Green Building Illustrated: Book Review

September 24th, 2014 by Cathy Rust 2 comments »
Green Building Illustrated

Green Building Illustrated

Francis Ching is a well-known author and illustrator of books on design and construction, perhaps within the building sector his most well-known book is Building Construction Illustrated. Collaborating with Ian Shapiro on this latest book, the pair have developed a good introduction to green building for those just becoming familiar with the field, but it also serves as a good reference guide to green building for those of us with more experience.

“What is green building?”

The point of the question is to highlight the reality that it is really an evolving definition. Some buildings built to a high standard, have, upon evaluation, turned out to be less green than their standard counterparts because they use more energy than the comparative standard, whereas some net-zero or close to net zero buildings aren’t classified as green because the owner has decided not to go through the hoops necessary to become classified.

Further,  the authors address why building greener buildings is important, referring to climate change effects as well as resource depletion. They also delve into the different green classification systems that are available.What I like about this book is that after reading it you gain a basic understanding of all the elements involved in building a better, more resilient, lower impact building.

Hosting a Design Charette

Shapiro and Ching emphasize that with the development, design and construction of any building, there are thousands of decisions that are made. One decision affects another, so it means that there are trade-offs for every decision. Getting the design done right at the beginning can save time and money down the road and one of the best ways to do that is to have a design charette. A charette is like a round table discussion where every involved party can have a say in how the design will affect their portion of the building from plumbing, electrical, HVAC concerns, material selection, and occupant use post construction. Ideally charettes include the architect, general contractor, sub-trades, building owner and manager, in other words, all stakeholders.

The book is clearly illustrated and dedicates a good section to design and design issues. Getting the design right is one of the best ways to have the most significant impact on constructing a lower impact building. Again the book is thought-provoking: the authors ask “green buildings are lower impact than what?” In fact Shapiro gently takes LEED to task because the system fails to give points for designing a building that has a smaller surface area (therefore less exposure to the elements), than its standard counterpart. In other words, no points are given for designing a more efficiently shaped building than might otherwise be built. The authors explain the differences between the different green building rating systems out there, including LEED, Passivhaus, Living Building Challenge, and Green Globes.

Another perspective of the book is that it teaches readers to design buildings from the outside in, in layers. So, it looks at landscaping, site and orientation and how those factors affect the design of the building. Further, Shapiro and Ching highlight with detailed drawings, the importance of surface area on the energy efficiency of a building. In general terms, the smaller the surface area, the greater the energy efficiency of the building.

It takes only one brief glance at the chapter on windows to confirm that all those glass condos going up all over Toronto and Montreal are  an energy efficiency nightmare. Windows, in addition to having terrible insulation values, also pose potential leak problems between their frames and the building. If not sealed properly there is an extra source of potential drafts and water infiltration.

The chapter on building materials emphasizes the need to consider local, recycled and other materials with a low embodied energy. There is a handy table that shows the different embodied energy of different types of wall constructions.

One of the best features of this book is that it is an all in one reference guide for looking at how to build better buildings from design through to commissioning (evaluating a building’s systems to make sure they are all functioning properly). Once read cover to cover, it can be used as a reference guide to greener building and the different factors that need to be taken into account. While the book does not delve deep into any one area, it does provide a readable and approachable overview that’s easily understood by laypersons as well as professionals familiarizing themselves with green building practices. If I have one complaint, it is that for old people like myself, the spidery, handwritten style font is difficult to read.

Green Building Illustrated is available through John Wiley and Sons, or Amazon.

Four Eco-Building Materials of the Future

September 12th, 2014 by Contributor No comments »

As the world is changing, many things about technology, science, health system, etc. are improved. New machines and gadgets are invented, the purpose of which is to make our lives better and easier. In recent years, a vast majority of different organisations and businesses have called for a more environment-friendly approach when it comes to developing new technologies, products, goods and other stuff. We should start changing ourselves first and the way we perceive things; then we should start changing our homes and our habits, making them less hazardous for nature.


With this said, there already are many ways to help protect nature that the average person can do, from using natural cleaning solutions to buying eco-friendly furniture. Everybody knows that standard cleaning products contain dangerous chemicals, that’s why many people use their environment-friendly alternatives. Another way is using eco building materials.


In the article below we have shown four eco building materials of the future. What do you think about that? Wouldn’t it be great if these materials are also durable and easy to clean? Personally, we would love it! Get reading and find out more about these materials.

Polyurethane Rigid Foam

This foam is plant-based. It is made from materials like kelp, hemp and bamboo. This foam material in different types for different applications. Ainacore, AinaFlow and Pacific Biofoam are produced by Malama Composites and the materials are used in furniture, wind turbine blades, surfboards and insulation. In fact this company is a big surfboard maker.

