Archive for the ‘Construction Materials’ category

Greener Yet Stylish Ways to Renovate Your Kitchen

June 23rd, 2014

This is a guest post by Robert Kramer.

The modern kitchen is a very high-tech, power-hungry part of the household, but that doesn’t mean that it has to hurt the environment. As our homes improve and the world around us suffers, people are turning to greener solutions for modern living – from solar powered showers to composting – and things are no different in the kitchen. If you’re looking to renovate your kitchen then you don’t have to substitute style or function just to create a greener environment; this article will show you how to improve your kitchen and help the environment at the same time.

Counter Tops

Don’t worry, green countertops have nothing to do with color, but rather they indicate a product that has been created using sustainable materials and has been bound using non-toxic glues. A common misconception is that the standard of these are often on the poor side, that not only do they look cheap but they feel it as well. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Many of these products are painstakingly designed and made, ensuring that only the finest, sustainable materials have been used, and more often than not they are more durable than many of the standard countertops you can buy from your local DIY store.

A great example of this are the products produced by Green Building Supply, a company that specializes in creating highly durable and naturally beautiful countertops made from recycled glass, paper, wood and other materials.

A reclaimed and beautifully designed shelf made and sold by Squak Mountain Stone

A reclaimed and beautifully designed shelf made and sold by Squak Mountain Stone

Kitchen Sinks

Although selecting kitchen sinks of the right style is important, there are a number of options which offer sustainable use of materials.

Antique and rustic sinks are very much the “in” thing, so when selecting the design you can pick from a huge variety of refurbished sinks that suit this style. These are generally made from recycled materials, with everything from glass, ceramics and metals being used to craft the perfect environmentally friendly sink for your kitchen. Concrete sinks – from ceramic cement, which creates less carbon emissions than its age-old counterpart – are also becoming increasing popular and are easy to source, available to buy from companies such Just Manufacturing.

These aren’t just specialist manufacturers either, even the big manufacturers are following suit, and wherever you are in the world your local DIY will stock an assortment of eco-friendly cabinets, flooring, appliances, sinks and countertops. It is taking some of them longer to catch up than others, but the industry is moving at a very quick pace and many shops can provide the products that you need.

Cabinets

Green kitchen cabinets, just like countertops, are ones that have been created using sustainable and non environmentally toxic materials. Cabinets made with chipboard are commonly found in modern kitchens, but these are cheaply made and will need to be replaced or fixed (due to warping) on a regular basis. Chipboard is made using an industrial strength solvent that contains formaldehyde. This breaks down over time and is gradually released into the atmosphere, making these products as toxic as they are ineffective.

Low VOC Plywood (which stands for Volatile Organic Compound) provides a cleaner and stronger solution. As the name suggests, these materials release very small amounts of gas compared to chipboard and other woods, and they are also very durable.

Kitchen cabinets can be bought secondhand and refurbished, or they can be crafted by experts who specialize in turning old and recycled materials into new and exciting products.

Flooring

The flooring is one of the most important parts of a kitchen renovation and yet the one that many people overlook. You’re going to spend a lot of time traipsing across it and cleaning it, so you want something that looks good but is also highly durable. Linoleum is made from renewable sources and can provide a good addition to a green kitchen, but it can also be difficult to clean and require a lot of maintenance. It is prone to stains from spillages which can also warp the material, so any spilled liquids need to be mopped up quickly to prevent the linoleum from swelling.

Cork is another good choice, but it needs to be regularly treated to make sure that it stays in tip-top condition throughout the life of your kitchen. If it is not treated every few years then moisture and general wear and tear can destroy it.

floor

Treated and varnished cork floor.

Kitchen Appliances

Once the basics are done then you need to work on filling your kitchen with all of the essentials. All kitchen appliances will use a certain amount of energy, but these days you can choose from a huge number of energy efficient options.

You should always look out for the energy star rating when buying an appliance, this will tell you how much energy it consumes. The better the rating, the less energy it will use. A good rule of thumb to follow when buying new appliances for a green kitchen is that the newer they are, the more energy efficient they are likely to be. Older appliances use a lot of energy and create a hefty carbon footprint, but manufacturers are constantly devising new technologies and new ways to reduce the energy output.

appliances

A guide to the power in your home, courtesy of: http://sustain.indiana.edu/

The options are there for a completely green approach to your kitchen renovation.

