Concrete Floor Finish


The best way that I can think of to add a large amount (20+ tonnes) of thermal mass to a solar home is by adding concrete floors. By doing this, one can get two uses, thermal storage and a finished floor,  out of the same investment. Furthermore, since the mass of a concrete floor is so spread out around the home, thereby giving it a large surface area with which to absorb and release heat, it really is the ideal thermal storage medium for a house with large solar gains.

So we added a 2.5 inch topcoat of concrete over the subfloor. In order to support the extra weight we had to add (recycled!) beams that run the length of the house (north to south).  After it was poured, the concrete was simply trowelled as a preliminary finish.


pouring concrete floors over a regular subfloors (the walls had to be made 2.5 inches higher to compensate for the depth of the floors)


a freshly trowelled concrete floor

For the final finish, we were partial to an acid-stain because we've seen some gorgeous stained finishes. Peter Amerongen convinced us to go for a water-based dye for environmental reasons. Man those green types can get in the way sometimes!

A talented man named Skip from Desco Coatings did the final finish. Peter describes the finish as such:
”We sealed the concrete with lithium silicate, then dyed it with water-based dye. The final coat was an epoxy coating, 2-part , 100% solids (so no offgassing because the soldis do not evaporate)."

The finished product is wonderful – a bit different at first, with an organic, charactery type of feel to it (yes, I just made up the word charactery).

The floor has been growing on me by the day.


we love the saw cuts in this floor  read more... »

Greater Edmonton Alliance


The Greater Edmonton Alliance (GEA) is the most exciting thing to happen to Edmonton, sustainability-wise, in forever.

The alliance, composed mostly of churches and unions, has taken on local food and energy efficiency retrofits for existing houses as its two main initiatives.

They have produced some amazing results so far. Among other things,  they packed a city hall meeting with almost 700 people to help save some of Edmonton’s priceless agricultural land last year, and they also organized the very high-profile potato giveaway last summer.

Sustainable Works Launch on Wednesday

If you’ve wondered how to go about retrofitting of your older home, the Sustainable Works program is for you. GEA plans to help retrofit thousands (thousands!) of homes in Edmonton over the coming years. The big launch is on Wednesday . I’ll be there, and I hope that you’ll consider showing your support.


The Greater Edmonton Alliance (GEA) invites you to the launch of  read more... »

This Just In: Urban Sprawl Sucks!



Urban Sprawl is the bane of Edmonton’s existence. I wrote a letter to my councillors and mayor on the subject. I invite you to do the same.

Mayor Stephen Mandel

City of Edmonton

November 14, 2009

Re: Municipal Development Plan

Dear Mayor Mandel,

I was disappointed to hear about the contents of the Municipal Development Plan as reported by Scott McKeen in the Edmonton Journal on November 13. Specifically, I am very much against city council’s plan to greatly increase urban sprawl by allowing 75 percent of future growth to occur in new subdivisions in and around the outer ring road (Henday Drive).

Urban sprawl is a net financial drag on a city in the long run, especially compared to that same development being conducted within the currently developed area of said city. Therefore, by allowing new sprawl, city council is wasting taxpayers’ money.

It is especially frustrating that this inefficient use of money creates neighbourhoods that do not enhance the city culturally or aesthetically, and lock people into long-term patterns of living that are unhealthy and environmentally unfriendly. Furthermore, every time council approves a new neighbourhood, it weakens mine and reduces the services that my community receives.

I believe that, instead of living in fear that outlying municipalities will attract new citizens who want to live in the suburbs, Edmonton should market itself as an efficient, livable, walkable city with excellent transit and infrastructure. If that kind of city isn’t worth living in for some people because it does not have a dozen new suburban neighbourhoods for them to choose from, by all means let them waste another city’s money. Let another city run empty buses through their neighbourhoods and try to finance the repair of its sprawled out infrastructure.

I strongly urge you to push for zero percent new sprawl in our city. Let us boldly embrace our city’s developed limits as they stand today. We have dozens of neighbourhoods with room for hundreds of thousands of new citizens within our currently developed boundaries.

These neighbourhoods will only be beautiful, attractive, properly-serviced, healthy places with well-kept infrastructure if we stop urban sprawl in Edmonton immediately.


Conrad Nobert


Observations (Part 01)

Mill Creek NetZero Home - living room

Mill Creek NetZero Home Living Room - finally some autumn sunshine!

Have you ever noticed that as soon as you move in to a solar house the sun stops shining? It’s been overcast since the beginning of October here in Edmonton – since just after we moved into the Mill Creek NetZero Home – and the fact that Edmonton has as many hours of sunshine as Miami has seemed hard to believe at times. Finally we have the return of sunny days, and the house is great to be in right now.

So what have we learned so far?

  • the transition to living on concrete floors has been painless for us. They are much warmer than I thought they would be, and since we were already in the habit of wearing Crocs around the house, I really haven’t noticed the different floor surface. We have been encouraging guests to put on a pair of Crocs from the box in the front entrance.
  • the house makes us much more in tune with the solar cycle. The above picture was taken at around 1 o’clock. I enjoyed sitting in the sun for a while before lunch, but now that I’m using the computer the sunny areas of the house aren’t appropriate anymore. Solar houses should have non-sunny areas, and the occupants must be willing to flex with what is going on outside.

Mill Creek NetZero Home - second floor library

the library area on the second floor is bathed in sunlight on a sunny day – luxurious at times, and to be avoided at others  read more... »