The advantages of this foam are its high heat and moisture resistance, protection against pests and mould, good acoustics. Another great side of the foam is that it insulates better, as it has a good thermal resistance as well.

Insulated Concrete Forms

This technology is approximately 60 years old. Back in the early years of its development people weren’t aware of its energy-saving properties. This is what breathes new life into the technology today. The structure of the concrete forms is sandwich-like. There are two insulation layers, in which concrete is poured. One of the biggest concrete forms makers, ARXX, approve of this idea. According to a study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, constructions made from this kind of concrete forms tend to be energy-saving. The report claims that the forms can save 20% more energy than that consumed in cold climates by wood-frame constructions.

Insulated concrete forms are used in building blocks and freestanding walls.


Econoblock is made from cardboard and waste paper. It has a high thermal insulation and it’s load-bearing and lightweight. It is the same as concrete block and performs to the same standards, only it is much more environment-friendly. The technology was invented during the early years of the 20th century but due to its high cost it couldn’t gain popularity or reach commercialisation. The reason for the high rates was the fact that this construction was originally made from cellulose. However, in 1980s waste paper was used as an alternative and so the idea of the Econoblock was revived. They also experimented with other mixture buildings and materials.


rammed earth home, aercura

Rammed earth home


The advantage of this material, apart from it being environment-friendly, is that it is free and so far abundant. What’s more, it doesn’t have to be transported, as it is available on every job site. A great drawback is that it requires a specialist who knows how to build constructions using this material. It really is difficult to find craftsmen who can work with dirt.


We hope you find this information worthy. If you are environment-aware and you are planning to build a new construction, either a residential property or a commercial one, you can use some of these materials.



This article is a guest post by Hally who writes for PromptCleaners Greenford

Greyhorne Interiors Now Carrying Team 7 Kitchens

August 26th, 2014 by Cathy Rust No comments »
K7 kitchen

K7 kitchen by Team 7, available in Ottawa through Greyhorne Interiors

James Flynn, owner of Greyhorne Interiors in Ottawa, let me know that in addition to representing Team 7’s furniture lines, Greyhorne now carries its kitchen cabinets as well. The cabinets are made with the same care and precision as its furniture, and, like its furniture, all efforts are taken to lighten the company’s environmental footprint.

All their designs have sleek, modern lines. Greyhorne carries four Team 7 lines:

K7, a simple button to adjust counter height

K7, a simple button to adjust counter height


K7 Island and cabinetry

K7: The highlight of this kitchen is the island with an adjustable counter top that goes from 74cm to 114cm at the push of a button. This allows for a worktop, table or bar seating and is seen as ideal for an open concept living area. In the counter top’s lowest position, it covers the sink and retracted fixtures.


Vao: Upper and lower cabinets are framed in contrasting material to show off the wood of the cabinetry. The sleek design avoids the use of handles, drawers are opened from above, and cupboards are opened on the side.



Vao kitchen

Vao Kitchen, yellow

Vao Kitchen, yellow


















Linee: This line of cabinetry is built with the wood grain running horizontally, which makes small spaces appear larger than they really are. This kitchen can be constructed from a wide variety of wood types, glass colours, dimensions and designs.

Linee kitchen

Linee kitchen

Linee, upper cabinets

Linee, upper cabinets











Loft: A modern country kitchen built from a variety of woods, however, oak or wild walnut exhibit the natural qualities of this design the best.

Loft Kitchen

Loft Kitchen

Loft Kitchen with glass cabinet doors

Loft Kitchen with glass cabinet doors










Design: All kitchens are designed with the staff at Greyhorne Interiors. Please contact Greyhorne for more information.

Cost: The cost for design and installation is about the same as other high-end European kitchen company, such as Scavolini or Bulthaup.

Timing: Once the design is finalized it takes approximately 12-16 weeks to make and ship to Canada. Installation will take another few days, assuming the kitchen area is finished to the point of readiness for the cabinetry.

As with all Team 7 furniture, sustainable practices are a priority. The company has received ISO 9001 and 14001 certification as well as the Austrian Ecology mark. You can read Team 7’s  sustainability report here.



Phone: 613.521.6651

Green Cleaning Ideas: Stain removal techniques – Talcum powder

August 16th, 2014 by Contributor No comments »

This is a guest post.

