An interesting article on how Edmonton is a hotspot for net-zero housing: http://shar.es/1mtrSW
I work in Windermere (on the southwest edge of the city - south of Henday Drive) and see the kind of houses that are being built and find it kind of depressing. Houses are framed with significant thermal bridging, there’s no thought towards orienting the streets or individual houses for maximum solar gain, many homes have just double pane windows and there’s not a single solar panel anywhere.
It’s not possible to squeeze another north-facing window on this house. These will be a net energy loss every year for the entire life of that house.
When I was a boy if we didn’t close the entrance door fully in the winter time, my father would chastise us by saying “What are you doing, trying to heat the great outdoors?”. Apparently that’s what this house is designed to do as it has an outward facing gas fireplace built in to its side.
It was against the backdrop of the above that I ran across Oxford Phase 2 - a neighbourhood that requires all homes to be certified by either BuiltGreen Canada Gold, LEED Canada for Home, ENERGY STAR, R2000, or achieve a minimum EnerGuide rating of 80. Not only that, but people lined up overnight just for a chance to buy a lot!
There is a demand for energy efficient homes in Edmonton. I suspect that one of the primary reasons for someone to buy a lot in Oxford is the fact that you wouldn’t have to risk developing an advisarial relationship with your builder by pushing them to build a high efficiency home. By building in Oxford, you can make the city the bad guy and say “I’d love to buy your standard home but, gosh darn it, the city is forcing me to get a certified house” then get the house you really wanted in the first place.
Congratulations to Peter Amerongen on winning "Net-Zero Energy Home Champion of the Year" and to the team at Habitat Studio & Workshop Ltd on winning "Net-Zero Energy Home Product of the Year" for their PV Awning. I believe this is the very awning that is on Conrads house.
A question from this comment thread:
Hi there Conrad, I am in the early stages of my Environmental Design (architecture, interior environments, landscape architecture, city planning) degree and I happen to be writing a paper on your project for an ecology class...so I have been reading all about it and I am quite inspired! So much so that just emailed a green design/builder to ask about summer employment :)
I have some questions about demolition. (I have no idea about this stuff yet, but it is the sort of thing I plan to do in practice eventually.) I know you salvaged a lot of stuff from the old house, and I see that it took you a huge amount of time, but I am wondering if more was possible? Not as a criticism, but as a query about just how much potential there is in demolition projects.
In an ideal situation where time/labour/cost were not issues, could this entire house have been salvaged with close to zero waste? Is there reuse/recycle potential in insulation, drywall or plaster, linoleum, nails, siding, window frames,shingles, fascia, soffits, etc.? And I'm even talking stuff that's not necessarily in a condition to just shine up and reuse/reinstall. I'm talking about stuff that may be damaged or completely outdated...is there any productive way at all to prevent these from going to the landfill?
Thanks! More could have been reused and recycled.
The studs in the walls were the most valuable things left when the house was demolished. They could all have been removed and reused by a conscientious framer as lumber. I have envisioned some kind of hydraulic device that could pop walls off of the floor by applying pressure after being jammed between two walls. Or, someone hardier than me could do the job with a sledge hammer.
Old shingles are worthless. They are semi-decomposed asphalt. No value whatsoever that I know of.
We reused all of the windows, and the window frames could have been harvested as above for their lumber.
I believe that drywall scraps do get recycled in Edmonton. Plaster, not so much.
Linoleum is glued on, so it is impossible to remove without ripping it. Plus, there are some very cheap linos out there. Once they've had 20 years of use, they are truly degraded and worthless.
Nails can usually be saved, but the labour to do it is enormous. First you pull the nail out with a crowbar (no small feat), then you need to straighten it. Plus, carpenters don't use hammers and nails anymore! They nail use nail guns, staplers or screw drivers.
Vinyl siding is pretty much worthless garbage once it is removed. I guess if you took it off carefully, and you were willing to put faded siding on some building (a garage?), and there was enough to cover the whole building (you want the same colour on every outer wall, right?), you might find a use for it. If the building wasn’t there though, where would you store the siding in the meantime?
Insulation bats can definitely be reused. Same with the wood chip insulation that was in our attic and walls. The catch is again labour - this would take hours and hours, and then where exactly do you reuse it? I guess as garden mulch.
All of the huge (10 inches high) beautiful solid fir baseboards in our house were painted white. The effort to remove the paint would have been enormous. Plus, some of the baseboards got damaged while they were being removed. I saved them all, but in the end we had no use for them.
The foundation bricks could have almost all been salvaged (with a huge labour input, I guess). However, the chimney bricks were crumbling due to the temperature fluctuations that they endure. I guess they could have been crushed for use as gravel (aggregate).
The house that I deconstructed was built before asbestos, but there is a huge number of buildings that are full of the stuff.
I hope that I didn’t ramble too much.
These materials could have been saved:
- Wood framing and ship lath wood (the latter for firewood).
- Wood chip insulation.
- Some of the PVC drainpipe.
These materials would have been virtually impossible to save;
- Plaster (there was and enormous amount in the house).
- Linoleum or other plastic fixtures.
- Asphalt roofing.
- Drywall (for recycling, the drywall needs to be clean, without paint).
- Painted wood (like baseboards).
- Rotted carpet.
Luckily, the easiest houses from which to salvage building materials are the oldest (and most energy-innefficient) ones. They have the least amount of asbestos, plastics, vinyls and glues in them, and they have higher quality, usually better-finished wood in them.