Its not just specialist manufacturers supporting the movement, even the big manufacturers are following suit. Although a movement like this takes time to filter through, wherever you are in the world your local DIY will likely stock an assortment of eco-friendly cabinets, flooring, appliances, sinks and countertops.

To a greener, susustainable home!

Post written by Robert Jacob an interior renovation enthusiast who loves to blog about tips and ideas.

Straw Bale Built Home Declined by Toronto But The City Built one in High Park

April 24th, 2014

My friend, Architect Terrell Wong, a passive house and green building specialist, has been having quite the time with the City of Toronto, trying to get an addition to a home built with straw bale. She figured that since the city had built its own straw bale building in High Park, they’d be open to others building straw bale structures.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with straw bale, it is a method of home building that’s been around for hundreds of years and is still common in Europe. It has a low embodied energy, is recyclable/bio-degradable at end of life, is durable, has a good R-value because it’s so thick and doesn’t need a vapor barrier…or does it? The city denied her application for a straw bale addition to a Toronto home on several grounds, including lack of a vapor barrier. I guess with the city it’s “Do as I say and not as I do.”

» Read more: Straw Bale Built Home Declined by Toronto But The City Built one in High Park

Kitchen Renovation is Complete — Finally!!

April 8th, 2014
Kitchen renovation

View of kitchen, cabinetry, lighting, maple hardwood flooring

Well, five months after my deadline, my kitchen is finished. I’ve promised my friend Nancy Peterson, CEO of Homestars.com, that I will write a post for her called “Why I will never be my own general contractor again”. Let’s just say it was an eye opening experience. This post, however, is not about the mistakes I made (and there were plenty!), it’s about whether or not I achieved my green kitchen goals.

I would say that I accomplished some green goals but failed miserably in others, in particular with indoor air quality. For many of you, this will be the one area where you will probably not want to compromise. I, on the other hand, seem to be willing to sacrifice mine and my family’s health for the sake of aesthetics, and in some cases, durability.

» Read more: Kitchen Renovation is Complete — Finally!!

Mission 2030 Sets An Ambitious Goal: Striving for Zero Waste from Construction and Demolition by 2030

January 16th, 2014

Photo By Ashley Felton (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In December while attending the ConstructCanada show, I went to a few seminars that I really enjoyed. At one in particular, I was so enthusiastic, I got a bit carried away and, er, interrupted the panel with my own stories, questions and conumdrums. The panel was about waste produced by the construction industry, and, if you’ve followed this blog at all, you know waste is one of my biggest pet peeves. In fact, it’s not really a pet peeve, it’s a down right BIG peeve, a major peeve, one I find so frustrating, I just want to fix it all, right now!

Anyway…one of the panelists was Renee Gratton. She is the President and co-founder of the Construction Resources Initiative Council, a group of non-partisan volunteers from the construction industry who have come together to address the growing waste problem in construction and demolition. Here’s something you may be surprised to hear: In Canada, while consumers have been doing an increasingly good job at reducing the amount of material they send to landfill, industrial, commercial and institutional operations have not fared so well. In fact, they have been progressively increasing the amount of material going to landfill. Since industry accounts for two-thirds of all waste, this is a pretty important area to address. On top of that, Canadians may generate the most garbage per capita in the world. Wow, there’s a statistic we should  want to reverse!

According to the CRI Council website, Stats Can noted that in 2008, of all the waste sent to landfill, 75% of it still had value — as in it could have been reused, recycled, repurposed or repaired. When you read a number like that, the goal of zero waste by 2030 doesn’t seem quite as unrealistic as you might have originally thought.

Achieving zero waste in the construction industry isn’t going to be an easy task. However, as Renee recounted at the seminar, a lot of waste reduction has to do with changing our mindset and perspectives. It’s about designing buildings better, increasing resource efficiency and using materials that can be reused or recycled at end of life.  The council’s short-term goal is to get three things going:

  1. Defining the goal — aiming for zero construction renovation and demolition waste to landfill by 2030,
  2. Overcoming inertia — engaging, educating and enabling people and their businesses as to why change is important, and
  3. Taking the first few steps. In this case, the council is calling to action all stakeholders to take the Mission 2030 Pledge and play their part in how building waste is viewed and dealt with, through a fundamental and strategic change management framework.

