concrete

Landscaping - Sidewalks, etc.

IMG_4432

(Mill Creek NetZero House backyard)

Ron Berezan of Urban Farmer fame designed and constructed our yard. He thoughtfully helped us create a beautiful space with as little environmental impact as possible (I’ll discuss the permaculture aspects of the design in a future post).

We wanted a sitting place in the yard, as well as paths, sidewalks, and a large window well to let sunlight into the basement. We also wanted to minimize the use of concrete in the yard. Concrete has a huge carbon footprint, and is rarely reusable (it can be recycled, but only with a major downgrade in utility – it basically becomes gravel).

To achieve our goals, we used paving stones, reused sidewalk blocks, reused bricks, field stones and wood chip mulch.

Paving Stones and Reused Sidewalk Blocks

IMG_4444

(sidewalk blocks and red paving stone sidewalk, Mill Creek NetZero Home)

We used sidewalk blocks that I salvaged from the yard (before we built the house) in combination with red paving stone to create our outdoor patio and sidewalks. The humble sidewalk block has a lot of potential to save concrete in Edmonton. It is found piled up in back alleys across the city in virtually the same shape as when installed in the 60s and 70s.

We chose paving stones for the front sidewalks as well. Although they are very energy-intensive to produce, they are extremely durable, and they retain their value as a reusable product for many years. A properly-made paver can be pulled up and installed elsewhere 50 years after it was first installed, and still look and act as good as new.

IMG_4438

(paving stone sidewalks, Mill Creek NetZero Home front yard)

Actually, if we had known how well the sidewalk blocks would work, we would have used them in the front yard as well.

Field Stones

To build a retaining wall and a window well, we chose to use field stones.  read more... »

MCNZH - Progress (part 6) - concrete floors, counter tops, drywall, wood burning stove

IMG_0757

(Pouring concrete, main floor, MCNZH)

A lot has been achieved in the three months since my last progress report.  read more... »

Foundation Walls

The MCNZH foundation. The rectangle that's jutting out is the cold room, located under the front steps/landing.

A frequently asked question regarding the Mill Creek NetZero Home (MCNZH) is: "Why didn't you use Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) for the foundation walls?".  The short answer is: "using traditional concrete forms and innovative insulating techniques, we can achieve a much higher R-value for less money".  read more... »

Saving Concrete

Peter Amerongen is fond of saying "concrete is one of the most energy intensive things we do".  Or something to that effect.  By "we", he means humanity, and he's right:  read more... »