Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Highly Efficient Green Buildings
Quirks and Quarks says "...Most people agree that a major problem facing our planet today is the rising level of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. So environmentalism has now become mainstream, with recycling, fuel efficiency, and reduced use of plastic all part of our daily lives. But one area that still needs dramatic improvement is the construction and design of the buildings we live and work in. It's estimated that forty percent of our greenhouse gas emissions in North America come from our homes and offices. So researchers and builders are looking for ways to 'green up' our homes.
In existing buildings, this isn't easy. Dr. Danny Harvey, a geography professor at the University of Toronto, lives in a typical Toronto home. And he's doing all he can to lower his home's impact. He's installed triple-glazed windows, a high-efficiency furnace, and a light coloured roof in order to improve his home's efficiency. He's sealed all the small cracks he can find, and installed extra insulation to prevent heat leaking. All together, he's reduced his impact by about 25
But the really large changes are going to come with new home construction. While many homes outside urban areas are getting larger and larger, Andy Thomson, a Toronto architect with Sustainable Design, is moving in the opposite direction. He's designing homes that are less than 300 square feet in size. Based on trailer homes, he's using the latest in materials and design to create family dwellings that produce their own electricity, and are so efficient, they can be completely heated and cooled using barbeque tanks of propane.
But not everyone's going to be willing to move into such a small domicile. Instead, it may take development of new materials to improve home construction. One of these is a wood product developed by Michael Sykes, the creator of the Enertia home.
He's discovered that the resin in pine wood crystallizes at room temperature, and is exploiting this in the creation of homes that don't require a furnace to heat. Instead, the wooden walls absorb heat from the sun during the day, and release it at night.A big change that needs to happen if we're going to create green communities, is to change the actual design of our living environments. Both the homes themselves, and the makeup of the communities we live in. Amanda Mitchell, from the University of British Columbia, is part of a team that works with developers to come up with environmentally friendly community designs..."
Photo courtesy of Quirks and Quarks