In the ever evolving world of construction it is important to learn and grow with new technology and building materials. The pace with which the area of “Green Building” is moving is sometimes hard to keep up with and it can sometimes be daunting to decide which concepts to include and what still needs to be field tested. Below are some ideas we’ve tested and used successfully on a few or our projects.
27 FARNHAM AVENUE – LEED PLATINUM – SUSTAINABLE ATTRIBUTES
• All existing interior chattels, millwork, plumbing and electrical fixtures, doors and windows recycled
through ‘Habitat for Humanity’. Masonry, lumber, metalwork, and gypsum plaster separated and
recycled. Transplanting of front yard trees/shrubs.
• Recycling of demolition waste over 80% efficiency.
• Construction waste minimization and diversion.
• Protection of soils from erosion and containment within site during excavation and construction
• Geothermal heating through ‘water to water’ heat pumps and bottom up radiant floor slabs.
• Geothermal cooling through ‘water to water’ heat pumps, fan coil unit, top down supply air ducts,
• Cold weather steam humidification though air duct system.
• ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator – transfers both moisture and temperature)
• High efficiency HEPA air filtration.
• Bifacial photovoltaic solar panel array & BIP shading device (25 panels totaling 7 kW) connected
to grid (no batteries).
• Ultra high Solar Reflectance Index (SRI) of exposed roof membrane. Results in increased
efficiencies of the solar panels as well as a reduction in heat island effect.
• Ultra insulated exterior walls – R-35. Insulated lowest level concrete slab-R-20
• Renewable soy/vegetable oils and recycled polyethylene (plastic bottles) based foam insulation.
• Thermal wrap of structural framing with exterior polyisocyanurate (PIC), foil faced insulation
panels (zero hydrochloroflourocarbons HCFCs) eliminates 95% of thermal bridging.
• Multi-faceted air-tightness measures to create controlled indoor environment, such as; taping and
caulking of PIC joints, spun bounded polyolefin air barrier (Typar) – taped and caulked, 5” spray
foam insulation, taped and caulked 6 mil polyethylene air barrier.
• Triple glazed windows (low-E, argon filled, thermal edge spacer) with Douglas fir wood frames buy
• Sliding glass wall with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) solid white oak frames and heat mirror,
krypton filled glazing with thermal edge spacers by local manufacturer.
• Reclaimed brick exterior cavity walls. Brick sourced regionally from dismantled Windsor, Ontario
• ‘Gemthane’ lifetime warrantied, locally manufactured, FSC Eastern White Pine factory finished
• Reclaimed Douglas Fir exposed floor joists, roof rafters and T&G 2×6 decking throughout,
salvaged from Ottawa military hanger.
• Passive solar sunshades (brise d’soliel) throughout south facade. Note, second floor deck to be
added in five years as per local bylaw restriction.
• Vertical ventilation ‘chimney’ with high-level operable skylights.
• Dynamic partitions to allow complete cross ventilation through longitudinal axis of each level.
• High and low level natural ventilation at each level.
• Natural day lighting from above deep into centre of house
• LED strip lighting, CFL’s (Compact Fluorescent Light fixtures), low voltage halogen task lighting all
convertible to LED luminaires as technology improves and costs drop.
• On site rainwater drainage collection to drywell, designed for future cistern retrofit for rainwater
and/or grey water harvesting.
• Low flow bathroom faucets and dual flush toilets.
• Geothermal preheat of domestic hot water.
• Drought tolerant native plants, with no invasive species, to minimize outdoor water demand and
• Reduction of local heat-island effect by installation of high reflectance landscaping materials
• Permeable parking pads directly off street with exterior electrical hook-up to recharge hybrid
• Polished ultra-low maintenance concrete floors requiring no sealers or waxes.
• Locally manufactured, regionally milled, engineered, white oak flooring with low VOC adhesives
• Energy Star appliances.
