Make a Wooden Cutting Board workshop

cutting board 3

Saturday, July 16, 2016
9.30 am to 4.30 pm
Endeavour Centre, Peterborough

Instructor: Annie Murphy

Learn the basics of woodworking during this 1-day introductory workshop. We’ll walk you through the basics of working with wood, hand and power tools and you’ll discover the joy of woodworking as you complete a take-home project. We’ll go over the major shop tools (jointer, planer, table-saw, chop-saw, router, bandsaw), show you how to use them safely and discuss what to consider when buying tools. Each participant will build a unique cutting board and we’ll go over wood finishing products and all the non-toxic, healthy options out there.

Entry Requirements
Open to all

Fee
Early Bird – $125
Regular – $150
Includes healthy lunch (vegetarian and vegan options available)

Maximum class size: 12

Design Your Own Sustainable Home – in Toronto & Ottawa

Straw bale passive house office building

March 19-20, 2016 (Ottawa)
9.30 am to 4.30 pm
Collab Space, 70 Bongard Avenue

Instructor: Chris Magwood

Workshop Description

Do you dream of designing and building a sustainable home so you can live lightly (and affordably!) on the planet? Or of renovating your existing home to be more natural and energy efficient? If so, you’re not alone!

However, many questions face the prospective owner-builder setting out on this journey. To design yourself or hire a designer? How to choose from a myriad of competing natural building materials? How to choose heating options, water and waste options, electricity options? How to manage budgets and timelines? How to choose a piece of land?To build yourself, or hire builders for different phases? This workshop will explore all of these questions in an in-depth way.

The workshop is designed to be an un-biased look at all the options available to the prospective owner-builder, and to assist you with tools to help you assess and choose your way to the house of your dreams. You will leave this workshop ready to handle all the competing claims and information you will face by focusing on your personal goals and aspirations and creating a road map for how best to meet them.

Making Better Buildings book by Chris Magwood

Making Better Buildings by Chris Magwood

This course was the inspiration for Chris Magwood’s new book, Making Better Buildings. The book will be available at the workshop.

Entry Requirements
Open to all

Fee
Early bird – $350
Regular – $400
$600 – Couple rate

Maximum class size: 12

Ecological Building: From Fringe to Almost-Mainstream, 1996-2016

cooper truth window

Maybe the Weirdoes Weren’t So Weird After All

2016 marks the 20th year since the idea of building houses with straw bales completely transformed my life. Back in 1996, I wanted to build a home for my family that would achieve two seemingly simple goals:

  1. The home would make our lives financially sustainable by being affordable to build and having very low operating costs
  2. We’d have a smaller impact on the environment than conventional practices

While these were not particularly radical or even new goals, they certainly weren’t ones that we shared with many other people at the time. Our decision to go ahead and build the first code-permitted straw bale home in Ontario was met with many more quizzical looks or outright expressions of derision than interest or congratulations. Almost all of our reasons for building a low-cost, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly home where met with the question, “Why?”

cooper straw installation

Straw bales almost tripled the code requirements for wall insulation in 1996.

You’re Using R-What?
Then: The notion of insulating a home was well accepted by that time (and even mandated by the building code), but the notion of using anything more than the low code minimum was largely seen as excessive. No insulation was required for basements or under slabs, and air tightness was only being discussed in whispers. The R-2000 program had been around for a while, but even many of its proponents thought the idea of a straw bale wall’s R-40 (or so was the number used at the time) and our plans for R-48 in the roof was kind of overkill. The most receptive audience for the kind of energy efficiency promised by straw bale building was among individual homeowners eager, like us, to greatly reduce or even eliminate heating bills from our monthly overhead, effectively “buying” us a degree of freedom from financial burden.

Now: This is the one area in which conventional building has started to wholeheartedly adopt the strategies of the early green builders. The building code is on a planned pathway to ever-higher levels of insulation and energy efficiency, including targets for improved air tightness. There are numerous voluntary standards to encourage homeowners and builders to exceed code minimum efficiency (such as LEED for Homes and Energy Star), and software programs for modeling energy efficiency. The Passive House standard, nearly unthinkable back in 1996, is gaining traction and showing what’s possible when energy efficiency is taken really seriously. It won’t be long before straw bale walls at R-30 barely meet code requirements, and must already be exceeded to meet the higher standards. It has never been so easy to build a truly energy efficient home.

cooper frame

Recycling old barn timbers was just one strategy to lower the environmental impact.

Environmental Impact from Buildings?
Then: Even less understandable at the time was the urge to build with less of an “ecological footprint.” Even the term itself, which seems to have surfaced in 1992 (coined by Canadian ecologist and University of British Columbia professor William Rees), was unusual at the time, and the notion that choices regarding building materials could have a huge impact on the planet was just starting to be raised as an issue. The fledgling US Green Building Council, formed in 1993, was at the forefront of bringing this issue to light in North America… but nobody was really paying attention. And the idea that these environmental impacts could include climate change due to the high carbon output in the harvesting and production of building materials was nowhere on the public awareness radar.

Now: While there is still a long way to go to remedy the vast impacts that our building materials have on the environment, the problem is at least recognized and seems likely to start to be addressed seriously in the near future. An ever-growing body of data (ICE, EcoInvent, Green Footstep) can help to quantify environmental impacts, embodied energy and, of recent government and citizen concern, carbon footprint. I spent a year of my life writing a book called Making Better Buildings that presents data for a wide range of conventional and green building approaches. It is much easier now than ever before to have an understanding of the impact a building will have on the environment and make informed choices to minimize these impacts. Not many are making these choices, but the groundwork exists and government encouragement to make them seems likely. Advocates for materials like straw bale had a sound argument to make in 1996, and it finally seems to be catching the ear of the wider culture just now.

cooper solar gear

Home made solar thermal collectors and a cobbled PV system allowed for energy independence.

