BEC Green Building Guides

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Get the Guides for Energy Efficiency

This is a series on how to measure, evaluate and reduce your electricity consumption at home.

I. Benchmarking your Electricity Use

The first step to decreasing your electricity use is calculating how much you use. This article is a step-by-step guide to help understand home electricity use. This is part one of four articles to help you reduce your electricity consumption.

II. A Do-It-Yourself-Electricity Audit

Evaluating which of your devices (including appliances) are using the most electricity will help you figure out where the most cost-effective changes can be made. This is the second in a four part series of electricity efficiency guides.

III. Observing Your Family's Behaviour

You can have all the efficient lighting in the world, a programmable thermostat for your heat, Energy Star rated auto shut-off power bars, but if you’re not using the equipment properly, they’re not giving you the benefits you bought them for in the first place.

IV. Energy Efficiency at Home: Creating and Implementing an Action Plan

It’s time to synthesize that information from the first three guides and take concrete steps towards lowering your electricity consumption. You’ve done the research, now do the footwork

More Energy Efficiency Guides

Why Hire an Energy Auditor?

Using an energy auditor to help you reduce your energy use is the best way to go. Not only can they identify air leaks in your home, they will also let you know if your furnace and air conditioner need upgrading.

Using an Electricity Monitor to Evaluate your Electricity Use

Today’s large appliances use approximately 3 times less electricity than those from 20 years ago, but any efficiency gains made by the large appliances have been completely wiped out by the introduction of all our home electronic equipment

Different Options for Water Heaters

While the nuts and bolts of home improvement aren’t glamourous they do offer you an opportunity to improve your home’s energy efficiency and lower your monthly heating bills. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency, hot water heaters can consume up to 17% of your home’s annual energy bill.

Tankless Water Heater Systems

Tankless water heaters are common in Europe but not so much in North America. We have an in-depth interview with a tankless water heater installer to help clarify how they work and where they are best installed.

Lighting Guides

LED Lighting Illuminated

LED lighting has some significant advantages over both incandescent and compact fluorescent. For one thing it uses significantly less electricity which saves you money and puts less strain on any electricity system. For another, it doesn’t contain mercury or other harmful elements that our current lighting systems have.

How to measure Lumens in Lighting

What are lumens? Simply put, they are a measurement of the amount of light that a bulb or other light source emits. All light sources can be measured in this way, even older incandescent bulbs.

Shopping for LEDs

Shopping for LED lighting is getting easier all the time, however, there are certain factors to be aware of that aren’t considered with incandescent lighting – especially when renovating

Before you design your new green home or renovation

Green Building Certifications Guide

The advantage of buying a home certified by a green building standard is that it will have lower energy costs, and depending on the certification, have healthier indoor air quality. It gives the buyer reassurance in the long-run.

Passive House in a Canadian Climate

Passive Houses are common in Germany where the standard was developed. To qualify, a house must use 15kWh/m2 for heating. This can be a challenge in our Canadian climate

How to talk to your contractor about using green building materials

You’ve decided to bring more eco-friendly products into your renovation or design but you’re worried about talking to your contractor about your decision. If you’re new to the renovating or home-building game, don’t laugh — this is a more common problem than you might think.

How to tell if you are working with a green kitchen designer

A green kitchen designer will be able to provide more space without necessarily changing the square footage of the home,
focus on natural and task lighting, water and energy saving, work with environmentally preferable products, but reuse materials where possible.

A quick introduction to embodied energy

Embodied energy is the energy that is used in the manufacture of building materials. Calculating embodied energy and choosing the best materials is one way to guide your green build

The Importance of bird-friendly home design

Birds play a significant part of any ecosystem. They are predators of insects and help keep populations in check, they spread seeds and pollinate plants, among other crucial functions.

How to know if a product is truly green

How do you know when you’re being bamboozled by a company or if a product is legitimately green? A big problem is that experts in the field will disagree with each other on what makes a product “eco-friendly.” That, unfortunately, makes a consumer’s job that much harder. However, there are a few guidelines to help you make informed decisions.

An Introduction to Induction Cooktops

The latest in energy efficient stove tops uses induction heating to warm and cook food. Food and liquids are heated significantly faster than with either a traditional electric stove or natural gas.

Purchasing New Appliances

There are two costs associated with any appliance: its purchase price and its running and maintenance cost. When you buy a cheap appliance, it will have a shorter lifespan, cost more to run, and won’t perform as well as its mid-level and top-level brands and you will end up having to replace the replacement sooner.

Interior Finishing Guides

Linoleum Flooring Guide

Linoleum flooring was the flooring of choice for schools, hospitals, residential kitchens and entry ways until the invention of vinyl (PVC) tile and sheeting. It’s relatively easy to maintain, especially newer versions, it is hypo-allergenic and doesn’t off-gas so it’s good for indoor air quality. 

Are stone countertops eco-friendly?

If you could choose a more “eco-friendly” stone, you would look for stone manufacturers that are conscientious about how they produce their stone, and you would look for stone that stands up to the test of time. Some stones are more durable than others and will last for 100s of years if looked after properly.

The Benefits of Wool Carpeting

A green kitchen designer will be able to provide more space without necessarily changing the square footage of the home,
focus on natural and task lighting, water and energy saving, work with environmentally preferable products, but reuse materials where possible.

How to find eco-friendly cabinetry & millwork

We spend 90 percent of our time indoors, so it’s important we consider what materials we are using inside. Chemical free materials are very important to protect our health, future immunity, enhance our quality of life and comfort.

Guides to Water Efficiency

The MAP rating system for toilets

There is an organization out there called the Canadian Waster Water Association (CWWA for short), that, in combination with the California Urban Water Conservation Council, makes it its mission to test popular toilet brands for their effectiveness – called the MaP rating (maximum performance)

How to shop for water efficient toilets

Toilets are probably the highest water consumers in our households, so if you’re in the market for a new toilet, consider how much water (and money) you would save by getting one that uses less water than the one you currently have. 

Water Efficiency Best Practices

Water efficiency can be tackled on many different fronts from installing low-flow fixtures to capturing rain water for use in the garden to reusing gray water in toilets. Here are some of our tips.

Exterior Guides

The Pros and Cons of Rainscreens

Rainscreens as exterior cladding of a building let the water that gets behind the facade drain out so that the building stays dry. This is becoming increasingly important as building envelopes get tighter.

How to shop for windows

Windows are usually the “path of least resistance” when it comes to heat loss/gain. Because you’re cutting a big hole in your building, it’s not hard to see where your heat loss is likely to come from. So compromising on window quality could cost you more in heating and cooling bills than you will be saving on your window purchase.

Energy Efficiency Landscaping

Planting the right plants in the right places can help protect your house in winter and stave off the sun’s heat in summer. A great book covers every aspect of this topic.

What to know about Solar PV panels

A Q&A with Aaron Goldwater from Goldwater Solar about what you need to know when thinking of adding solar to your home. 

What to know about building a strawbale home

While most people are skeptical of homes built from straw, Mick Paterson from The Fourth Pig builders explains the practicalities of strawbale homes.

Permeable pavers and storm water management

Permeable pavers are specifically designed interlocking concrete blocks that are set farther apart than regular pavers so that water can drain between each block preventing run-off.

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