvement to the energy efficiency of large buildings by conforming to a minimum of 25% better than the 1997 Model National Energy Code for Buildings (MNECB+25%), or by using alternative compliance pathways to achieve efficiencies.

evergreen_brick_works_4_300When I studied to become a LEED Accredited Professional, I learned that the intent of Canada Green Building Council's LEED Certification is to set standards that exceed Building Codes, and that once those codes improve to LEED standards, then the LEED base level bar will be raised again, resulting in ever-better outcomes for our efficient use of resources and our carbon footprint.

The two speakers in our Innovative Technology Solutions: Envelope & Glazing Options session made presentations followed by Q & A...



“Marble countertops are way prettier” commented an attendee at a recent seminar I presented.

Do you agree? Have you noticed the frequency of marble counterops displayed in design magazines? Is marble practical for kitchen countertops? Are there other equally ‘pretty’ options available on the market?


cambria_showroom_ramsin_500I recently toured the new Toronto showroom of Cambria at 91 Parliament Street

to investigate marble alternatives. Impressively set in a historic building in the distillery district, design vignettes contrast the original beams, posts, and flooring antique features. Jane Lockhart incorporated reclaimed wood into her kitchen design and creatively used 4 different designs cut into backsplash tiles. Ramsin Khachi’s Loft Bath displays an exquisite use of both ‘New Quay’ and ‘Wellington’ in his elegant pair of soaker tubs.

dale_hickinson_introduces_dayle_laing_350Searching for the competitive edge that will make their sales more valuable to consumers,

Realtors and Designers gathered at an evening hosted in the showroom of Speers Road Broadloom on May 23, 2012 to hear Dayle Laing speak about the Greening of Real Estate. This is the first of a series of seminars that will provide continuing education to professionals.

Recent research by the US construction giant McGraw-Hill reports that “green homes are seen as having higher quality and that they save consumers money”. Environmental Green Resources link to McGraw-Hill Report

speers_road_broadloom_welcomes_dayle_laing_350Consumers want to buy homes that will be economical to operate and sell homes that fetch top dollar.

Energy-efficient upgrades, products that improve indoor air quality and durable features appeal to purchasers. Builders and renovators report that green construction costs very little extra if anything. Abundance of new green products and more experience building and installing have led to efficiencies. Dayle pick a few of her favourites in this one hour seminar.

What does the EnerGuide Rating System (ERS) mean to you?

energuide_rating_200Why is this important when buying, selling, renovating or operating your home or advising your client? How does this information translate into cost of energy and comfort during summer and winter?

Following up on my home Energy Audit,  I received an EnerGuide Rating from the energy advisor. It bears some explanation because it is not as simple as the score you might receive on a test if you had studied particularly hard!

The energy advisor performs a home visit where he looks at heating and cooling systems, hot water heater, house construction, roof, skylights, doors and windows and performs a ‘blower door test’ to determine air leaks. He then puts data from the audit into a computer program. Software compares the results from your home to a typical house of similar size in the same regional climate. The rating system bears some explanation.