Renewable Energy?
Then: Our decision to go “off-grid” with our straw bale home wasn’t part of our original plan. But the high cost of hooking up to the grid mixed with a rapidly dwindling budget led us to live our first year or two in the home with no electricity other than a car battery hooked to the water pump. Surprised by the lack of discomfort (ample hot water came from solar collectors and a woodstove jacket), we were able to approach the idea of designing an off-grid electrical system as a way to provide “luxuries” like reading lights, a stereo and laptop computer use. Starting small, the system grew over time to include photovoltaic panels, wind and micro hydro. It was far from the slick systems that are readily available (and less expensive) today, but it met our needs and awakened my interest in examining conventional use of household energy and how high levels of personal comfort could come from vastly reduced consumption. From refrigerators that use cold air in the winter time to augment electric compressors to forays into early forms of LED lighting, the potential for minimizing needs without sacrificing amenities became a passion.

Now: The incredible drop in cost for photovoltaic panels has put renewables on a nearly even footing with fossil fuel energy… Incredible, considering the high levels of subsidies given to fossil fuels versus renewables. Here in Ontario, the MicroFIT program makes it financially prudent to put green energy onto the utility grid, and similar programs exist around North America. Energy storage is a top priority among researchers, with new battery technologies and systems beginning to make it to market. The distinction between being on- and off-grid could get blurry in the next decade as shared distribution of renewable energy on the grid combines with household storage capacity to re-shape household power solutions. This is one area where there are both improvements in the technology and more widespread adoption than twenty years ago. Codes, however, do not address these issues at all.

C&J's dining room

Non-toxic finishes were difficult to find, and often ended up being home made.

Sick Buildings and Healthy Materials?
Then: The World Health Organization coined the term “sick building syndrome” in 1984, as part of a study that found that over 30% of new or newly renovated buildings were the subject of health complaints by the occupants. The International Institute of Building Biologie and Ecology was formed in 1987. Not many people were listening. But this did not stop academic and lay researchers from questioning the ever-growing number of untested chemicals being combined in our building materials and wondering about the health impacts on building occupants. Those few who were concerned with this issue did not have a wide selection of commercially available products identified as being non-toxic to choose from. Homemade finishes were one important means of having control over what went into a building.

Now: Though an increasing volume and quality of research is showing the negative health effects of toxins in our buildings, this is an area has made very little headway into the mainstream. This despite the fact that we all have a vested interest in living and working in non-toxic buildings.

Small companies began to surface in the early 2000s dedicated to producing building materials free from proven or potentially toxic compounds. While few of these have mainstream distribution channels, it is entirely possible to build an entire house that has no or very little questionable chemical content. Programs like Declare and Cradle-to-Cradle ask manufacturers to fully disclose the ingredients for their building products, and the Living Building Challenge and other programs have chemical red lists to help homeowners and builders avoid potential toxins. There is no recognition of material toxicity in codes.

Low Cost Options
Then: A more regulated residential building sector was just a gleam in regulator’s eyes in 1996. The pathways for owner-builders to pursue innovative projects were less cluttered with requirements, and builders could operate much more informally, outside the scope of prescriptions, taxation and regulation. This meant that several layers of cost did not necessarily have to be borne by a project budget then. Building wasn’t exactly cheap twenty years ago, but the possibilities for building less expensively were there to be pursued.

Now: More regulations that are more strictly enforced have definitely raised building costs over the last two decades. And building material costs have risen at a rate that has exceeded general inflation. Many decades of treating real estate as short-term investment have raised land and building costs, making the cost of projects higher. Development charges, service fees, an increasing reliance on engineering approval and a more formalized scenario for builders have all put upward pressure on costs. It is more difficult than ever to build affordably, so even though the costs of building greener are well within the parameters of conventional costs, those conventional costs are increasingly out of the ability of a typical family to afford. There is no way my family and I could have acted on our 1996 dream if we were in the same position now in 2016. And that is saddening.

Everyone is Coming Down This Path
The forefront of ecological building is still a long way away from mainstream practice. But it’s not nearly as far away as it was twenty years ago; not a result of the leading edge practitioners being less adventurous or pushing less at the boundaries… rather, it’s the mainstream starting to pay attention. It may be a bit like watching a brontosaurus slowly turn its head to acknowledge an annoying bite on its tail, but it is starting to turning around.

Energy efficiency got the construction sector’s attention first. Material impacts on the environment (especially carbon) are increasingly gaining notice, and action on this front is likely in the near future. It won’t be long before occupant health likewise finds active proponents in government and industry, and the presence of toxins in the built environment begins to be treated as seriously as it should.

As I watch the behemoth slowly react, it seems worthwhile to acknowledge that, as with so much social change, the changes start on the fringe with creative thinkers and early adopters acting well outside the mainstream. It turns out that the weirdoes in 1996 were onto something, and that something is looking more and more like it makes “common” sense!

Green & Healthy Home Renovation series

Tub room

Greening Your Kitchen & Bathroom
– Tuesday, November 1

Improving Your Home’s Energy Efficiency
– Tuesday, November 8

Choosing Healthy Paints, Finishes & Flooring
– Tuesday, November 15

All presentations 6 pm to 9 pm
Endeavour Centre, Peterborough

Instructor: Chris Magwood

Are you looking to renovate your home in a greener, healthier way? There is so much conflicting information out there it can be hard to know what to do.

Don’t get your information from a salesman!
This series of evening presentations gives you a chance to learn about a wide range of options from an unbiased source – long-time sustainable builder Chris Magwood. As the author of the book Making Better Buildings, Chris has made a name for himself for giving good, well-researched and honest advice to home owners about how to make the right green choices to meet their own unique goals.

 

See and experience a wide range of options
Not only will you learn about how to assess and choose green building options, the Endeavour Centre classroom is a living laboratory of green building and you will be able to see and experience samples of materials, systems and products.

Affordable and practical green solutions
Most people think that renovating in a green and healthy way will cost them a lot more money, but that’s not necessarily the case. The Green Renovation Series offers practical advice and a real focus on affordability to help you meet your goals on your budget.

Get answers to your questions
Each presentation will include a generous amount of question-and-answer time, allowing you to get specific advice on your own projects. A hand-out will be included to help you source all the materials and systems discussed during the workshop.

