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What Makes Zero House – ReWall EssentialBoard

This is one in a series of blog posts about the materials we’ve chosen to build our Zero House project…

What is ReWall EssentialBoard? ReWall is a sheathing board made from recycled, compressed drinking cartons. It can be used for interior and/or exterior sheathing over frame walls.

Where is ReWall used in Zero House? All of our prefabricated wall and roof panels use ReWall EssentialBoard as the interior sheathing.

 

How does ReWall help achieve the Zero House goals?

  • Zero carbon footprint – ReWall is made from 100% recycled paper fibers, and that paper fiber is about 50% carbon by weight. Rather than returning to the atmosphere when the paper is burned or decomposes, it is now captured for long-term storage in the walls of our building.
  • Zero net energy use – ReWall has an R-value of 1 for a 1/2-inch thick sheet, much better than other sheathing options like drywall or plywood.
  • Zero toxins – ReWall is made from 100% recycled drinking cartons, with no added glues or binders. Only food-grade materials go into the product, and there is no off gassing. EssentialBoard also scores a 10/10 on mold resistance.

Other reasons for using ReWall EssentialBoard:

  • Affordability – ReWall costs the same as conventional drywall and OSB sheathing, and much less than plywood, so we get all the sustainability benefits without paying more.
  • Code Compliance – ReWall products have good testing data available to support their use as structural sheathing.
  • Workability – ReWall can be cut with standard job site tools and fastened with conventional screws or nails.
  • Waste – ReWall can be fully recycled (though not all recycling centres will accept the material).

Any drawbacks to using EssentialBoard?

  • No local distribution means that shipments must be arranged direct from the factory in the US.
  • The sheets are “bendy” when being handled, so it can require two people to manage a sheet.
  • It was a bit difficult to make trim cuts close to the edge of the sheet as the saw would fray the material rather than making a clean cut.
  • There was a slight variation in thickness between sheets, which didn’t matter for our application but could present some difficulties if we were trying to use EssentialBoard as the finished sheathing and were mudding and taping the joints.

ReWall EssentialBoard is a material that will definitely be used on further projects at Endeavour Centre. Hopefully the product will start to receive wider distribution and will become available in more regions.

ReWall EssentialBoard

Zero House – Carbon Sequestration in Building Materials

The Zero House project has three key goals: zero net energy use, zero toxins and zero carbon footprint. This blog will look at the notion of zero carbon footprint, and we’ll explore how Zero House will in fact far surpass this goal through carbon sequestration in building materials.

The notion of the embodied carbon footprint of buildings has not received much attention in the past. Even now, it’s not a consideration within any of the major green building rating systems and is not a key goal in very many sustainable building projects. But if climate change is a concern, addressing the embodied carbon within building materials may be the most important issue a designer or builder can address.

During the harvesting, processing and manufacturing of building materials, there are always greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with these activities. Fuel is consumed, chemical processes unleashed and resources expended to create any building material. However, some materials have very high GHG emissions and others are very low. Typically, materials processed using a lot of heat and/or electrical energy will have higher embodied carbon than those with less intensive processing requirements. Good examples of this can be found in the open-source database called Inventory of Carbon and Energy Version 2.0, which provides amalgamated data for a wide range of building materials. Companies are also starting to produce Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) that are third party analyses of a range of environmental impacts of particular products, including embodied carbon.

 

Calculating a building’s carbon footprint involves figuring out the weight of each material and then applying the appropriate embodied carbon factor. This will result in a tally of all the carbon emissions associated with a building. By this reckoning, Zero House has an embodied carbon footprint of 6.991 metric tons of CO2-e (which includes carbon dioxide emissions and other types of emissions expressed as units of CO2) emissions for this 1,000 square foot (92.9 m2) building. This is about 75.25 kg of emissions per square meter. This compares very favourably with the same house built to typical code standards, which would emit 134.8 kg per square meter. That’s a 56 percent reduction, which alone would be worthy of notice.

However, there is another side to carbon emissions and buildings. If a building uses plant-based materials in its construction (wood, straw, hemp, cork, bamboo, mycelium and recycled fibres of all kinds), those materials are partially made of carbon that has been taken from atmospheric CO2 and converted by the plant into its cellular makeup. Usually, the carbon in plants is released back to the atmosphere when the plant decomposes (or burns). But if we contain that plant fibre in a building for a long time, we sequester that carbon in the building. It’s the simplest form of carbon capture and storage (CCS); the plants do all the work of pulling CO2 out of the air, and we put them into buildings for a long time.

