Building on success, by Christopher Phillips
Celebrating success is – well it’s awesome. Advancing our understanding to improve our practice, particularly when it comes to healthy buildings, is priceless.
It’s why we went to Vancouver in June. We were there for the National Conference of the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC).
CaGBC, along with SAB Magazine, presented us with the Canadian Green Building Award in the residential project category for our Beechwood project. It was our first national award, and Beechwood is our first project to be recognized. Last October, it also picked up the Innovation in Sustainability category for the CaGBC GTA Chapter’s annual awards.
I brought along Steven Gray, one of our construction managers at Greening Homes. Prior to the National Conference we took full advantage of Vancouver’s dedicated bike lanes and gorgeous Stanley Park – even venturing over the Lions Gate Bridge to the North Shore. I brought my Brompton – a fold up bicycle – with me and Steven rented so we could participate in Healthy Commute Week and keep true to our smart transportation policy.
It was fitting that Steven was with me. He oversaw the Beechwood project, a whole home renovation that transformed a drafty post-World War II house in East York into one of the most energy efficient in North America, surpassing Passive House standards for allowable air changes per hour.
Clearly, high performance building is Steven’s forte. There was another reason why I wanted Steven in Vancouver: to increase his awareness of the importance of healthy building practice.
The awards are one aspect of a national conference that aims to help companies like Greening Homes push the envelope in green building practices. Prior to receiving our award, we spent the entire day at the CaGBC Materials and Health Summit, led by a who’s who of experts on the health impacts of building materials.
I wrote my master’s thesis on this topic and wanted Steven to be brought up to speed on it too because greening building is more than just about energy efficiency. It’s a holistic approach to our work that helps safeguard the health of the occupants and ecology.
Steven was really moved by what he learned. The details of just what toxins are lurking in common building materials and furniture can be quite alarming and the Summit was a fantastic opportunity to bring us both up to speed on the latest research of this developing and complicated field.
The Summit’s first presentation set the scene of toxins found in typical building materials. We were reminded that infants are born pre-polluted due to chemicals found in the home, such as flame retardants. These chemicals are further passed on through breast milk.
A quote stood out for us: “If we don’t evolve with it then we should avoid it.” This precautionary principal certainly reminds us why we take our core values to heart.
After hearing about the horrors of harmful toxins, we learned about the latest tools and programs to ascertain the validity of claims of green materials, and participated in an interactive section on evaluating and understanding health and lifestyle impacts of materials and products.
We also learned about new material requirements for LEED v4. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which CaGBC oversees, is more stringent than ever before with its latest version, particularly around health impacts. Version 4 now takes into account lifecycle assessments, and has integrated green building assessment tools, such as one that we use called Declare.
We like to advise clients on the latest innovative building materials. This is why I attend events such as the CAGBC’s National Conference or GreenBuild every year. I want to make sure that we are aware of best practices, new materials and the latest research so that Greening Homes can remain at the forefront of what’s happening in the industry. The following are innovations that caught our attention in June:
- SONOclimat eco4® by MSL – this insulating exterior cladding material was up for CaGBC’s Green Building Product of the Year Award. Made from 100 percent recycled fiber, it can be used in place of oriented strand board (OSB) because of its structural integrity. The best news is that due to its insulative value (R-value of 4 per inch), it is a much better alternative to petrochemical foam. And it’s made in Canada, in Lewisville, Quebec.
- MemBrain by CertainTeed – this two way smart vapour retarder is a substitute for 6 ml poly and may be used to minimise the possibility of moisture build up and mould growth within a wall assembly.
- AirRenew®, also by CertainTeed – is a drywall alternative which actually cleanses the air of formaldehyde. Sounds far-fetched, but it’s true: The product encapsulates and neutralizes airborne formaldehydes, storing them within the drywall. This is great news for our clients who have sensitivities to this toxic off-gas. The cost of this product is marginally more than typical drywall.
By Christopher Phillips, President of Greening Homes.