Put 20 years of green building knowledge to work for you
Finding out how to make choices that are healthy for you and your family and for the planet is a lot less difficult than you might think. Each of these 3-hour presentations is lively, engaging and informative. Come to any one of the presentations for just $25, or come to all three for just $60.

Entry requirements
Open to all

Fee
Each presentation – $25
Attend all three for just $60

Net Zero Energy Certification Course

Canada's Greenest Home

June 18-19, 2016
9 am – 5 pm, both days
Endeavour Centre, Peterborough

Instructor: Ross Elliott

Workshop Description:

Don’t miss this highly-rated, information-packed workshop, loaded with everything you need to know about the Net Zero Energy/Net Zero Ready home building and the CHBA Net Zero Energy pilot. Net Zero Energy Homes are the pinnacle of energy efficiency, and third-party verified to be ultra efficient.

Benefit from your position as one of the first Net Zero-trained home builders as part of the pilot program.

Train with one of the country’s leading building scientists, Homesol’s Ross Elliott, in conjunction with the #1 certifier of energy efficient homes in Canada, EnerQuality

Many of our builder participants are already building high performance homes.

This information-packed workshop will provide you with:

  • Unparalleled building science technical preparation for building Net Zero and Net Zero Ready homes based on the incoming CHBA Net Zero protocol
  • The ability to efficiently design and plan for the incoming Net Zero certification requirements
  • Practical understanding of how to build homes to Net Zero standards, using cost-effective technologies which are already available
  • Tips to successfully market and sell a Net Zero home by one of Canada’s most-seasoned experts
  • Entry to a community of builders who will be receiving ongoing, practical information on the development of the program, including support from EnerQuality’s administrative and Quality Assurance team
  • Certificate recognition of your training and expertise
  • Net Zero R-2000 training Manual for use during the workshop and the future reference
  • Recognition as an R-2000 trained builder and/or maintain your access status

Date/Location

Saturday-Sunday, June 18-19 2016

Endeavour Centre, 910 High St Unit 14, Peterborough, ON K9J 5RJ

Cost:

$899 + HST

HBA Members $799 + HST

The CHBA Builder’s Manual (2013) is a required text. You may purchase this through EnerQuality, or bring your own.

Please note that HBA membership is required to have homes certified under Net Zero. The Net Zero program is in development and updates and revisions to the program may be made. 

Course Content

  • Building Science Principles
  • Air Barrier Systems
  • Renewables
  • Windows
  • Foundations
  • Advanced Construction
  • Air-Sealing Techniques
  • Mechanical Systems
  • Marketing
  • R-2000 Quality Assurance Process Overview
  • CHBA NZE Labelling Program Requirements & Process Review
  • New and Better Building Techniques
  • Best Practices
  • Lessons Learned
  • Consumer Benefits
  • Networking
  • More!

This workshop satisfies OAA and OBOA Continuing Education Credits, R-2000* Builder Training and CHBA NZE Pilot Builder Training.

Instructor

Ross Elliott 2015

Ross Elliott

Ross Elliott, President and CEO of Homesol Building Solutions Inc., inspires owners, builders, designers and policymakers to create some of North America’s most energy efficient homes. He is a Certified Passive House Consultant (both iPHI and PHIUS) with over 30 years expertise in sustainable building & design. Ross and his team have completed almost 20,000 building energy evaluations, from ENERGY STAR® for New Homes, R-2000, and Home Energy Check-up Reports, to LEED, Passive House and Zero Energy+ homes. Named, for the second time in 2011, Ontario’s Energy Evaluator of the Year, and awarded EnerQuality Hall of Fame in 2014, Ross is also a LEED-Accredited Professional (Building Design & Construction), a Certified Energy Evaluator for ENERGY STAR® & R-2000 and is a qualified Air Systems & Radiant Hydronic Design Technician. He holds a BCIN Designer designation with the Ontario Ministry of Housing, and is experienced with natural building materials such as strawbale.

Active in his industry, Ross is a Director and Founding Member of Passive Buildings Canada and the Global Passive Buildings Council, a Faculty Member of the Canada Green Building Council and is a past Director of EnerQuality Corporation. He is also a Director of the Ontario Natural Building Coalition. He has provided research and training for major organizations including CMHC, Ontario First Nations Technical Services and Natural Resources Canada. Ross is completing his Masters in Ecological Design, and is currently working with dozens of sustainable building projects including a Zero Energy Passive House, a soap bubble insulated & shaded greenhouse, and his own rural home near Ottawa, recently certified as LEED Gold, R-2000, ENERGY STAR®, EnerGuide 90 and GreenHouse. He first trained as an energy auditor in 1979, worked as a Licensed Journeyman Carpenter for 10 years and operated his own construction business, specializing in Earth Friendly Homes, for seven years before starting Homesol in 1999.

Registration

Interested participants can register online.

If you have any further questions please contact our office at 416-447-0077 or via email at Jessika@EnerQuality.ca.

Cancellation Policy

EnerQuality endeavours to be as flexible as possible with our cancellation policy.  In the event you are unable to personally attend a workshop, you may, with prior notice, substitute another representative from your company. A refund (less $50 administration fee) will be issued for cancellations made up to 45 days in advance of the workshop. Contractual obligations and agreements with third parties may require for the policy to be amended or revised from time to time. EnerQuality reserves the right to reschedule, relocate, or cancel events. Should this be required, we will provide prior notice to all registrants.

 

 

Compressed Earth Block Workshop

ceb 2

Sunday, April 24, 2016
9.30 am – 5.00 pm
Cold Springs, Ontario

Instructors: Chris Magwood & Henry Wiersma

Workshop Description:

Learn how to work with locally-made, low-impact, durable compressed earth blocks (CEB, or rammed earth blocks) for foundations, exterior walls and interior walls.

CEB building is a low-tech building solution using basic materials and simple tools. Drawing on the age-old technique of rammed earth building, CEB uses a hydraulic press to create unfired earthen blocks.

CEB construction can often use site soils as the basis for the rammed earth mix, or local gravel, sand, clay (or other binders) can be used.

 

In this workshop you will see how an earth block press operates, and learn how to create a suitable rammed earth mix. You will learn how to mix a mortar suitable for CEB and how to lay up the blocks in a small wall project. Engineering and code approvals will also be covered.

