Tag Archives: environmentally responsible
Technology and a new ecological consciousness are transforming the innards of some new houses
John Bentley Mays – Globe and Mail
Driving or walking along the leafy streets in the Governor’s Bridge district of Rosedale, you might never notice the house I’m writing about this week. It’s new, but it fits without a glitch into the quiet urban streetscape of similarly new, stylistically old-fashioned homes.
What counts about this 3,400-square-foot dwelling is not its architecture, which is hardly daring or inventive, but its exceptional efficiency. Using some of the most advanced energy systems now available in the marketplace, Toronto designer Richard C. Brightling has created a house that looks forward into the future of construction, when all new residences will be required to perform much better than they do now. With clients demanding greener solutions to their need for housing, and architects increasingly adept at coming up with such solutions, that future is not far off.
Energy-saving features of the Governor’s Bridge house include a high-performance building envelope that is insulated to a standard considerably beyond what is now required by city construction codes. The atmosphere inside this tight skin is kept fresh and clean by an exchanger that replaces and filters the air every four hours.
Heating and cooling is accomplished with a $70,000 geothermal system. Six fluid-carrying tubes have been sunk 200 feet into the ground, where the temperature is a steady 14.4 C. Pumped up to the surface and into a control room in the basement – this tightly packed, high-tech facility resembles what I imagine a submarine interior to look like – the fluid is then used to modify the temperature of fan-forced air. Geo-thermal energy is not free; electricity is needed to run the pumps and raise the temperature from its base level of 14.4C to something more comfortable. Nevertheless, Mr. Brightling told me, his clients’ annual savings on air conditioning come in at 30 to 40%.
Hot water for showers, dishwashing and so forth is generated by solar thermal panels installed on the roof. Glycol (which does not freeze in winter) circulates through the panels, gathering heat from the sun that, in turn, heats water in the tank. I was surprised to find that the tap water was very hot indeed – on a cool spring day, with little or no help from hydro. This $8,000 system works efficiently in our northern climate for most of the year, Mr. Brightling said, taking notable strain off the electricity grid (and hence lightening the electric bill).
Being a confirmed apartment-dweller, I don’t have a lawn, nor do I understand the North American obsession with having lawns. But if one must keep a green patch out front and back of the house, it should pull its weight, environmentally speaking. It does so here. Mr. Brightling has installed a 4,500-litre tank under the back yard of this project that effectively catches rain water running off the roofs of the main house and the garden shed and makes this water available for irrigating the lawns. This uncomplicated plumbing arrangement is an example of good ecological stewardship, especially in a city that wastes far too much water.
Back inside the house, Mr. Brightling has introduced a few other smaller features that also enhance the pleasure and sense of security in living there. There are the ceiling sprinklers, for instance – nearly invisible fixtures intended to deploy individually when the air around them reaches 100 C. And there is the lighting, equipped with low-wattage LED and halogen bulbs to further enhance the energy efficiency of the house.
These, then, are the major and minor systems at work in Mr. Brightling’s technical outfitting – some complex, others simple, all suitable for comfortable living in a sustainable, environmentally responsible manner. Nor is the cost of these green measures, as a percentage of total expenditure, really prohibitive. Of the $1.8-million it took to build the Governor’s Bridge house, only $150,000 was invested in green technologies – all of which will bring cost savings down the line.
Now, to marry such advanced thinking about the environment to contemporary good design! Like the passion for lawns, the desire for a 2010 house that looks like it was done in the 1920s escapes me. Windows were small back in those days, interiors were chopped up into small rooms, the middle of the building was always dark. To be fair, Mr. Brightling has opened up the rear of the Governor’s Bridge house to the light, but the front façade is as fusty and serious as anything in Rosedale from 80 years ago. The architectural taste of Rosedale residents, it appears, has some catching up to do, if it’s to stay abreast of the technological advances taking root in their dignified old neighbourhood.