Green Cleaning Ideas Stain removal techniques - Talcum powder2 Getting rid of stains is always tough work, as you feel like there are so many dos and don’ts that you can’t possibly get it all right! The main difficulty that people have in getting rid of stains revolves around how to deal with the variety in stains, materials and techniques in order to get the perfect combination of the three and a nice clean result! If you are having issues over how to best tackle the problems that come with removing stains, then it can be a good idea to get to know the mechanics behind the process that are on offer. The following notes are all aimed at showing you how the process works, and what it is that you can do to ensure that the stain is cleaned off nicely and easily, so that you are not at risk of getting it wrong, nor getting less than perfect results. In fact, a simple knowledge of how the processes work will mean that you are well able to apply the right technique to the right stain immediately, as soon as it happens, which will no doubt mean that you are able to tackle any stain as it happens, preventing stains from really being such a problem as they may have been previously.

Green Cleaning Ideas Stain removal techniques - Talcum powder For a start, you should look at talcum powder. It may sound like it is only for the bathroom, but in fact some of its properties are great for getting rid of mess. This may not be the number one go to for stain removal, but if you find yourself with tomato sauce on the carpet and nothing else in the house to use, then it is at least good to have some sort of back-up plan, even if it is using some unlikely ingredients! To start with, talcum powder will be gentle on most fabrics, as well as carpets. It is soft, and does not contain any harmful acids, alkalis, or staining pigments. Therefore, you know you are safe when applying it to the stained surface. The main role that talcum powder has to play in the removal of stains is in soaking up the stain, and drawing it from the material in question. If you think about it, the pigment in the staining liquid or matter is being soaked into the fibers of the material, or the pores of the surface, and then drying out, setting in to the material. If you can apply a substance that will do the reverse, by drawing out the stain, then you are much less likely to let the stain dry into the material in the first place. Simply spread the talc over the staining area, having removed as much excess as possible. Once the talc has taken on the color that you are trying to get rid of, vacuum it up, flush out the area with water, and reapply. You may want to add extra cleaning power like white vinegar, lemon or detergent afterwards, to really get rid of the last little marks. In terms of drawing the stain out however, the talcum powder will be a great solution.

Do not let the talc get too heavy with the stain, as otherwise it may over saturate and drop the color back on to the material surrounding it, spreading the stain. Be attentive, and keep refreshing the talc for as long as you think it is doing its job. Be sure not to use anything on delicate materials if you are at all worried as to how well they will react. If you are in doubt, always call a professional first, to avoid any upset!


For further information about cleaning you may also check:


The Rogers Cup Montreal Tournament Diverts Mountains of Waste from Landfill

August 15th, 2014 by Cathy Rust No comments »

I confess that I’m a bit of a tennis nut. It is my favourite pastime and I play as often as I can when I’m not injured (current injury is an annoying pulled calf muscle that just won’t heal!!). I also attend the Rogers Cup every summer and until this year, always as a spectator. This year, however, I decided to combine my two loves: environmental action and tennis. I volunteered for the green committee.  As I suspected, the Green Committee volunteers’ job was to help spectators choose the right waste receptacle for their used food and drink containers. Right up my alley!!

Since 2007, the Rogers Cup Green Committee in Montreal has been charging ahead with many impressive green initiatives, the most visible one is with waste. Any sporting event involving hundreds of thousands of people over a period of ten days will generate mountains of garbage. In fact, last year The Rogers Cup Tournament in Montreal generated more than 68 tonnes of waste. It’s the nature of the event; people get hungry and thirsty, therefore they eat and drink. While it’s fine to have recycling bins available, at most large events the empty food containers become garbage because the bins aren’t used properly by the public or the recycling program isn’t extensive enough to capture most of the waste generated.

The Green Committee has taken the proactive measure of requiring all of its food vendors to use compostable and biodegradable food containers. They set up groups of three waste containers throughout the park: one for compost, one for recycling and one for garbage and used a waste hauler that separates all waste generated into recycling, compost and waste. Last year the results were an astonishing 87% diversion rate of waste from landfill. The diverted waste went to an industrial composter or to a recycling facility. Our goal this year was to try to beat 2013’s diversion rate — we won’t know for sure if we succeeded until the final tally of the results are in.

The Results for 2014 are in! The overall diversion rate from landfill to recycling or composting was 92%! Waste per capita decreased by 3%. Of the 70 tonnes of waste generated 5.6 tonnes went to landfill. Congratulations to all the spectators and volunteers who helped with trash diversion efforts!

However, the Green Committee’s efforts didn’t stop at waste diversion. It also undertook other initiatives such as:

  • buying greenhouse gas credits from to offset its operations and transportation emissions,
  • offering free public transportation by bus and metro to and from the event for ticket holders,
  • providing bike rack parking with security guard service,
  • implementing a local, Canadian and North American procurement policy for everything from food to Rogers uniforms to entertainment (local bands and artists).

These are just a few of the actions the team took to help reduce the tournament’s environmental footprint. Now, if we can just figure out how to recycle those used tennis balls….

You can read all about Rogers’ Cup green plan and progress here:


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