You will be able to tour a completed earth block building with the CEB used for the walls and the floor.

At the end of this workshop, you will be ready to construct your own compressed earth block project!

Entry Requirements
Open to all

Fee
Early bird – $125
Regular – $150
Fees include healthy lunch (vegan and vegetarian options available)

Maximum class size: 12

BCIN – Small Buildings Exam Prep Course

BCIN Small Buildings – Exam Prep Course2012 Building Code Compendium
June 6 –  10, 2016
8.30 am to 4.30 pm
Endeavour Centre, Peterborough

Instructor: Jeff Chalmers

In Ontario, all building design practitioners must obtain a Building Code Identification Number (BCIN) to ensure familiarity with the Ontario Building Code and to be eligible to obtain the insurance necessary to practice professionally. For designers of small residential and non-residential buildings under 6,000m3 two exams must be passed: General Legal/Process and Part 9/Small Buildings. 

Endeavour will be presenting preparatory courses for both the General Legal/Process and Part 9/Small Buildings exams.  We will be offering the new, updated OBOA (Ontario Building Official’s Association) curriculum training, which are the only courses built around the new 2012 Ontario Building Code.

Participants will need their own copy of the two-volume Ontario Building Code-2012 or fully up to date 2006. 

You can buy the code book HERE   –2012 Building Code Compendium
(2 Volume Binder Set)  ISBN-978-1-4606-2444-9 

OBOA work books are included in registration costs!

This training course has been developed to assist experienced practitioners review and become more familiar with the portions of the 2012 Building Code dealing with Part 9 small buildings. It is largely based on Parts 3, 9 and 12 of Division B of the Building Code along with Supplementary Standards SB-2, SB-3, and SB-7, Note: SB-9 is covered in the companion manual entitled House – 2012. The Small Buildings Manual has been designed to prepare those Building Code Act Practitioners who intend to challenge the Small Buildings – 2012 examination.

At the end of the course, you will be prepared to challenge the examinations for each course, which are held regularly at sites across Ontario. See the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing web site at http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page8617.aspx for exam locations and dates.

Entry Requirements
Must own a copy of the 2012 Ontario Building Code.  See links above to obtain a copy of the Building code.

Fee
Early Bird $595 – Includes workbook (value of 125$) 
Regular $650 – Includes workbook (value of 125$) 

Maximum class size: 12

Eco Paints: Understanding Healthy House Paint – Toronto

Monday, February 8, 2016
Evening workshop, 6 – 9 pm
SpaceShare by SKETCH, 180 Shaw St, Toronto

Instructor: Chris Magwood

Workshop Description:

Learn how to use a wide range of natural, non-toxic eco-paints that are beautiful, healthy, durable and affordable.

natural non-toxic paintOur homes contain hundreds of square feet of painted surfaces, and most of them are covered with petrochemical products. Even the latest “no-VOC” paints contain chemical compounds that are bad for the environment in their production, disposal and for occupants during their lifespan on our walls. Fortunately, there is an exciting array of paints that are made from all-natural materials, and that are non-toxic and biodegradable.

In this workshop, you will learn about a wide range of commercially available paint options, including clay, lime, casein and natural oil paints.

The workshop will cover sourcing paints and ingredients, preparing surfaces (including surfaces that have already been painted) and mixing paints and pigments. You will have the opportunity to apply numerous paints to different surfaces and learn the techniques for working with natural paints.

After this workshop, you will be able to redecorate your existing home or plan the finishes for a new home using only natural, healthy paints.

Entry Requirements
Open to all

Fee
Regular – $35 plus $15 material fee

Maximum class size: 12

Light Clay/Straw Workshop

Straw/clay 2

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday, October 30, 2016
9.30 am to 4.30 pm
Endeavour Centre, Peterborough

Note: This workshop is being offered twice in 2016. Be sure to register for the correct date.

Instructor: Chris Magwood

Workshop Description:

Come and discover how a simple mix of low-cost natural materials can create a remarkable thermal insulation!

Light clay/straw (or slip straw or straw/clay) construction uses straw mixed with clay slip to create an insulation material with good thermal, moisture-handling and structural properties.

In this workshop, participants will learn about the components of straw/clay, see a slideshow of various Canadian and international straw/clay building projects, and gain an understanding of how, why and where straw/clay is an appropriate material choice. In the classroom, we will look at the costs, sourcing and building science of using straw/clay on new building projects and renovations.

In the hands-on component of the workshop, participants will learn how to assess the necessary materials and create a mix that is appropriate for a desired end use. We will use mixing machinery to create batches of straw/clay, and learn how to place them in a wall system. Different types of framing and shuttering (or forming) systems will be shown, and every participant will leave with a straw/clay block they cast themselves.

After this workshop, you will be able to undertake a straw/clay project of your own!

Entry Requirement
Open to all

Fee
Early bird – $125
Regular – $150
Fees include healthy lunch (vegetarian and vegan options available)

Sustainable New Construction 2016, now taking applications

Sustainable building class

An unparalleled learning experience!

Be a team member in the construction of a remarkable sustainable building, from foundation to finishes. Endeavour’s full-time, immersion program puts you front-and-centre as you work with faculty members on an innovative building using natural and low-impact materials to create a super-efficient, healthy, affordable building.

Click here for 2016 course & project details…

 

Top 5 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footrprint at Home

paris climate change

The climate talks in Paris have ended with an unprecedented climate agreement that saw 195 nations sign a commitment to make substantial greenhouse gas emissions. We’ll only know if these commitments are meaningful over the next few years as each country takes steps to meet reduction targets.

One of the difficulties in addressing climate change is getting past the debilitating sense that it is impossible for an individual to make a difference in the face of such vast emission problems. And while it is true that large-scale change needs to be undertaken by government and industry, there is plenty we can do individually to contribute.

Here at Endeavour, we’ve always seen the direct connection between carbon emissions and our built environment. It’s a large part of what’s driven our commitment to high levels of energy efficiency in our building projects. But energy efficiency is only one way to lower emissions when it comes to our homes.