 

Zero House uses a wide range of carbon sequestering materials. In fact, the shell of the house only uses three materials that do not sequester carbon. We can tally up the amount of carbon sequestered in materials by calculating the weight of each material, factoring in the average carbon content (the Phyllis database is a good source for this). Most plants contain 40-50% carbon by weight. When this carbon is released to the atmosphere as CO2, two oxygen molecules are added to each carbon molecule, so we multiply the weight of the carbon by 3.67 to find the weight of CO2 that is being sequestered.

embodied carbon of building materials

Calculation spreadsheet for the embodied carbon of Zero House

As the table shows, the Zero House sequesters a lot of carbon: 32.26 metric tons of CO2 are effectively bundled up in this building! This offsets the embodied carbon footprint and we end up with a net sequestration of 25.26 metric tons. While a lot of this sequestration is in wooden materials, about half of what’s sequestered is in the form of “waste” fibres (straw, recycled wood fiber, recycled drink cartons, recycled newsprint, cork) that would have otherwise cycled directly back into atmospheric CO2.

This approach has great potential to help the building industry fight climate change. If all residential buildings were to take this approach, the 200,000-ish houses we build in Canada every year (at an average size of about 2,200 square feet) we’d be sequestering around 1.1 million metric tons of CO2-e per year. Add other building types (commercial and industrial) into the mix, and the construction industry could lead Canada in carbon sequestration.

With a “negative” carbon footprint from inception, Zero House also takes a zero net energy approach that will ensure that it has a tiny amount of operational carbon footprint over its lifetime. We’ll examine that in our next look at the Zero House goals…

 

 

Zero House: Innovative Green Building

The Zero House innovative green building project is based on three simple concepts:

  • Zero net energy use

  • Zero carbon footprint

  • Zero toxins

This joint project between The Endeavour Centre and Ryerson University’s Department of Architectural Science is being built for display at the EDITdx Expo for Design, Innovation and Technology in Toronto this fall, where show goers will be able to visit the home, meet the designers and builders and experience the Zero House innovative green building project for themselves.

This project is possible due to the support of a great many sponsors whose products and services make it possible to meet our high project goals.

Climate Champion Sponsors:

Climate Defender Sponsors:

Climate Friend Sponsors:

Each of the materials and products used in the Zero House have been carefully selected to meet our criteria for this project, and we’re appreciative of the manufacturers and distributors of innovative green building products for making a project like this possible.

Zero House

Follow this blog as construction proceeds to find out more about these products and our use of them on this innovative project!

2017 Workshop Schedule

Endeavour 2017 Workshop Schedule

We are excited to present a wide-ranging workshop series for 2017. Please click on the links below to explore each workshop!

We look forward to working with you in 2017!

 

TitleStart DateInstructorAvailable Spaces
Legal Process BCIN courseSeptember 11, 2017Jeffrey Chalmers6Register
HVAC House BCIN courseSeptember 18, 2017Jeffrey Chalmers12Register
Introduction To Renewable EnergySeptember 23, 2017Sean Flanagan12Register
House 2012 BCIN CourseSeptember 25, 2017Jeffrey Chalmers9Register
Part 8 On-Site Sewage Systems BCIN CourseOctober 16, 2017Jeffrey Chalmers10Register
Essential Building Science WorkshopOctober 27, 2017Jacob Deva Racusin12Register
Essential Hempcrete Construction (2)November 4, 2017Chris Magwood5Register
Essential Straw Clay ConstructionNovember 5, 2017Chris Magwood11Register
Carpentry for Women (2)November 11, 2017Deirdre McGahern, Jen Feigin0Sold Out
Design Your Own Sustainable Home Workshop (2)November 18, 2017Chris Magwood14Register
Natural Plaster Workshop – Base Coat to Finish (2)December 2, 2017Chris Magwood, Jen Feigin12Register
TBA- Timber Framing – From Start To FinishDecember 30, 2017Register
TBA- Adobe Pizza OvenDecember 30, 2017Register
TBA- Concrete Counter Tops- Form, Pour & Polish!December 30, 2017Register
TBA- Engineering For Alternative BuildingsDecember 30, 2017Register
TBA-Rocket Mass HeaterDecember 30, 2017Register
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