Greening Your Home – How You Can Take on Climate Change
From the extreme wildfires in BC to the warmest temperatures ever recorded in Siberia, the impact of climate change has been felt around the world. While some remain sceptical, there’s agreed consensus from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that temperatures will rise 2.5-10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. This might not sound like a lot, but climate change isn’t just about things warming up. It will also give rise to extreme weather patterns – including flooding, extreme heat and an increased risk of hurricanes. All of which will have a devastating impact on our environment.
So what’s causing this global warming? Well, it’s actually the result of a build-up of greenhouse gases that are blanketing the planet, trapping the world’s heat. Given that buildings and homes contribute to 18% of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, this is an important place to start in our quest for a cleaner, safer future. Many of us begin the process by replacing our wood-burning fireplaces and oil furnaces, but actually every building has an environmental footprint, so the undertaking shouldn’t stop there. We need to think about how our buildings are constructed, where the building materials come from, and becoming as energy efficient as possible. This is where green building comes in. Read on to find out more about this sustainable building method that’s creating homes of the future….
What is a green building?
A green building is one that’s designed and constructed to have a minimal impact – or even a positive impact – on our natural environment. Not only do they preserve natural resources, but they also cost less to maintain and are designed to improve our quality of life. Green buildings take a sustainable approach that spans the entire life cycle of a building – from site location and design to renovation and demolition. However, even if you’re not planning on moving, there are actually many ways to incorporate elements of green builds into home renovations and remodelling, and do your bit to help the environment.
How do you build green?
Green buildings are constructed with several key aims in mind:
Green buildings are designed to be energy efficient. Not only do they make use of clean, renewable energy resources such as geothermal, wind, solar and hydroelectric systems, but they’re also super insulated to ensure they retain heat in the winter and stay cool in the summer. To fulfil the green mandate, natural insulation materials such as wool, flax, hemp, cellulose, wood fibre and clay aggregates will be used instead of products such as polyurethane foam or mineral wool.
Globally, buildings use an incredible 13.6% of drinkable water. So the focus with green builds is to reduce water consumption. Behavioural changes can help, such as taking a shower (which uses 5 gallons of water) instead of a bath (which uses upwards of 36 gallons). But in order to truly go green, water reduction can be achieved via low-flow plumbing fixtures, evaporative cooling systems, and treatment systems such as grey water recycling (where water from washing is recycled for use in landscaping and to flush toilets). Additionally, water collection methods such as rainwater harvesting are key to the goals of sustainable builds.
•Indoor environmental quality (IEQ)
IEQ encompasses the conditions inside a building. This includes air quality, lighting, temperature, acoustics and ergonomics. Given that – according to Health Canada - we spend a whopping 90% of our time indoors, IEQ is vital for our health and wellbeing. It’s also why green builders are just as focused on these internal conditions as they are on what the building is made of. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) used in paints are just one of the detrimental pollutants we can be living alongside, so sustainable builds will use low or zero-VOC paints and cleaning products. Good ventilation and moisture-resistant products will all improve air quality in green builds. Likewise, maximising the use of natural light and using energy efficient windows and smart glass will not only create lighter, brighter living environments but will also reduce energy bills.
We’ve already mentioned the use of natural insulation products, but green builds will also deploy renewable, natural or abundantly available materials, such as bamboo, cork, timber framing, straw and stone. Other important factors include the use of recycled materials, including metals and glass, and durable products that won’t need to be regularly replaced. Products for green builds should also, ideally, be locally available and not have required excessive transportation to reach the site.
•Impact on the site
Green builders will also consider where the property is being built. Redeveloping land is encouraged, as well as locating the build close to existing infrastructure. Also, while a mega-mansion might at one time have been the aspiration, green builds tend to be smaller, to minimise the environmental footprint.
How are green buildings certified?
There are several options for green building certification, but one of the best known internationally recognised rating systems is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Indeed, according to the Canada Green Building Council, by 2019 Canada ranked second in the world for LEED-certified projects, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an impressive 3.24 million tonnes.
What are the financial benefits of going green?
At first glance, the financial benefit may not be clear. This is because constructing green, sustainable builds can cost more up front, with LEED-certified buildings costing 1-2% more than conventional builds. However, the long-term benefits can deliver a lifetime of energy savings. Not only can these energy savings recoup the additional build costs – the MIT Sloan School of Management, for example, achieved this within the first year – but green real estate can also achieve a higher resale value.
What grants and rebates are available for green builds?
There are numerous grants and rebates available for building sustainable homes. These do vary by province, so check the Natural Resources Canada website for the latest energy-efficiency incentives. We recommend the Canada Greener Homes grant, which is administered via Rénoclimat here in Quebec. Using this initiative, homeowners can receive up to $5,600 to make their homes more energy efficient – $600 for an initial EnerGuide home evaluation and $5,000 to retrofit the improvements.
We hope this article has helped you understand more about the importance of investing in green, sustainable living. It’s not only about new builds, but if you’re planning home renovations you can also embrace a more sustainable way of living. Something as simple as installing natural insulation products or a low-flow sink faucet can be a small part of what makes a big difference. Not only will you be doing your bit to help the environment but by safeguarding the planet’s natural resources you’ll also be delivering a better world for future generations.
If you need any more help or advice then get in touch with our expert real estate brokers today on 514-612-8041 or by emailing email@example.com. Thanks to our Homeowner’s Advisory Club we can point you in the right direction to a network of trusted professionals who can ensure your home is at the top of its energy efficiency game.