We hear from a lot of people who say, “I’m not able to build myself a new house (or afford a major energy retrofit), so I can’t really make a difference.” It’s true that the cost hurdles to large-scale energy efficiency upgrades are high. Fortunately, there are many other meaningful and affordable ways to have a measurable impact on emissions at home:

  1. Don’t use petro-paints. It doesn’t matter if the latex paint you is regular, low-VOCNon-toxic paints or no-VOC, it’s all petrochemical based and a major source of emissions in its manufacture. The Canadian Paint and Coatings Association estimates that 129.1 million litres of architectural paint were sold in Canada in 2011. The Inventory of Carbon and Emissions (ICE) V.2 estimates that each kilogram of paint manufactured contributes 2.54 kg of CO2 (or equivalent GHGs). That means Canadians contributed 393.5 million kilograms (433,759.5 tons) of CO2 to the atmosphere just by buying petro-paint (this doesn’t include a similar amount of petro-paint for our cars, roads and other industrial uses!).
    Solution: Use natural paints! An amazing array of low-impact paints are readily available, easy to use, durable and beautiful. You can greatly reduce CO2 emissions and avoid bringing toxins into your home in one step. Endeavour works with all kinds of great paints, and you can learn about them here.
  2. Consider using wood. There are many places in our homes where wood is an excellent material choice that is often overlooked. From hard- and soft-wood flooring, to wall covering, ceilings, countertops and more, solid wood can be a durable, beautiful option. Most experts in climate changeThis is sort of FSC wood. It says FSC on it, and came from FSC forests and mills, but the retailer was not FSC certified. Not good enough for many green building rating systems...mitigation agree that planting trees is among the best things we can do to reduce atmospheric carbon. It may seem counter-intuitive to take advice to cut down trees, but harvesting mature trees and “locking up” that carbon in our homes for a long time is a good strategy. This is especially true when wood replaces high-carbon materials like plastics, drywall and concrete. Last year, North Americans used 21 billion square feet of drywall, according to the Gypsum Association. Using ICE 2.0 data, that results in 8.58 billion kilograms (9,457,831 tons) of CO2. Wood walls to cover the same surface area would emit 270 million kilograms (297,624 tons) of CO2 in production, and would sequester 540 million kilograms (595,248 tons) of carbon. The net difference? Over 10 million tons of CO2!
    Solution: Plant more trees than we use. Choosing wood that is certified to be sustainably harvested (such as FSC) means that harvested trees are replaced and forests are maintained. And you can go one step better and plant some trees yourself every time you use a wood product.
  3. Move to green energy. Renewable energy comes with a very low carbon footprint, and displaces forms of power that are some of the leading contributors to climate change. When most people hear this advice, costly rooftop solar panels are what comes to mind. And if you want to take advantage of BullfrogPower_logo_jpegOntario’s MicroFIT program to produce your own green energy, that’s great. But there’s an easier solution…
    Solution: Sign up with Bullfrog Power. Residents of Ontario have a remarkable and simple way to endorse and use green energy: a Bullfrog Power contract. Once you’re signed up with Bullfrog, they will ensure that the amount of power (electricity and natural gas) you use is put onto the grid from renewable sources. It costs just a few dollars a month more, and the transaction is quick and easy. It’s probably the single biggest impact on emissions that you can make, and it just takes a website click or a phone call.
  4. Change your energy behaviour. Most of the time, increasing energy efficiency in our homes is a proposition to throw out old appliances and buy new ones. But changing our energy behaviour can maketedprohome a powerful contribution to reductions, without throwing away anything old and buying anything new. How to make that behavioural change?
    Solution: Install a household energy monitor. A variety of studies, including an influential one here in Ontario, have shown that seeing real-time energy use data on a prominent display in the home can reduce energy use by 5-15%. No changing appliances, light bulbs or anything except our behaviour! You can explore some of the data and some of the excellent energy monitoring options on this blog by Green Building Advisor.
  5. Consider the carbon impacts of water. Water is always tied to discussions of climate change, but usually in terms of drought and water shortages. And while this is definitely an important issue, the needwater footprint to conserve water isn’t just about making sure there’s enough to go around… it’s a carbon issue too. In 2009, the River Network released a report called The Carbon Footprint of Water. Among its findings:

    “…the carbon footprint currently associated with moving, treating and heating water in the U.S. is at least 290 million metric tons a year. The CO2 embedded in the nation’s water represents 5% of all U.S. carbon emissions and is equivalent to the emissions of over 62 coal fired power plants.”

    Solution: Invest in water conservation. Dollar for dollar, the changes you can make at home to conserve water will have the best impact on carbon emissions. Putting inexpensive flow restrictors on faucets and showers (or even investing in new ones) is a small investment with real impacts. Changing to an ultra-low flush toilet costs a bit more, but certainly less than new windows or adding insulation. Add a bit of behaviour change to reduce water, maybe switch to rain catchment for lawns and gardens and suddenly you’re using a fraction of a valuable and carbon-heavy resource.

Of course, there are many other ways to lower the carbon footprint associated with your home. Sealing leaks and insulating (with carbon sequestering cellulose and NOT carbon intensive spray foam, fiberglass and rockwool) can reduce long-term emissions. Moving away from gas-powered yard tools is another sure-fire means. Moving to non-fossil fuel heating appliances (biomass or green-electricity fuelled) is expensive but has a great carbon payback.

But don’t give in to climate-change paralysis… The five ideas above are all easy, inexpensive and effective!

Repairing Clay Plaster (with toilet paper?…)

Earthen plaster repairs

Questions concerning the durability of clay plaster – especially as an exterior plaster, and even more especially in cold and wet northern climates – get raised any time we suggest using clay plaster to a client. We recently had the experience of returning to the first building we clay plastered, back in 1994. What we saw and learned greatly increases our confidence in the use of clay plasters!

What do we mean by “durable?”
When we talk about durability, what do we really mean? Let’s say we’re comparing two kinds of exterior siding: clay plaster and vinyl siding. Intuitively, we’d probably say that the vinyl siding is more durable. But scratch the surface a bit… no material is indestructible, so what we really mean is “how long before it needs fixing or replacing.” Vinyl siding can last quite a long time before it wears out or breaks. But it does wear out and break, and when it does what can be done? Typically, nothing. It gets removed, taken to landfill, and replaced with new material.

