Archive for the ‘Green People’ category

Endeavour Centre’s workshop schedule for 2016

January 27th, 2016

In the wake of record-breaking warming temperatures, you might be wondering what you can do to lighten your carbon footprint. Besides curbing your air travel and becoming a vegetarian, you can looking at tightening your residence’s building envelope, or renovating using more benign materials. The Endeavour Centre in Peterborough, ON, hosts a bunch of different kinds of green building workshops, and the first one on designing your sustainable home will be held in Toronto on February 6-7th.  The schedule for all of their courses is below, but visit the Endeavour Centre’s website for more information.

Workshops – 2016 Schedule

All of Endeavour’s workshops are taught by leading professionals who have a passion for teaching and sharing their knowledge. We focus on small-group learning in an open and fun format. Please check out our calendar below, and follow the links to get more information on each workshop. If you have any questions, please contact us.

Workshop Date Duration Instructor
2016 Workshops
Design Your Own Sustainable Home- Toronto Feb 6-7 2 Days Chris Magwood
Eco Paints- Understanding Healthy House Paints Feb 8 Evening Chris Magwood
BCIN-House 2012 Feb 8-12 5 Days Jeff Chalmers
Tadelakt plastering Feb 13,14 2 Day Mike Henry
Carpentry For Women Feb 27,28 2 Day Jen Feigin & Deirdre McGahern
Green & Healthy Home Renovation series: Improving Your Home’s Energy Efficiency March 8 3 hours Chris Magwood
Green & Healthy Home Renovation series: Kitchens & Bathrooms March 1 3 hours Chris Magwood
Ontario Building Code (BCIN) Legal Process 2012 March 12,13,19,20,21 5 Days
(Delivered over two consecutive weekends)
Jeff Chalmers
Green & Healthy Home Renovation series: Choosing Healthy Paints, Finishes & Flooring March 15 3 hours Chris Magwood
Design Your Own Sustainable Home- Ottawa March 19,20 2 Day Chris Magwood
Earthen Floors March 26-27 2 Days Chris Magwood & Jen Feigin
Hempcrete April 9 1 Day Chris Magwood
Light clay straw April 10 1 Day Chris Magwood
Compressed Earth Block Construction April 24th 1 Day Henry Weirsma and Chris Magwood
Renewable Energy April 30 1 Day Sean Flanagan
Carpentry For Women May 7,8 2 Days Jen Feigin & Deirdre McGahern
Build a Pizza/Bread Oven May 14-15 2 Days Tina Therrien
Fundamentals of Building Science May 27-29 3 Days Jacob Deva Racusin
Ontario Building Code (BCIN) Courses-Small Buildings June 6-10 5 Days Jeff Chalmers
Rocket Stove/Rocket Mass Heater workshop June 11,12 2 Days Andrew Brunning
Net Zero Energy Home Certification June 18,19 2 Days Ross Elliot
Plastering for Straw Bale Construction July-TBA 2 Days Chris Magwood & Jen Feigin
Solar Outdoor Shower July-TBA 2 Days Chris Magwood
Make a Wooden Cutting Board July-16 1 day Annie Murphy
Build a Pizza/Bread Oven August 6,7 2 Days Tina Therrien
Tadelakt plastering August 27,28 2 day Mike Henry
Spoon Carving September 10 1 DAY Wilfried Elzner
Ontario Building Code (BCIN) Legal Process 2012l Sept 19-23 5 Days Jeff Chalmers
Natural, Non-toxic Eco-Paints Workshop Sept 24 1 Day Chris Magwood & Jen Feigin
Renewable Energy Oct 8 1 Day Sean Flanagan
Making and Applying Your Own Natural Finish Plasters Oct 22,23 2 Days Chris Magwood & Jen Feigin
Hempcrete Oct 29 1 Day Chris Magwood
Straw/Clay workshop Oct 30 1 Day Chris Magwood
Design Your Own Sustainable Home Nov 5,6 2 Days Chris Magwood
Net Zero Energy Certification Nov 12,13 2 Days Ross Elliot
Straw Bale Building Workshop Nov 18,19,20 3 Days Chris Magwood & Jen Feigin
Carpentry For Women Nov26, 27 2 Days Jen Feigin & Deirdre McGahern
Rocket Stove/Rocket Mass Heater workshop Dec 3, 4 2 Days Andrew Brunning
Framing Carpentry for Women TBA 3 Days Jen Feigin & Deirdre McGahern
Tools For Teens TBA 2 Days Jen Feigin & Deirdre McGahern
Earthbag Building Workshop TBA 1 Day Chris Magwood
Timber Framing TBA 3 Days Mark Davidson
Dry stack Stone TBA 3 Days Eric Landman


Recycled Crayons and a new way of doing business

November 29th, 2015

I am always looking for real-life applications of the circular economy. If you’re not familiar with the term, while it’s been around for awhile (and put into practice more than you might recognize), it’s still not widely known outside of environmental circles. The basic point of it is that there is no waste created during the production of an item; whatever is output as waste from one production process is used as input for another, whether in the same factory or for a different business. This theory necessarily includes the actual product as well, bringing extended producer responsibility into the framework.