• Paint and Coatings: Exterior Doug Fir Stain – Benjamin Moore ‘Aura’ low volatile organic
compounds (VOCs), Exterior Siding touchup –BM Aura low VOC. Interior trim, ceiling, bathroom
walls, windows, doors – BM Aura low VOC. Interior walls – BM ‘Collection Series’ – latex. Note:
Minimal colourant added to the interior paint bases further minimizes VOCs. Beeswax on steel
beams and columns.
• Millwork: Natural White Oak veneer, locally pressed, regionally milled on no added formaldehyde
MDF board. Natural Maple veneer locally pressed, regional milled on no added formaldehyde,
locally pressed, regionally milled plywood. Maple hard rock melamine on no added formaldehyde
particle board, locally pressed. White lacquer on no added formaldehyde MDF board (20 fold
durability of solvent based lacquer outweighs sustainable attributes of water based lacquer).
Baltic Birch plywood drawers throughout (superior strength, pricing outweighs locally produced
high strength plywoods).
• Radon barrier/ventilation below basement slab.
• Durability and moisture control measures strategies incorporated, evaluated, and documented
EXTERIOR WATER AND MOISTURE
o Slope grading away from foundations
o Spray waterproof membrane on face of foundation & onto footings
o Apply drainage board w/ filter fabric c/w cap strip at top, carried down over footings
o Seal any penetrations of walls & floor. Seal all joints
o Capillary break at all concrete slabs
o Include drainage tile c/w filter cloth at lowest level of concrete inside and out.
o Connect drainage system to rear yard drywell, convertible to cistern
o Backfill with porous material
o Vapour retarder directly under lowest concrete slab
o Drain window well into exterior drainage system
o Waterproof membrane over front entrance concrete slab, ventilate u/s slab
o Drainage system at bottom of all wall cladding
o Properly flash all windows/doors, use peel and stick membrane (ensure it works with PIC
o Continuous drainage plane behind exterior cladding fully sealed at all penetrations, seams
o Separate gypsum board ½” above all concrete slabs
o All exterior trim to be painted/primed all six sides
o Keep all exterior wood cladding minimum 8” above soil
o Drip edge at all sills and heads of all window and door openings.
o Ensure continuity of roof membrane at any seams and penetrations
o Ensure roof drains &scuppers have screens to keep pathway clear of gravel, leaves
o Carry membrane over top and down parapet framing
o Slope all parapet metal caps
o All metal cap flashing to have drip edges
o Drip edges at all overhanging soffits/fascias
o Install floor drains in basement slabs to capture any possible leaks (mech. Room, laundry
room, bathroom, cold room.
o Use high durability materials in wet areas – green gypsum board, no carpet
o Showers to have complete waterproofing membrane over cement board
o Install pan and drain under second floor washing machine
o Ensure continuity of air seal: spray foam installed in all joist cavities
o Ensure PIC insulation board is properly taped/caulked at all seams and penetrations
o Air tight light fixtures in all insulated ceilings or walls
o Air filter housings to be airtight to prevent bypass or leakage
o Air seal all ventilation ductwork
o Air seal all exterior electrical, data, communications junction boxes
o Spray foam window shim cavity (b/w windows and rough openings)
o Clothes dryers and bathroom vented to the exterior
o No plumbing in exterior walls
o Insulate all cold water pipes
o Toilet tanks to be insulated
o Keep all wood at least 12” above exposed soil
o Seal external cracks/joints with caulking and install pest screens
o Include no wood to concrete connections, or separate with divider
o Ensure mature plants are 24” from house
o Treat all cellulosic material within 1 metre of top of foundation wall with borate product
GREEN BUILDING – BEST PRACTICES
Here is a list of practical ideas which can easily be added into any project. These kinds of ideas need to be brought up as talking points early on in the planning of a project to allow for proper design integration and trade awareness.
- Move main service underground or if above ground away from Bedrooms.
- Position wireless water meter away from bedrooms and family areas.
- Line voltage pot lights (no transformers) LED bulbs.
- Electro magnetic field testing and strategy. Avoid looping electrical wires around bedrooms (electro magnetic fields) also knob & tube can increase magnetic field readings, this should always be a priority to be removed when/where possible.