The clay plaster may be more susceptible to wear (especially if it’s placed too close to the ground, as we’ll soon see!). But when it is damaged, it can be easily repaired at almost no cost and made as good as new, with no landfilling and no need for replacement.

Using Clay Properly
The first step in making clay plaster durable is to plan properly. The worst section of damage on this 12 year old home was next to the utility door on the north side. The building is way too close to grade… we recommend 8-12 inches minimum, but didn’t do that here. It was also unprotected by a roof overhang… despite the whole building have wide overhangs, this northern corner protrudes out to be almost in-line with the roof. Two strikes! And yet, here in the worst possible scenario – with rain hitting it, snow piling against it and no sun striking it to help dry it out – the plaster was still intact and still protecting the bales, it just didn’t look pretty anymore. Other places on this building saw some cracking, a result of not using enough fiber in the mix. Our clay plasters have for years now featured high quantities of fiber and we’ve avoided these kinds of cracks.

Getting the repairs going
We addressed the two areas that had seen a fair bit of erosion with new clay plaster. But clay plaster mix is terrible for filling cracks… the large aggregate and high fiber content that make for great plaster also makes for a mix that does not want to be pushed into long, narrow cracks.

Even though we opened up all the cracks with a pallet knife, the openings were nowhere near the size needed to push in an actual plaster mix. In fact, a mix with almost any aggregate (sand) in it does a lousy job. Even if it fills the crack adequately, there is always sandy mix left on the surface of the plaster calling attention to the repair forever after. And if we used straight clay, the shrinkage would be extreme and there would be micro-cracking along the crack.

Toilet paper to the rescue!
As we contemplated how to make a mix that would adhere to the existing clay, but would have such a fine aggregate that it could be wiped off the surface, we started to think about cellulose… little paper fibers that would be very fine but still add a lot of strength to the repair mix.

Earthen plaster repairs

Toilet paper provided the cellulose fiber we needed, and mixed in the blender with clay (and a bit of talc) created a smooth mix!

We came up with a highly scientific formula: 6 arm-spans of toilet paper (two-ply) to 2 cups of clay, with a bit of talc powder and water to the desired consistency. What we got was a sticky mix that was easy to work into cracks, that bonded well with the existing clay, didn’t shrink at all and was very easy to work with!

We were able to fill all the cracks to their full depth using a putty knife and pulling back and forth across the crack until it wouldn’t accept any more material. Then one pass with the putty knife left the surface scraped back cleanly to the original plaster.

Low impact repairs… like, really low impact!
The materials we needed to do all the repair work were right on site. The clay that had been leftover from the initial plastering in 2004 was left in a small mound near the house. Slowly, that mound became a “garden” of sorts. We were able to shovel clay from the back side of the pile and leave the garden undisturbed. Some natural pigment, some sand (and some TP in the cracks)… that’s all that was required.


I don’t think we could even calculate a carbon footprint or embodied energy for these repairs!

Mixing and applying a new clay paint
The largest area of the house had a red clay paint applied 12 years ago. There were enough cracks and repairs on this section that we decided to re-coat it with a coarse clay paint. We mixed 20 parts of the site clay with 10 parts of fine sand and 3 parts of pigment, and applied this runny mix using a sponge float.

A wetter mix with only 3 parts of fine sand was brushed onto the narrower bands of colour at the top of the wall. It was easy to cut a smooth line with this paint, making for crisp lines between the colour bands.

Fast work, faster next time
There were enough areas that needed attention on this house that we decided to completely re-paint the whole building. From first arrival at the site to colour matching the mixes to application and final clean-up, we spent a total of 3 days for 2 people (about 42 hours) on these repairs.
When this plaster needs work again in the future, there will be a paint mix in all three colours ready to be re-hydrated and applied. And since the colours match, spot repairs can be done instead of a whole new coat. If we’d been smart enough to do this the first time around, we could have cut the time for the job in half! We don’t expect cracks to re-open again, as no new cracks opened up on the building after the first couple of years.

A final layer of protection
One of the reasons we feel this clay plaster held up so well – despite being a less than ideal mix placed too close to the ground – was the inclusion of a top-coat of Primasil, a silicate paint primer from PermaTint.

Though it isn’t intended to be used as a “clear coat” finish, we have applied it this way on several buildings and it has done a great job of protecting the plaster from water damage while remaining highly permeable. In the future we will experiment with adding PrimaSil to our finish plasters and clay paints instead of water and see if building the silicate right into the material has a positive effect.

An endlessly repairable finish
The beauty of clay plaster is its ability to be maintained and repaired indefinitely. We had no waste from these repairs other than some sand and clay on the ground, and we had no expense other than a bit of pigment and a roll of toilet paper. And the pigment will be suitable for about a century’s worth of repairs of this extent! Now the plaster is once again gorgeous to look at and ready to handle another decade or two of keeping out the elements… Try doing that with vinyl (or anything else!).

The (Carbon) Elephant in the Room

Carbon footprint as demonstrated by the number of carbon elephants emitted

There is an elephant in the room when it comes to our buildings, and it’s a carbon elephant… Every time we make or renovate a building, there is a carbon footprint as a result of the harvesting and manufacturing of the materials as well as the transportation involved. If we think this carbon footprint is negligible, we’re ignoring the elephant in the room!

Embodied carbon versus operational carbon
For many years, green building advocates maintained that the embodied carbon of building materials was not as important as reducing the operational energy use and carbon footprint. By this reasoning, it was justifiable to use materials with a high carbon footprint because they would eventually “pay back” that carbon “investment” with reduced energy use over time.

It’s not a trade-off
However, it is possible to make buildings with low-carbon building materials that match the energy efficiency performance of buildings that use high-carbon solutions. It’s a win-win solution… but it takes some adjustments to our way of thinking about buildings.

The carbon elephant
A comparison of the carbon footprint of a few different types of building shows that there can be a huge difference based on just a few material selections.

