By Jennifer Lynn Walker
There are a growing number of “green” homes on the market. But what does that label actually mean?
Over the years there have been organizations aiming to make their mark in the green homes sector by defining standards in sustainable design, sourcing, discarding of materials, and site usage.
Rating systems like Energy Star and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification are recognized on the international stage. Even in Canada, our government has created the R-2000 Homes certification process.
Defining Green – The ultimate dream
Building a completely green home means paying attention to the following factors:
- a location where you can walk or bike to shop, work, and take part in the community
- a design that allows the natural eco-system to stay intact
- materials that are natural, sustainable, and locally sourced
- a building life cycle that doesn’t waste natural resources, off-gas harmful chemicals, or leave pollutants behind when the building degrades
Not everyone has the ability to be in perfect harmony with the earth. But if everyone gave these factors more thought and did what they could, the cumulative effect would be healthier, more dynamic communities for all of us.
Green Renovations – Where to start
If you like the idea of being green certified or at least want to do your best to create a healthier home, here are some questions to ask yourself during your next renovation:
- Can I reuse what is there already? Perhaps the kitchen cabinet boxes are in good shape and it’s just a matter of installing new doors and hardware. Maybe you can leave the window frames and just replace the glass.
- Am I able to buy building materials and products second hand? There are local eco-centers, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, vintage home supply stores, and online resources (Craigslist.org has a ‘Materials’ section, for example).
- Can I give away or sell my old materials using any of the outlets listed above?
- Am I buying from local companies?
- Am I choosing products that are durable, energy efficient, and long lasting?
- Am I using non-toxic materials that have low or no VOC’s (volatile organic compounds)? Glues, paints, and insulation for example. Most products off-gass but reducing the amount of chemical products in use will help create a healthier home with good air quality.
- Am I using wood that is FSC certified? FSC certification is an assurance the wood is eco-friendly and comes from well-managed, sustainable forests.
- Have I installed systems that reduce the use of electricity and water? Popular products like hot water on demand, energy-efficient windows, and composting toilets are some examples.
As well I wrote a great article on 10 Top Eco Renovation Tips.
Green lifestyles, homes, and products have been in demand for much longer in Europe and in western North American cities. But the trend is moving east. In 2009, Toronto became the first North American city to adopt a bylaw requiring the construction of green roofs on new developments.
Montreal is lagging behind but it’s inevitable we’ll catch up. Let’s keep moving forward toward a healthier life and planet.
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