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.

2010_conference_logoHow to build or renovate homes to be green, save energy and money and reduce our carbon footprint. This is my 3rd article on information presented at the annual conference of the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) in Vancouver, in June, 2010.

(Check this blog, if you missed the 1st two articles and want to catch up.)

Derek Hikson from Minto_Homes and Allan Dobie from Canada Mortgage and Housing, presented “Incorporating LEED for Homes in Sustainable Communities”.  CMHC is currently assisting 13 housing projects across Canada with their EQuilbrium™ Housing Initiative, which “offers builders and developers across the country a unique opportunity to stand out as market leaders by building healthier homes and sustainable communities”.

minto_house_250Derek said that Minto believes it has a corporate responsibility, that there is a market for green building and that they can make a profit. They offer homes at different levels of certification with different price points. Most interesting is their calculation that shows mortgage + utility costs per month with expected pay back time for each option. (This is one area consumers and designers often overlook, in my opinion: the total lifecycle operating cost for a purchase decision.)

envelope_150In the Minto projects, they claim the largest effect is achieved with a tight building envelope. They are orienting the homes and using overhanging roofs for solar gain, constructing double-studded walls with cellulose blown insulation totaling R-60, and using triple paned windows with low-E and argon fill. They focus on

eliminating air conditioning from the design. (As I write this, my thermometer hovers at 35C (95F) and I would gladly be more comfortable and save money without AC.) Minto cross-ventilates their home designs with wall openings and operable transoms over both doors and windows for improved comfort from air circulation.

energy_star_logo_100They select lower energy consuming EnergyStar® appliances and front-loading washing machines. All municipal water coming into the home is filtered. There is also a superior air filtration system in the house design.

house_all_off_switch_250Each home employs an “all-off switch” at the front door to turn off the power to the “phantom load” appliances that are plugged into a designated “green outlet” in each room! (This is a fabulous idea for a significant renovation when an old home is taken back to the studs for re-wiring, or for constructing a new home. This is an example where modern technology can assist us in many ways to make our homes ‘smarter’ for conserving natural resources and keeping our costs in check. Although one engineer I spoke with debated the issue of phantom load, it would still be a great convenience to have an all-off switch at the front door!)

Photo voltaic (PV) solar systems of 6 kilowatts, are installed on the house roof for heating and hot water. This takes advantage of the province of Ontario’s FIT program (Feed-In-Tariff). Minto used a 45 degree roof slope for an optimal angle, but going forward, would reduce this slope.

They used 1.9 gpm shower heads and will use the newly available lower flow 1.6 gpm on the next project. The dual flush toilets are fed with rainwater harvested from the roof. Landscaping consists of plants that are native to the area or have been adapted and can grow easily without irrigation. (I like the idea of not having to water the garden – saves time and water!)

All heavy products were sourced locally, like the slate used for flooring. It contributes to thermal massing that absorbs heat during the winter day and gives it off at night. The drywall has 100% recycled content and the wood used is Forestry Stewardship Certified (FSC), meaning that it has a chain of custody right from the tree in the forest through to its use in the home.

leed_can_for_homes_logo_150The fact that these homes are LEED® certified featured prominently in their marketing material and Minto said these homes sold faster than they had expected. Since workers learned ‘tricks’ as they built double studded walls, the labour costs dropped to the level of single studded walls. So, one can predict economies of scale and efficiencies as experience is gained and more green houses are built.

natural_balance_demonstration_home_250Nick Kerchum, principle with Natural_Balance_Home_Builders_Inc. , presented his Vancouver Natural Balance Demonstration Home, built to LEED Platinum certification in the “Little House, Big House” seminar. In his 3100 square foot home with 5 bedrooms on a 43 x 120 foot lot, he packed in some amazing green features.

nick_kerchum_green_roof_250Surprisingly, some municipalities disallow green roofs for residential applications. Nick did manage to obtain permission for 4 green roof areas and noted that building codes are transitioning to make building green easier. Nick's website said, “green roofs reduce heating and cooling loads and storm water run off, and filter pollutants and CO2 from the air.”

He used radiant infloor heating, rated to EnerGuide 85. (I love the homes I have visited with infloor heating; they are so comfortable year round. It makes it easier to take off your shoes at the door and not track in pollutants when your feet don’t get cold!) In this home, Nick used an air-to-water heat pump instead of geothermal. Nick found the price better, but cautioned that it is not as efficient in colder climates such as those found in central and eastern North America. He suggested floor sensors on the slab, rather than wall sensors, due to having such an air-tight house.

nick_kerchum_interior_250Using 11 foot high ceilings to convey more spaciousness, Nick chose reclaimed granite for several interior finishes and FSC certified millwork. He used Green Guard certified paint, coatings and glues to ensure no or low odour, for better indoor air quality.

Chris Mattock, principle architect with HD+C Ltd. and professor at UBC, presented “Building on Success: Leading edge approaches to achieving a net-zero home” about his design, Harmony_House in Burnaby British Columbia, another CMHC EQuilbrium™ Housing Initiative project.

harmony_house_250Chris designed a roof of R-60, walls of R-40, and chose triple glazed R-6 windows with 3 low-E coatings. In his effort to minimize the wall thickness, he used Icynene R-50 castor bean oil based spray foam insulation and Panasonic vacuum insulation panels, rated to R-30. The panels were originally developed for refrigerators! They do require careful and skilled installation since the vacuum can be compromised if the panels are punctured with nails or wood shards from the sheathing. He was initially concerned about potential moisture build up in his Vancouver damp climate, but testing revealed there was no condensation. The drawback for this technology was that the design was limited with 24” on centre studs, affecting window and door placement. He still concluded that the insulation panels are preferable to double stud construction. 

mountain_pine_beetle_wood_250Mountain Beetle pine wood was used in the Harmony House project. The beetles have infested the Lodgepole Pines of British Columbia due to mild winters, staining the wood blue. It has no effect on the structural integrity of the wood, according to the Ministry of Forests in BC, and can be turned to decorative advantage. The wood is very dry and does require conditioning.

vivo_victoria_homeIn the VIVO LEED Platinum House in Victoria, an innovative use was made of salvage materials for the building siding. (This reminds me of the ‘depression mentality’ of our parents or grandparents, who kept and reused everything. Now we are doing the same thing! One prediction is that we will be mining our landfill sites in the future.)

In summary, all the builders and designers spoke of thermal massing, tight building envelopes, innovative techniques and products to lower power and water use, and using building materials with recycled content to achieve fabulous and efficient designs. If you would like further information or wish to book an educational or motivational seminar for your group, please contact the office at 905-846-3221.

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Simple and beautiful! Brilliant writing style, I never get bored of your posts. Please keep sharing your knowledge with us.

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