I am constantly coming up with applications of this concept, although I have yet to convince a company to try one of my pilot project ideas, but I have faith that sooner or later some enlightened individual will be brave enough to try one (btw, the ideas also make good business sense, since companies can sell the same product over and over again.)

I watched a BuzzFeed video about a wonderful initiative by Brian Ware, who collects old crayons, melts them down and donates the new models to local hospitals for children in California. In fact, he went so far as to get an occupational therapist to design the mold for the crayons so that they easily fit children’s hands. This commendable effort was born out of his experience at family-friendly restaurants. It turns out all those crayons the kids use often end up in the garbage even if they are not touched by the kids at the table. He came up with The Crayon Initiative, an ingenious idea and yet so simple you kind of want to slap your forehead and say, “D’oh! why didn’t I think of that?”

The idea was to stop wasting resources and to reuse them. But instead of just collecting them and dropping off a bunch of old, used crayons at hospitals, the team at TCI makes brand new crayons out them. It’s a time-consuming process where volunteer hours play a big part. The crayons need to be collected from restaurants and daycares, then sorted into colours, papers torn off, crayons melted down then poured into molds Brian had specially designed by an occupational therapist for children’s hands. Finally, they are distributed to local children’s hospitals.

The collection and reuse process extend the crayons’ lives and, therefore, fewer natural resources are used (in this case petroleum for the wax) because new ones aren’t needed. Technically, however, it doesn’t save the crayons from landfill. The website rightly points out that most crayons are made from petroleum-based wax which never biodegrades. Once the crayons are applied to paper, that piece of paper can’t be recycled in most paper recycling methods (assuming the artwork makes it to the recycling bin and not the garbage can) because the machines prohibit waxed paper, including crayon waxed paper; wax (oil) and paper pulp don’t separate well. It’s the same reason you can’t recycle your pizza boxes. But by reusing them and making them shiny new, Brian has managed to save 2000 new boxes of crayons from coming into these hospitals and, therefore, saved these resources from being used.

What would happen if the crayon companies jumped on the recycling bandwagon? Think about it: let’s start with it as a “do good” project for hospitals, shelters, refugees, etc.. The crayon companies set up dropoff points at toy stores, restaurants, libraries, daycares, schools — basically, wherever children frequent and might use (or purchase) crayons. Then there is the laborious and time-consuming task of sorting, tearing off the paper, melting down, remolding and distributing the crayons. I know what you’re thinking: “It’s a logistical nightmare! It can’t be done! It’s too expensive!” Well, tell that to Brian Ware and the TCI, because they seem to be able to do it. If your trucks are dropping off new crayons to toy stores, couldn’t you pick up old ones at the same time? If you make the paper labels easy to tear off (like a zipper back or something), wouldn’t the sorting go faster? If volunteers sort the crayons because they knew they were going to a good cause, wouldn’t it go faster and be easier for everyone? Finally, if the new-old crayons were donated to hospitals, shelters, refugee camps, etc., wouldn’t you feel good about what you are doing — all while extending the life of a crayon and saving some natural resources while helping your own Corporate Social Responsibility goals at the same time?

:: via Buzzfeed

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

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?

Canada’s Greenest Home is Complete!

May 24th, 2013

Canada's Greenest Home?

Chris Magwood, Executive Director of  The Endeavour Centre sent me a note letting me know that Canada’s Greenest Home is now complete and up for sale. As he mentions in his blog post on the subject, being the greenest home is not a brag per se, as those people working in the green construction industry tend to work cooperatively rather than competitively. I had a long list of questions about the home that I sent Chris’ way, and he answered each one with significant detail.

If you’re not familiar with the Endeavour Centre, is an independent school that teaches green building skills and techniques. People in the program spend half their day in the classroom and the other half building a house, getting that hands-on practical experience they need.

