Home Green Home
Tuesday, Apr. 1, 2008 | 12:49 PM AT
The project that Cheryl Gladu lives in is an interesting building. Even from the outside, you can see that the development is a little... different. First of all, there's steel visible on the outside of the structure.
Steel that's just as visible on the inside. And there's a reason for this. First, most of the steel that was used is already recycled from old cars. And secondly, Cheryl's company Eco Cite decided to minimize construction materials by not tacking a whole bunch of gyprock or other superfluous materials over the steel. It DOES lend a somewhat industrial look to the apartment--and that may not be for everyone. Another benefit to using steel is that as and when this building dies, most of it will be recyclable. How neat is THAT?
Another feature of this building (which I didn't explore in my TV piece because I had. to. make. it. short. is the geothermic heating. You might notice in the piece that Cheryl is wandering about barefoot on concrete floors. It was NOT warm outside that day... but it was pretty toasty indoors. That's because the building is well insulated. Builders call it "having a good envelope" (the envelope being everything between you and the outside world). Also, there's water being pushed through a system of pipes, conserving energy and heating the building through it's floors. This is important because heat rises, so if the heat is coming from the bottom of the room, it's much more likely to feel warmer and circulate better.
This you probably noticed and we didn't have time to get into, but Cheryl's apartment is tall, not long. That is to say it's spread vertically with rooms stacked one on top of the other over 3 (or 4 if you count the rooftop garden) floors. Not all eco condos are designed that way, but what this does is it allows the inhabitant to enjoy some of the features of suburban detached houses. Like having bedrooms on a different floor from the living and dining area. It makes for better privacy (and buns of steel with all that upstairs-downstairs)!
Okay, this was my favourite part of the tour. Cheryl's bath is a refinished old clawfoot. She says refinishing is expensive, but worth it in the long run because you get a beautiful bath (most of those golden oldies are very well crafted ergonomically as well) that will last a lot longer than the plastic ones on the market today. And you'd be keeping it out of a landfill. But Cheryl also has something that's getting to be quite trendy: a dual flush system on her toilet. That allows you to flush with half the tank (3 litres) or the full tank (6 litres). Let's face it folks, we don't need the full tank most of the time.
BUT WHAT ABOUT RENTERS?
Okay, okay, I actually count myself in this category and am constantly frustrated at how little I can do to green my home because I'm not the boss of it. But Cheryl gave me tons of useful tips. Like:
1. Pick a place that's centrally located: A green home isn't just about solar panels or geothermic heat. It's about how it affects your lifestyle. If you live close to a metro, school, shopping, etc, you're more likely to ditch your car and walk. That's good for the environment.
2. Buy low V.O.C. paint and furniture:Volatile Organic Compounds are nasty chemicals that are often released by paint (that's what gives it its particular smell) and many types of chipboard. This stuff is constantly off-gassing into your air and environment. Not good. You can buy low V.O.C. furniture and paint at either IKEA, Cheryl says, or her favourite store: The Healthiest Home Building Supply Store in Ottawa.
3. Get energy efficient appliances: Okay, this may not be in this month's budget, but think about it. A smaller, more efficient fridge or a stackable, frontloading washer-dryer set could save mucho moolah in hydro bills in the long run. I'm looking into what sort of rebates consumers can get for swapping their stuff for more efficient versions. Check back here by the end of the week and I should have an answer.
4. Lightbulbs: I'll admit I had my reservations about energy efficient lightbulbs or compact fluorescent lightbulbs. And they ranged from aesthetic arguments to safety issues around what to do if one breaks or what happens to it after it's dead. But the more I read and the more experts I speak with, the more I'm convinced that this is the way of the future (and lower Hydro Bills).
(all photos with this piece were taken by the amazing Dita Kubin. You can see more of her work on her website)
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