Green building aka green construction or sustainable building, refers to environmentally responsible and resource-efficient structures, from planning to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition. U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) developed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the most popular green building certification program used worldwide. LEED provides independent, third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health; sustainability. To be a truly green builder you must be LEED-certified, there is a process outlined by Canada Green Building Council. Canada ranks first on USGBC’s annual ranking of the Top 10 Countries for LEED for the last two consecutive years, the green building industry generated $23.45 billion in GDP which represents 297,890 full-time jobs in 2014 and those numbers are on the rise still. It goes without saying that not only is building ‘green’ good for the environment, but it is also good for jobs and the economy so let’s take a look at some ways in which we can build greener.
- Let’s Dig In Foundations
Let’s start where the building process begins, the foundation.
- Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) are a stay in place, 5-in-1 concrete forming system that incorporates the structure, insulation, an air/vapour barrier and a finish attachment. It is multi-functional and this means it is a cost-effective, resilient and environmentally friendly construction system. Concrete has pretty much no insulating value: R-0.08 per inch, R-value for ICF walls starts at about 12, ICFs that are thicker with more foam may have higher R-values.
- AshCrete is a concrete alternative that uses fly ash, a by-product of burning coal, instead of concrete. Ashcrete uses a special mixture that prevents solutions from penetrating the concrete, so the mechanisms that can cause conventional concrete to deteriorate have no influence. Ashcrete has higher durability than those of conventional concrete and can be precast into designated shapes and designs.
- An even newer cement substitute is carbon concrete, a thermoplastic, also called Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer (CFRP), it is closing the gap on carbon fibres reclaimed from the end of the life cycle of certain plastic products. Composites recycling is gaining momentum not just in the concrete industry, as CFRP has been used in lightweight production, such as automobiles, but can also provide lightweight concrete alternatives.
- Let’s Frame Another Way: Materials
Walls are an excellent opportunity to, optimize sustainability by exploring different building materials.
- Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) are panels engineered to construct walls, ceilings, and floors, and they replace traditional framing lumber and insulation. SIPs consist of a rigid foam insulation layer sandwiched between two surfaces, like OSB, this provides an energy-efficient building option that is also safer, more durable and more time-efficient which translates to cost reduction.
- Hemp is bio-composite material, a mixture of hemp and lime and a great replacement for concrete. It is as versatile as it is sustainable, from roof insulation to wall construction to flooring additionally it is waterproof, fireproof, insulates well, and is completely recyclable. A bonus feature is that it absorbs CO2 emissions from the atmosphere neutralizing the building’s carbon footprint.
- Strawbale building is throwing it back to the old school days when homes were built from natural, locally-occurring materials. Straw bales are used to create walls inside of a frame, similar to the styrofoam of SIPs, Straw bales can replace other building materials such as concrete, wood, gypsum, plaster, fibreglass, or stone and provide very high levels of insulation for a hot or cold climate when properly sealed.
Flooring is another great avenue for sustainability to enhance the design.
- Bamboo flooring is a popular alternative to laminate or hardwood, and just as aesthetically appealing, the best part is bamboo floors are incredibly durable. As a note, bamboo flooring is susceptible to scratches and should not be used in high moisture or humid areas.
- We’re going to introduce cork as a flooring material because cork flooring looks elegant but the truth is cork can be used in many different applications during the construction process. Cork is sustainable, lightweight, waterproof, fire retardant, hypoallergic and more. It can be used as insulation like straw is, it can by using as a spray coating for walls – both interior and exterior, and flooring.
- Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup: Water Efficiency
- Has your toilet ever broken or your sink plugged and you had to carry water by hand? It can be very shocking just how much clean water we use and discard. Water efficiency is a growing concern, the first step for increasing water efficiency at home is to decrease the use of potable (drinking) water for non-consumption purposes. You can collect rainwater by installing cisterns above or below ground that will collect and store run-off from the roof. You can also install a greywater system the collects gently used water from your bathroom sinks, showers, tubs, and washing machines, as long as there is no contamination (blackwater) the water is then reused by the washing machine, your toilet and the irrigation of plants.
- Light up my Life: Energy Efficiency
- We all consume energy, so let’s find renewable ways to charge our 9.6V cordless impact drill. Solar panels are a great way to get the sun to power your home or business. We recommend installing solar panels on top of metal roofs, as the lifespan of solar panels which is 30-35+ years exceeding that of conventional shingles. Bonus tips metal roofs are installed on top of preexisting asphalt shingles, eliminating the need to demo the old roof saving you time and money, and reducing waste and the impact on landfills.
- Not feeling the metal roof? That’s fine another innovative solution is solar shingles, Tesla created shingles that are virtually undetectable as solar panels and offer a lifetime warranty. Pair them with the Tesla Power Wall and your home will never need to tap into the grid for power again.
- Smart glass, Photovoltaic glass (PV glass), are solar panels that replace building parts like windows or skylights. Instead of installing these panels onto the building these panels are integrated into the building. Although smart glass is less efficient than older solar panel technology they are affected less by high temperatures, insulate better than regular glass, designed to reduce heat gain, are highly customizable and are a cheap way to reach a zero-carbon rating for your home.
- Bark siding is a newer trend, as logging companies cut down trees they often strip the bark and discard it. Companies like Bark House then reclaim the bark and reuse it as an exterior finish for homes. It looks gorgeous and if bark can protect a tree it can protect your home as well. Bark can be used inside your home as well for a beautiful rustic finish.
- Raise the Roof: Indoor Environment
- Did you know that building green can also make your home healthier? Currently on the market are air-purifying wall coatings – Shirasu Kabe Plaster by Habitus is a revolutionary wall finish produced from volcanic soil in Japan, proven to purify the air in the room where it is applied. A bonus feature is that these walls extract indoor humidity when air is humid and releases the moisture when the air is dry.
- Maybe you don’t wish to plaster the walls, you only wish to add a fresh coat of paint? Air Pure Paint By ECOS is an atmosphere paint that is designed to absorb a range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the atmosphere. Some of the toxins filtered by this paint are contaminants such as formaldehyde, acetone, glycol and benzene, ideal for those who suffer from asthma or are sensitive to chemicals and their smells.
These are just some of the most popular ways you can incorporate green building into your renovation or new build. North Canadian Construction is all about employing new and innovative building techniques into our processes, whatever makes our clients happy.
Building Communities Together. North Canadian Construction.