Sustainable Building – What can I do?

Published in Interior Wellness Magazine, Fall 2014.

“In Canada, buildings are responsible for: 33 percent of all energy used; 50 percent of natural resources consumed; 12 percent of non-industrial water used; 25 percent of landfill waste generated; 10 percent of airborne particulates produced; and 35 percent of greenhouse gases emitted.” (Green Building in North America: Opportunities and Challenges. Secretariat for Commission on Environmental Co-operation. 2008.)

Use Less of the Planet
A building’s energy consumption will exist for its lifetime according to its design and its occupants’ habits. There is also the energy cost of the materials that go into the creation of the building and the fuels and materials used in the construction event itself. “Embodied energy” is the total of energy inputs used to create and deliver a product or service and it is a valuable way to consider how we build. Make it count.

Create a Healthy Home
Many typical construction products off-gas toxic materials. The Living Building Challenge’s (LBC) Red List and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating standards assist us in choosing healthier products for our buildings

Design to Use Less
In terms of energy-use standards, several rating systems exist. Many of you are familiar with LEED, which several buildings in Kamloops meet. There is also Passivhaus, a European standard of overall efficiency which many homes in North America have now met. There are also the distinctions of being Net Zero – this may be Net Zero Electricity or Net Zero [total] Energy. The Energy Star program also rates buildings as well as appliances and products for efficiency.

Design to Provide More
Both LEED and the LBC incorporate multiple standards of sustainability, attempting to encourage not only more efficient design, but healthier buildings and healthier communities. It is possible to create net positive effects on inhabitants, environment and community with our buildings.

What Can I Do?
You don’t need to be building to a rating standard to make use of them. Read about these standards, look at what they value and at how different designers and builders have met their requirements in different ways. On your next project ask your contractors and suppliers questions about what they provide and how they can design for efficiency, use less, create less waste, employ healthier designs/products and include or plan for solar electricity and hot water. Consider the embodied energy in your products. Purchase cleaner and more local materials where possible. Ask for Energy Star, LEED-approved and LBC Red-list free products; they are often available but may not be on display. By making informed changes, however small, we offer others a base of information and drive the shift to a healthier, more resilient, economically and socially healthy, sustainable community. ~