 

Carbon emissions of various construction types (from Making Better Buildings)

 

This chart shows the same 1,000 square foot house (based on the model house in the book Making Better Buildings). The two conventional approaches differ only on the choice of exterior cladding, one brick and the other vinyl siding. They have a carbon footprint many times larger than a best practice home made from low-carbon materials. But surprisingly, the straw bale home using lime-cement plaster actually has a carbon footprint slightly higher than a conventional home with vinyl siding. The same bale home plastered with clay has a dramatically lower carbon footprint.

Carbon sequestration
The carbon footprint numbers shown in the chart assign a carbon footprint to the cellulose materials (wood, straw, cellulose insulation), but don’t take into account the carbon sequestration effect of bundling a lot of carbon-based material into a building for a long period of time. There are conflicting notions of how to account for this, but at the very least there seems to be agreement that the sequestration completely offsets the carbon footprint. There is some reasonable argument to be made that these materials can actually have the effect of negating some of the building’s carbon footprint… that is, create a negative amount on the building’s leger. Things look different when this is taken into account!

Carbon emission footprint with sequestration of cellulose material at 25% of material weight

Carbon emission footprint with sequestration of cellulose material at 25% of material weight

By eliminating the carbon footprint for cellulosic materials and giving a sequestration factor of 25% of the total material weight, the carbon footprint can actually be put into the negative. However, those striving for carbon neutrality must remember that sequestration relies on the growth of new bio-mass to absorb CO2… we need to plant trees to replace those we’ve used in order to ensure these figures.

Carbon footprint as demonstrated by the number of carbon elephants emitted

Carbon footprint as demonstrated by the number of carbon elephants emitted

Different approaches not equal
The world needs carbon reductions immediately. Ensuring high carbon output today with the hope of a long-term reduction is a questionable strategy; it’s better to bank on getting our carbon footprint reduced now, especially if we can do so without sacrificing future reductions in the form of energy efficiency. When we start building very efficient buildings, the carbon footprint of the materials can start to equal many years of operating energy.

Carbon footprint by embodied carbon, 1 year and 10 year operational carbon for three climate zones

Carbon footprint of a foam-home, a high performance low carbon home and an older home, by embodied carbon, 1 year and 10 year operational carbon for three climate zones

This graph shows the embodied carbon of a high performance building using foam insulation, a best-practice low-carbon building and a largely un-insulated low-carbon building in different climate zones. Note that with best practice, there can be almost 10 years of operating energy before the building has the carbon footprint of a foam-based high performance house. And that’s without taking any sequestration into account! Obviously, we want to avoid the huge footprint of poorly insulated buildings, but ideally we want to do so in a low-carbon way. If we can build a low carbon home and use it for 7-8 years before we have the carbon footprint of a foam home, this is the option we should pursue!

No small effect
There were over 220,000 new homes built in Canada in 2014. Using conventional materials, these homes account for over 3 million metric tonnes of CO2 output. Using best low-carbon building practices can eliminate that altogether, and could even contribute 0.5 million tonnes of sequestration… more than 3.5 million metric tonnes of CO2 reduction!

Canada’s commitments under the Copenhagen Accord call for us to reduce about 127 megatons of CO2 given 2013 output figures. A move to building carbon-conscious homes could get us almost 3 percent of that target, in one industry, with little need for re-tooling or re-training of trades AND using materials that are harvested and produced in Canada. As a bonus, such homes are not necessarily any more expensive or difficult to build.

Kind of puts a positive spin on things, no?

For Sale: House that Makes an Income!

CGH exterior

As followers of this blog will know, we at Endeavour have spent a lot of time on our Canada’s Greenest Home project. Our goal was to make the greenest home possible on an urban infill lot in Peterborough, and then to sell it on the open market to show that there is an appetite for “deep green” amongst home buyers.

The final phase of the project is now underway, with the house going on the market this week. Here is the Listing for 136-1/2 James Street.

The most interesting part of selling this home is how to put forward the unique value proposition we are attempting to make. Most home buyers look within a set price range for their new home, and do this with an implicit understanding that they will be assuming utility costs (heat, electricity, water) that are within a similar range to all other homes. This house radically alters that outlook: There are no utility costs and the home provides an income.

Energy production vs Use

Energy production vs Use

This means that the higher up front cost of buying a super-insulated and completely non-toxic home has a very compelling overall financial picture. The solar income from the house averages about $3300 annually. The annual utility costs are around $1800 or $150/month (inclusive of heat, electricity and water, plus services charges and delivery fees). This means that for the remaining 18 years of the Micro-FIT contract, there is a $1500 annual income from the home after all utility costs have been covered!

Considering that an average home of a similar size in Peterborough will have total utilities bills in the $250-600/month range (from census data, 2011), this means that there will be an annual savings of $3,000-8,700 for this homeowner. Putting that extra money against the mortgage for the home can result in the mortgage being paid off 5-6 years earlier. And all that while enjoying a healthy and efficient home. View website to sell your San Bernardino home today!

Mortgage calculator

Mortgage calculator

But can this case be made effectively in the current real estate market? There is no way to show this information in a quick and easy-to-digest form… the listing for the house shows the asking price, and a curious buyer would have to read the listing and inquire about more details in order to learn the whole story.

We hope that there are buyers out there who will be interested enough to find out the details. And we also hope that this helps to set a precedent for builders who want to make healthy houses that earn money and real estate agents who want to sell this kind of home!

If you’d like to help us set this precedent, please share this listing with your networks.

Touring Sustainable Homes

ONBC tour map

On October 3 and 4, two great organizations are teaming up to help get you inside some unique sustainable homes in Ontario!

The Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA) has its Doors Open event on October 3. On this tour, you can see a wide range of homes that employ a variety of renewable energy strategies, from solar electric and solar thermal to small scale wind and micro hydro.

The Ontario Natural Building Coalition (ONBC) has its Natural Building Tour on October 4. On this tour, you can see homes built with all kinds of natural materials, including straw bale, hempcrete, rammed earth, cob and compressed earth blocks.

