Green building is responsible building at the 2024 National Home Show By: greening homes

April 29, 2024
Community, Green Materials, Planning a Renovation

The term “green building” conjures up a lot of things for a variety of people. What I hope stands out is that green building is responsible building. In addition to having a minimum impact on your health and environment, it should minimize problems down the line.

Green building is a sound building practice that provides peace of mind. Or, as Greg Labbé says, it’s about building professionals who care about your home and welfare.

Greg is a building scientist who teaches at Toronto Metropolitan University. Like me, he is a founding member of the Green Building Learning Zone (GBLZ), which was featured for the first time at the National Home Show in March.

Greg Labbé, a building scientist and professor at Toronto Metropolitan University, leads a presentation at the GBLZ.

The GBLZ brings together architects, designers, builders, suppliers, educators, non-profits, and consultants from the green building world who are deeply committed to creating sustainable buildings and educating the public about their importance. It began in 2019 at the Green Living Show. I pitched the idea to the National Home Show and, happily, they said yes!

They were quite generous, providing us with a 1200 plus square foot area at the heart of the Show for free to engage with homeowners and other building professionals about sustainable building – without any greenwashing.

As Bettina Hoar says, the GBLZ offers a safe zone, not a sales zone.

“It’s an unbiased independent volunteer booth where people are just here, not to sell you something, but to give you unbiased and free information.”

Bettina is the proprietor of Sage Living Toronto and a guiding force for the GBLZ.

Carolyn Moss, Architect/Founder from Homes to Zero and Bettina Hoar, Founder of Sage Living Toronto.

For homeowners looking for ideas on an upcoming renovation or new home, the GBLZ offers an excellent opportunity to learn from the best in the field through one-on-one conversations, informative presentations and resources and a hands-on display of green building materials.

Sample sustainable building materials featured at the GBLZ.

The feedback at the Show was very positive. Many told us that the GBLZ was by far the best thing they’ve seen there. The presentations were very well attended, and people were curious about the resources on hand. We fielded many inquiries about heat pumps due to a keen desire to transition off gas heating.

We also did some myth-busting. Does straw in a straw bale home burn or attract bugs? The answer is “no” to both. Is spray foam insulation a sustainable solution? No – as a petroleum product it contains what is referred to as “high embodied carbon.” And, if applied incorrectly, it can off-gas, causing health problems in your home. There are better products, which attendees could view and touch at our display area. Are sustainable buildings more expensive than conventional buildings? Not necessarily. And in the long run (sometimes even the short) quite the opposite.

I was also delighted that Angelina Bertoni-Sampieri of The Healthy Abode presented on environmental assessments, specifically the Designated Substance Survey (DSS), which is a provincial requirement for major renovations. I wrote about Angelina’s work in a previous blog. Many do not know about the DSS, and her presentation was very well received.

One of the biggest impacts of the GBLZ’s presence at the National Home Show was connecting with and educating tradespeople. It was important for us to inform the trades about the building materials and science behind low impact buildings, and to get them excited about it.

On a personal note, two young adults, the children of two former clients, visited me while I was at the Show. They didn’t know each other – even though they grew up in the same neighbourhood – but they each chose careers in residential building, inspired by their families’ home renovations. I connected them and they became fast friends, eager to help each other grow their businesses and learn more about green building practices.

The GBLZ is a wonderful connector – of ideas and people. This is how we improve the industry.

The GBLZ is expected to return to the National Home Show in 2025 and it’s likely going to be bigger. Since 2019 we’ve grown from 12 partners to 28. There’s keen interest from other building professionals to volunteer with us to help transform the National Home Show into a better building zone. 

National Home Show attendees check out the GBLZ.

Chris Phillips, Greening Homes’ founder and President, is an expert contributor of Neighbours of High Park Magazine. This article will appear in the June 2024 issue.

Group photo at top: Justine Moro & Jeni Robertson (both designers), Chris Phillips and Yvonne Bambrick (holding Pepper) of Greening Homes, Bruce March from Agritecture, and Sarah Grant from Goldfinch Energy.

Photos by Yvonne Bambrick/Greening Homes.