Grow Your Own!

Grow Your Own!

What better way to embrace spring than to plant a few seeds and watch the creative life forces unfold before your own eyes… . Starting your own seedlings indoors is an easy and satisfying way to get into the gardening spirit while it is still freezing outside.

‘Growing your own’ has many other advantages too. It can save you a lot of money, and generally produces plants that are stronger and healthier than the chemically-fed bedding plants that are imported from California or B.C. and sold in most of our commercial greenhouses and big box stores these days.Here’s what you need to get started.  read more... »

Flex House (part 1)

MCNZH, First Floor

We have a bad habit in North America of not planning for the future. In our built environment, one way in which this habit manifests itself is disposable buildings. Tearing down a building after 30 years, a practice that would shock most Europeans, is completely normal here. We need to change this mindset.  read more... »

Solar Awning (Part 1)

Constructing a net zero energy home in Edmonton, Alberta is extremely challenging because this is a cold place. Thankfully, it's also a sunny place. Still, in order to achieve the net zero standard, factors such as energy efficiency, insulating values and solar energy collection need to be maximized.

Peter the builder and I came up with the idea of an adjustable solar awning system that will increase by about 10% the amount of energy that the Mill Creek NetZero Home (MCNZH) produces annually.

I just wrote a proposal to help fund the prototype solar awning that we will put on the MCNZH. Here are some excerpts. Sorry for the formal tone, and warning: the following may be for eco-nerds only.

Passive Solar Energy

The MCNZH is designed to passively collect a large amount of solar heat through its south-facing windows. In fact, the 3642 kWh of solar heat that will be captured through the windows represent 46% of the annual space heating required by the MCNZH. With such a large area of south-facing windows, though, there is considerable risk of the home overheating.

In a home as well-insulated as the MCNZH will be, there are “…severe restrictions in the amount of south windows that can be used without excessive overheating” (CMHC, 2005, p.53). “Increasing the window overhang[, however,] allows for additional south glazing” (CMHC, 2005, p.54). In order to remain comfortable for its occupants, then, the south windows must be shaded by overhangs.

The installation of overhangs presents a compromise between maximum solar energy capture and occupant comfort. HOT2000 simulations show that the MCNZH will capture 314 kWh less annually if equipped with overhangs (HOT2000 is a residential building performance evaluation software distributed by Natural Resources Canada (Natural Resources Canada, n.d.)).  read more... »

RRSP Season - Get Your Piece of the Action

It's RRSP season in Edmonton. Middle class folks are starting to think about the looming investment deadline as the quaint "people-centered" commercials about how their banker cares about their retirement lifestyle (it's not about your money, we care about you!) start to interupt their daily television dose.  read more... »