As the organization is newly established and completely volunteer-run, the website is continually being updated. It provides information on why reducing waste is critical to our planet’s future, along with support on how and where to begin. As the council becomes more established it will also begin to offer its members workshops and educational material on how to implement change. The latest support tool is an app called Waste Saver for your mobile phone (iphone or android), to help you locate companies in your neighbourhood who will   recover it, who is supporting this initiative as well as provide references and address frequently asked questions. While the app still being populated, the more people use it, the more valuable a tool it becomes for everyone.

If you are a contractor, building owner or manager, I encourage you to take a look at the website and start thinking about how you can reduce the amount of waste you send to landfill. It might be as simple as stopping by the ReStore on your way to the dump and dropping off usable construction materials, or using Craigslist or Kijiji to find someone who wants what you don’t. There are plenty of ways to prevent materials from ending up in landfill, but until you’re used to it, it takes some planning, effort and a little research. If you don’t have a resolution yet for 2014, why not make it waste reduction?

Waste Not…Kitchen Renovation

September 27th, 2013
Pantry wall gone. Note you can see a pair of eyes on the lower left of the doorway. Meet Rebecca, our cat!

Pantry wall gone. Note you can see a pair of eyes on the lower left of the doorway. Meet Rebecca, our cat!

I hate waste. It makes me cringe, so putting garbage bags out for pick up is not something I do lightly. My mind travels with the garbage and goes to the landfill site, and it stays there, as does the garbage, well, forever. So, I try to put as little into garbage as possible.

With respect to the kitchen renovation, I’ve gotten lucky. The old cupboard doors and melamine cabinet boxes found new homes through my cabinetmaker. All the cupboard handles are being reused on our cabinets, I’ve saved the kitchen sink and faucet, as well as the countertop and box to reuse in our laundry room. Currently there is a very pretty — and very useless — vanity in there..but at least it looks good! Anyway, it will go (I see Craigslist in its future). As for the rest, as the walls came down, we separated the plaster, drywall and wood out and hauled it over to the Eco-Centre for recycling. In the end we couldn’t save the floor. There were too many years of wear and tear and too much patchwork needed, so it also went to the Eco-Centre. We pulled out a pristine piece of drywall which can be reused, while the mismatched potlights will go to the ReStore.

In the end we filled five heavy duty garbage bags for landfill. Not great, but not bad, considering what it could have been.

Looking towards outside entry

Looking towards outside entry

But here’s the thing: separating out the garbage and the recycling materials was time-consuming. I was fortunate in that there were three of us (my two sons and I) separating and loading the van with the materials while my husband and sister in-law took down the walls. It went at a good clip, but I can see the desire of being able to throw it all in a bin and have someone else take it away. It’s faster — but as I just found out, probably not cheaper. My contractor was telling me it costs about $800 to rent a dumpster or about $250 for him to take the debris to the dump in the back of his truck. But let’s face it: most people don’t have time or energy to haul the waste to the eco-centre and the kicker is, your contractor can’t do it on your behalf. That’s right, you, the homeowner, are the only one allowed to take your waste to the Eco-Centre. You must show proof that you live within the city limits. Further, you have a maximum of 12 cubic meters of recycling waste you are permitted to send to the recycling centre annually. Now, 12 cubic meters is a lot of stuff, but the point is, they obviously don’t  want enterprising people to make a business out of recycling. My question is: why?

Montreal clearly doesn’t have the same waste pressures that Toronto had. They don’t have a Michigan telling them that their time for dumping garbage into their landfill is drawing to a close. Recycling is minimal, organic waste collection is non-existent, and there is no public campaign telling people to reduce, reuse and recycle. I know there is a NIMBY problem with finding a spot for a city composting plant, but it should be a no-brainer to solve: Montreal offers any nearby municipality the money to build one and tax-relief on its waste bill for the next, say, 10 years. In fact, I saw the perfect spot in Lachine for one….

Anyway, here are links to construction waste recycling depots in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa in case you have a project to tackle.

Toronto Recycling Depots (for construction waste)

Montreal Eco Centres (construction waste, e-waste, old clothes, etc.)

Ottawa (gently used construction items go to the ReStore, the rest needs to be taken to landfill sites around the city).

 

 

 

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