Using criteria from both LEED and Living Building Challenge certification systems, the team at Endeavour built what is likely to be one of the greenest homes on the market today. Not only was it built with end-use in mind, it was built with materials that have a low embodied energy. For the most part, materials come from close to home, and are made, as much as possible from renewable resources.

The house is a spacious 2300 square feet of living space on two floors. There are three bedrooms (including a Master-ensuite) on the second floor, and two bathrooms. On the main floor there is another room which can be used as a fourth bedroom, den, playroom, office, etc. in addition to the kitchen, living and dining rooms and another bathroom.

Shell: The east and west walls for both the first and second floors are made from NatureBuilt straw Structural Insulated Panels. The south side of the building is “double-framed dense packed cellulose” and the north wall is site- strawbaled. Chris estimates that the SIP walls have an R30 value, the roof has an R-80 value, the basement floor has an R-16 value, while the basement walls, built from Durisol blocks are  R-16. This is a very tight shell despite its vapour permeable walls, with an air exchange value of 0.63 ACH/hour at a standard pressure of 50 Pascal Pressure. Ross Elliot from Homesol Building Solutions  performed the energy audits throughout construction. Chris noted that the floor joists were constructed within the structure so there is no issue with having thermal bridges around the joists. Needless to say, this is a very tight building envelope!

James-St (14 of 19)

James-St (13 of 19)The windows and doors were manufactured by Inline Fiberglass. They are triple glazed (ie., three pieces of glass), argon filled with fiberglass frames. Fiberglass is one of the best materials you can use for windows and doors as the glass and fibreglass expand and contract at the same rate meaning the seal remains tight.

Because the building envelope is so tight, the house is equipped with an Air Source Heat Pump made by Mitsubishi, and an accompanying Energy Recovery Ventilator. Newer ASHPs work even in cold climates such as ours as they can find the heat in air that is -30C (provided the building envelope is tight enough). The ERV recovers heat not just from air, but also from moisture in the air so it is doubly efficient. Chris told me he wouldn’t worry about moisture in this house in any event. Because the walls are made of natural materials (straw, lime plaster, clay and wood), they are breathable and therefore can absorb moisture from the air and dry without worry of mou

Ross Eliott has estimated that with average consumption patterns the annual cost to heat the home should be about $325, taking into account average Time of Use rates in Ontario. In addition, there is a 5 kilowatt PV solar system on the roof which should generate some extra income for the homeowners as part of the microFIT program. In theory, Ross estimates that the home should run at a surplus, and that because the home is so well-insulated, it shouldn’t have any need for air conditioning (although it’s included in the ASHP). No fossil fuels are needed to run this home, and in the event that the homeowners draw more electricity than they produce, they have a contract with Bullfrog Power, a green energy retailer.

Exterior cladding is FSC pine from PurePine and are treated with Sansin stain (water-based) in the factory, and the cedar shingles were sourced in Madoc, Ontario.

Water use: There is no sewer hook-up for this home. The toilets come from a composting company in Sweden called Clivus Multrum. The system only uses 0.1L of water per flush. I’ve looked at the diagram on the Clivus website and asked Chris about it. To be honest, I was a little leery about a composting system within the home itself. The system comes with a fan, and a drainage system that separates urine from excrement and by the time the compost reaches the front of the system it is only about 10% of its original size and ready for use (it takes one to two years to reach the front of the system). My two reservations with this system are sanitation and smell. However, Clivus has been in existence since the 60s and in North America since the 70s, so maybe my reservations are unfounded. Chris noted that they have installed this system in two houses before with great success.  Despite my reservations, I can see a system such as this one being a great way for progressive cities to entice new buildings and retrofits to not use the city sewer system — provided there is a lot of training and some sort of certification system in place to make sure proper safety/sanitation measures are taken.

Because there is no need for water for the toilets, there is also no gray water system. There is a rainwater harvest system in place which can be used for any household uses including watering the garden. An overflow system lets excess rainwater  onto the front garden.

Interior finishes are a variety of materials including non-toxic acrylic paint from Mythic, AFM Safecoat Naturals paint, a homemade Clay finish, lime plaster and Kreidezeit clay. There are no toxins in this house!

Is this Canada’s Greenest house? It is durable, made of low-embodied energy, local and attractive materials, with exceptionally low running costs, that doesn’t tax the municipal sewer or electric system. Further, it blends in with its neighbours, is a reasonable size and offers typical functionality all of which are important factors in creating any “green” house. The market will decide how desirable this house is. And desirability is a key ingredient in any green house.


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