Not Easy Building a Green Home? Think Again!

September 2, 2019 | By: Christopher Phillips, Founder and President of Greening Homes Ltd.

Not Easy Building a Green Home? Think Again!

Now that the fall is upon us, you may be seriously considering a home renovation. You are not alone. This time of year, Greening Homes fields many enquiries. Some homeowners have returned from summer holidays and have put off their renovation plans until now; others have purchased a house as the real estate market heats up and want to make changes.

Often, prospective clients will tell us that while it would be nice to go “green,” it’s unaffordable. And when they do think of a green home renovation, they often envision high-performance windows or a well-insulated attic.

In reality, environmentally- responsible renovations, when done right, go beyond windows and insulation and can save you money while improving your home’s comfort – all the more important as the cold season approaches. A responsible renovation takes into account the project’s full environmental footprint. The choices made before and during the build will have positive impacts long after completion, including reduced carbon emissions, improved occupant health and low utility costs.

Not only will an energy-efficient and healthy home reduce your utility bills and even doctor visits, but the upfront costs associated with a responsible renovation are not that much higher than a conventional build – and can sometimes cost less.

What are the factors that make an environmentally responsible renovation? Greening Homes follows five key pillars.

Responsible Waste Management

More than 88 percent of all construction-related waste ends up in Ontario landfills. This not only taxes the environment but your pocketbook with disposal costs. Setting up a waste diversion plan is easy and cost free. We often set up a plan which includes diverting fixtures to Habitat for Humanity. Doing this helps divert up to 80 percent of our clients’ renovation waste, saving hundreds of dollars in disposable costs.

Reusing materials also lessens the impact of your renovation while adding beautiful touches to your home. For example, we have installed reclaimed barn board collar ties from Rebarn, leftover flooring material on a wall for a textured look, and reclaimed cast iron radiators.

Careful and Informed Material Selection

An efficient and healthy home is the sum of its parts, so it is imperative to carefully review all building materials before beginning a renovation. We check for toxicity levels, the amount of energy needed to produce it (also known as embodied energy), packaging and travel distance from the plant to the home. Sustainable flooring and countertops have become widely available – and cost competitive – so too have locally- sourced recycled drywall, effective low-embodied insulation, LED lights, low flow toilets and non-toxic adhesives.

Efficient Design and Use of Resources

Energy-efficient homes start at the planning and design stages. Ideally, you want the architect and builder to work collaboratively together to ensure that the entire process is grounded in Building Science. This holistic approach to home renovation includes indoor thermal environment, energy performance, air quality and building materials, to name a few. We find this approach also saves homeowners money. Too often they approach builders with architectural plans for a project that does not match their budget and, as a result, have to go back to the drawing board.

Ensuring Healthy Indoor Air Quality

Materials can often look alike. Unfortunately, many products found in the market today contain toxic chemicals that degrade over time, contaminate indoor air quality and, as a result, negatively impact your health and quality of life. The Living Future Challenge’s Red List informs what products are toxic-free. We spend 90 percent of our time indoors. It is crucial to minimize potential sources of indoor air pollutants while using technologies that ensure proper ventilation and fresh air supply.

Smart Transportation To and From Site

Building efficiently doesn’t stop with detailing air barriers. Services such as RenoRun offer efficient delivery of construction materials. This makes it easier for the renovations team to travel to the job site by bicycle or TTC. Bonus: neighbours will appreciate the added street parking not taken up by trucks.

You can learn more about eco-conscious building and renovations in the Green Building Learning Zone at the 2020 Green Living Show in March.

Greening Homes Ltd. has won numerous awards for its work in making homes healthy, energy efficient and beautiful, and is committed to being an impetus for change in the building industry. Established in 2007, Greening Homes is a fully licensed, WSIB-registered, insured and bonded healthy renovations firm headquartered in the Junction Triangle area of Toronto. Learn more at www.greeninghomes.com.