- Whole house capacitors (or isolators) – prevent dirty electricity from coming into your house from the electrical service.
- Always use shortest direct routes on wiring & use bundled/shielded wires.
- Hardware telephone and internet, no dimmers (reduce wireless fields)
- Use grounding Rod 6-7′ into earth vs grounding to water lines. (requires ESA approval and inspection)
- Demand switches (A demand switch is installed at the electric panel and powers off a circuit when it is not being used)
- Dielectric union – A dielectric union is a mechanical cut in the metal piping and replacing it with a short section of non-conductive material (plastic). In this manner ground current or “dirty electricity” coming in from outside can be eliminated. This may reduce or eliminate the need for a whole house capacitor!
MOISTURE – air sealing/air movement/air extraction/moisture control
- Clean out gutters/extend them away from house
- External waterproofing – No asphalt foundation coatings/damp-proofing to be used indoors, or outdoors above grade. Cement-based damp-proofing is more resistant to water and aging and although it contains acrylic additives it is generally used outside (Xypex, Sta-Dri, Thoroseal).
- Metal studs in basement where possible.
- Sealed sump lids. Venting of sealed sump pump can be added, vent pipe to be 30” above grade.
- Radon testing and extraction system radondetect.ca
- Radon mitigation system plan. Install a weeping tile pipe that will run independently of the weeping system into a storage/mech room and up 8” from exterior wall, capped ready for possible addition of a fan if needed in the future. Adding a fan will activate the air below basement slab and move it outside of the house.
- 12 mil poly (hard to find) for VB
- Air Vapour/moisture extraction system activate weeping tile systems and vent outside with a fan and humidistat.
- Air gap between concrete wall and 2×4 stud walls in basement, for good air flow.
- Radiant floor to carry as close as possible to exterior wall. This will help mitigate any moisture or condensation trapped behind walls.
- Seal basement floor (slab concrete) with low VOC product: Safecoat DynoSeal, H&C® Low VOC Concrete Sealer Clear Gloss Solvent-Based
- Dehumidifier should be added, and humidity monitored
- Cross ventilation – operable windows to create cross ventilation
Source low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) and semi- Volatile Organic Compounds (glues etc.) as sealants and adhesives are the most difficult to source and are the
most toxic of all building materials. See “Recommended Products” below.
Cleaning – through cleaning should happen after demolition/rough phase. This cleaning is primarily to remove dust (which can contain lead, chemicals, fire retardants, etc…). Cleaning should include rough cleaning (sweep, shop vac.), and then HEPA vacuum (or possibly ULPA), and damp-wipe or mist wipe of ALL surfaces.
- Drinking water lines – to be in PEX piping or copper. The drawbacks to copper lines are that they more expensive, harder to work with, may increase copper exposures, and may allow current to run on the lines through the house. The drawback to PEX lines is that they are plastic although they have been used in Europe for 20 years or more.
- Insulating metal pipes (pipe wrap low VOC material, not foam) www.reflectixinc.com
Water solutions depend a bit on what you need or want, and that depends on your concerns and how elaborate you want to go. City of Toronto water annual report is available to all residents. Parameters almost always fall within the acceptable standards under the Canadian Safe Drinking Water Guidelines. These guidelines include a target level for Flouride which many people do not want. And, some trace amounts (often below laboratory detection levels) of chemicals including antibiotics, estrogen mimickers, and other pharmaceuticals may be present in municipal water.
Some people filter all their water; some filter only their drinking water. Systems range from simple carbon systems to 21 stage water enhancement systems. Carbon filters do not remove fluoride. Reverse Osmosis (R.O.) systems are often recommended as the standard system (it almost always involves a carbon pre-filter and post-filter). The draw-back is that they remove all minerals, and they are important for health. So, people often add minerals back into R.O. water. R.O. systems must also be monitored properly to ensure they are working properly.