The links above will take you to maps that show all of the homes involved in the tours. There will be no better opportunity to see and experience such a wide range of homes, and to learn all of the insights gained by the owners and builders as they created their projects.

What Makes a Building Product “Green”?

Living Products Expo

The Green Glut
The past 10 years have seen an explosion of building products being marketed to designers and builders as “green.” As the immense impacts buildings have on our planet’s ecosystem started to become clear to the mainstream building industry, marketing departments went crazy to identify just about every kind of product as being “green” in some way or another.

Green?

Green?

From my position as someone advising people on green building options, this “glut of green” causes a lot of confusion. If every product is green, what does it mean to really be green?

Real Green Criteria
In order for a product to meet Endeavour’s standard for green, it has to meet several criteria:

  • Must have low ecosystem impacts in the harvesting and production of the product. This includes considering both how and where the raw materials are extracted and handled, and what kinds of pollution/emissions happen during the production processes.
  • Must have low embodied energy and carbon footprint. This means understanding how much (and what kind) of energy is used to harvest and process the product and the size of the fuel and carbon footprint.
  • If applicable, the product must positively impact the long-term energy efficiency and/or performance of the building.
  • Should not use and definitely must not emit any dangerous chemicals or off gassing, during manufacturing, use in the home, or at end-of-life.
  • Must be durable, and have a reasonable end-of-life strategy (ie, where does it go when it’s taken out of the building).
  • Upcycled, recycled and re-purposed materials are preferable.
  • Local production is preferable to long-distance shipping.

Meeting Just One Criteria = Not Good Enough
Many building products are sold as “green” if they meet any one of those criteria. Unfortunately, the majority of building products sold as “green” fail (often miserably) when examined against all of these criteria. While the sales team will glowing focus on any glimmering of green in one category, rarely does anything with the green label come close to satisfying a full range of ecological criteria.

Living Products Expo

Living Products Expo

A Materials Revolution?
The dichotomy between products posing as green and those that are truly green was on display at the recent Living Products Expo, which I attended in Pittsburgh last week. Organized by the International Living Future Institute, the event was billed as “Inspiring a Materials Revolution.” And kudos to the organizers, because this really was the intention of the event.

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What Makes Foam Green?
But at one point I found myself in a session that featured several product manufacturers presenting on their new green products. One was a rep from Johns Manville presenting a new polyisocyanurate foam insulation product that does not have added fire retardants (called Energy 3.E). Now this is an interesting achievement, since the flame retardants used in foam insulation are among some of the worst and most persistent chemicals in use on the planet, and up to 15-20% of flame retardant by weight is used in foams. The San Antonio Statement on Brominated and Chlorinated Flame Retardants should be enough to scare all of us away from using any products that use these flame retardants, so to have a foam insulation that eliminates them from its chemistry (without using questionable substitution) can be viewed as a major step, one worthy of the label “green.”

Johns Manville foamExcept that if we put even this insulation to the test of our criteria list, it still fails on many counts. The foam is still a petro-chemical product, and if we don’t like what the oil industry does to the planet (from exploration impacts to drilling sea beds or excavating tar sands to the vast amounts of energy consumed and carbon produced to spills and “toxic events”) then it’s hard to see any foam product as being green. Foam insulation has very high embodied energy and carbon output. It still uses questionable chemistry, has no end-of-life plan and is shipped long distances from a centralized factory. Energy 3.E might be “greener” than other foams, but I don’t think it can really be called green or sustainable. This despite the fact that the product has won all kinds of green awards and has been widely celebrated.

Ecovative mushroom foamReal Green Insulation
This point was driven home by the next presenter at the same session, this time from Ecovative Design. This company has developed “mushroom foam,” a material that is made from mycelium (mushroom roots) grown amongst agricultural waste fibers. Among its many uses, it can be made into an insulation product with very similar performance qualities as plastic foam. This material satisfies all of the stringent criteria we apply to products in our buildings, and it is naturally flame resistant (interestingly, it turns out that the phosphorus atom the Johns Manville scientists managed to insert into their foam occurs naturally in the mycelium). Unfortunately, Ecovative’s insulation products have not yet reached the mass market, while the foam product has. But the stark difference between the two is a perfect illustration of the difference between being “sort of green” and “really green.”Ecovative process

At the same conference, I gained a more in-depth understanding of two programs that are intended to help builders tell the difference between real green products and those that are just pretending to be green.

Cradle to Cradle products programCradle to Cradle Certification
The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute certifies products on a scale from “bronze” to “gold” based on their satisfaction of a wide-ranging set of criteria. The C2C Products Registry allows one to select a product category (such as Building Supply and Materials) and find products that have met their very high standards. I highly recommend this when searching for truly green products to use in buildings, though the overall number of products is still relatively small.

declare labelThe Declare Label
Declare is a labelling system introduced by the Int’l Living Future Institute. The Declare label is billed as “a nutrition label for the building industry.” It focuses largely on a transparent declaration of all the ingredients in a product, and where those individual components come from. The Living Building Challenge building certification program has a “red list” of chemicals that it does not allow to be in a building. This label is a means of finding out if a product contains a red list chemical, and what things it contains that may not be desirable even if it is not on the red list. Declare does not consider ecosystem impacts, carbon emissions or other elements of manufacturing, and so is not quite as comprehensive as Cradle To Cradle, but it is still a great development and a useful tool for builders looking at green in a deeper way.

Green Chemistry and Local & Natural
green chemistry principlesAs stated in the Living Product Expo’s desire to spark a “materials revolution,” there is a real move happening toward creating and using building systems that are truly better for the planet. John Warner, a founder of the “green chemistry movement” was a speaker at the Expo, and more and more material developers are starting to use the principles of green chemistry for the built environment. Having presented to the Expo about Endeavour’s methods for prefabricating straw bale wall panels, I found it interesting that the most promising sustainable building systems are relatively low-tech, use waste streams from other processes and are simple to replicate in smaller, regional “micro-factories.” Mushroom foam, straw bale walls, cellulose insulation and so many other effective, truly green materials don’t require major industrial apparatus. To a large degree, this is what makes them truly green. Keeping it simple, local and natural is often the best way to ensure it’s green!

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