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Investing in insulation, solar panels will pay off in long run
Toronto Star – My City Blog
A lifelong environmentalist, Julia Langer is executive director of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, an arm’s-length city agency focused on addressing climate change from a municipal angle. Previously, at World Wildlife Fund, she led various campaigns, from protecting marine turtles to banning toxic pesticides. Langer bikes all winter long (except when it’s icy), grows more tomatoes, basil and beans than her husband and daughter can keep up with, and loves paddling in Ontario’s boreal wilderness.
“Should the condo or house you buy today be a prime candidate for an energy retrofit tomorrow? The reality is that much of what we build today could be much, much more energy-efficient with only a modest increase in construction costs (offset, of course, by lower lifetime operating costs).
That’s why I tend to cringe whenever I see one of those giant construction cranes swinging another bucket of concrete skywards. What we all too rarely see is those cranes lifting state-of-the-art windows, high-performance cladding or solar panels.
Let’s give Toronto some credit. The city has used its new powers under the City of Toronto Act to pass green building standards that will require new construction to be more energy-efficient than it would be if we just stuck to the provincial building code. But let’s also raise our view a bit higher and look at what some other cities are doing. In Germany, all new homes must now be “net zero” energy users. In other words, they have to produce as much energy as they consume. The United Kingdom is on the same track, with a net zero carbon requirement coming into play by 2016.
Net zero may sound futuristic, but behind the catchy name is a lot of mundane, completely doable stuff like tight building envelopes, lots of insulation, ultra-efficient appliances and lighting.
Most Toronto highrises — even new ones — are ripe for energy efficiency upgrades, which are especially cost-effective now that the HST is going to add 8% to gas and electricity bills. Retrofits can’t achieve net zero, but can help you save some serious cash, and the planet — see www.TowerWise.ca for some great advice and tools.
There’s no reason not to build state-of-the-art buildings in our world-class city. And there are very good reasons to build high-quality, super-efficient, environmentally responsible, net zero buildings which won’t spew climate-changing pollution for the next 50-plus years.
Launches consultations with construction firms
Patricia Williams – Daily Commercial News
Public Works and Government Services Canada is undertaking industry consultations to identify the most environmentally responsible and cost-effective approach to meeting the energy requirements for federal buildings in the national capital area.
“Meeting the energy needs of our office buildings is not only a major expense, but it has a significant impact on our environment,” said Public Works Minister Christian Paradis. “Some of these buildings are over 50 years old, using technology from the 1950s — it is time to rethink how we do things.”
The department is launching the consultation process through a Request for Information process. Industry briefings will be held in major cities across the country this fall. Dates and locations currently are being finalized.
Industry will have until October 30 to provide the government with information on technologies and services that could help meet its requirements.
The initiative was applauded by the Ottawa-based Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada (MCAC).
“This is right up our alley,” said MCAC president Richard McKeagan, who noted that the federal program “dovetails nicely” with some association initiatives that are currently under way.
The association plans to contact the public works department to see if it can be of any assistance, McKeagan said. MCAC also will advise its members of the dates and venues of the upcoming cross-country briefings “and maybe encourage some participation.”
In a release, Public Works said its central heating and cooling plants will require major investments to improve their energy and environmental efficiency.
In the national capital area, Public Works provides thermal energy services on a cost-recovery basis to more than 100 properties. It operates seven plants that produce steam, high-temperature hot water or chilled water.
Four of these facilities also redistribute energy to the buildings they serve.
“Key decisions need to be made about the future of these plants and how the government acquires energy services to heat, cool and power federal buildings in the national capital area,” the department said.
It said it is undertaking the energy services acquisition program “to strategically involve the private sector in providing solutions” to its energy services challenges and help reduce the government’s environmental footprint.”
The program will involved a phased approach, starting with a request for information and industry consultations this fall.
These will be used to gauge industry’s interest and ability to partner with the government on this initiative and also to obtain information that would be used to draft a request for proposals.
“Energy production is a rapidly evolving sector with many new possibilities for reducing our environmental footprint,” said Environment Minister Jim Prentice. “We are going to work with industry to place Canada on a greener, more cost-efficient path.”
Public Works said this undertaking complements “the significant progress” it has made in improving the environmental performance of federal office buildings across Canada.