Never-the-less it is scientifically accepted that chlorine and chlorine by-products (such as chloramines and trihalomethane) are not good for people, and that the most
exposure comes from showering or bathing. Therefore, we recommend a carbon filter for showers (and baths).
Recommended resource: purifiner.com
Plywood – Most conventional plywood is bonded with formaldehyde adhesives that are classified as a probable human carcinogen. The two most widely used formaldehyde adhesives are urea formaldehyde (UF) for hardwood plywood most often used inside the home for cabinetry and panelling , and phenol formaldehyde (PF) which include most softwood plywood used for outdoor and structural applications, like sheathing and floors. The more expensive resistant PF, which off-gasses at a much slower rate (vapours will persist longer, but at much lower concentrations) are considered safer, so these should be used instead of UF, or purchase “formaldehyde free” plywood for indoor use. Alternatively AMF Safecoat makes a sealer that can be used to seal plywood and keep the harmful vapours from seeping into your home.
Flooring materials: Solid wood is healthier than any engineered composite
• Low-expansion, moisture-curing, low-odour foams
• Handi Foam Fastfill by Fomo Products, distributed by BENCO, Québec, 418-687-2340.
• SISTA All-Purpose Foam by Aldon Chemicals, Woodbridge
• Closed cell 2-part Icynene sprays: Walltite Eco is better than other choices (lower VOCs)
Healthguard Waterbased contact Adhesive, or Earthbond 7700 Contact Cement, or 3M Blue Glue, or equivalent.
Less toxic acrylic latex caulks that have a slight odour (some people might be sensitive) include:
- AMF Safecoat Almighty Adhesive
- AMF Safecoat 3 in 1 Adhesive, AMF Safecoat Adhesive Caulking
- AFM Safecoat Caulking Compound
- AMF Safecoat Almighty Adhesive
- AMF Safecoat 3 in 1 Adhesive
Rubber-based adhesives for membrane and engineered wood –meets wood floor manufacturers requirements, easy to spread and clean, can be used with in-floor heating systems, low VOCs
- Dura Pro AF 8839 (a Dural Brand)
- Finitek AD-316 (distributed by Wood Ventures)
- Dura Pro AF 8839 (a Dural Brand)
Water-based polyvinyl acetate i.e. White glue, Lepage National Casien 6500, Weldwood are suitable in dry locations
Non-toxic carpenter’s glue such as Elmer’s, or Eco Bond Glue are suitable in dry locations
Sealants and caulks:
- Bulletproof stone sealer available from Ciot (this is a Dupont product)
- AMF Safecoat Adhesive Caulking
- AMF Safecoat Caulk
Do not use urethane, or polyurethane caulk.
If silicone caulk is required use neutral cure rather than acetic acid cure to achive low odour. Silicone caulking (and other caulkings) intended for bathroom applications have added fungicides. Avoid the use of “bathroom” silicone. Examples of low odour (neutral cure) silicones are:
- CSL 343 supplied by CLSsilicone
- GE Silicone II for doors and windows (not GE Silicone II for bathtub and tile applications).
Low-toxicity water based caulking:
- Phenoseal Series 100
- AFM Safecoat Caulking Compound
- AMF Safecoat Adhesive Caulking
- Lepage’s Green Series Construction Adhesive and Sealant
Mastic (painted on variety, or rope-type) is less harmful than aluminum tape for sealing duct work (duct tape should never be used)
- AFM 3 in 1 Adhesive Multi-purpose.
Putty (linseed based) is better than caulking, or an equally comparable product that has the least VOCs possible (No VOCs and few other hazardous ingredients), preferably with 3rd party certification from Greenguard Children and schools certification, or Green Seal, or Ecologo (in Canada).
- Quartz lack grout or Star glass grout
- Best option is to use thick-set motars (cement mix) or use thin-set mortar (dry cement mix with water) layed on concrete (Kerabond).
- Thin-set mortors usually are 2-part (dry mix cement with acrylic additive to give flexibility) are generally used if thin set on wood subfloor (Ultraflex, Kerabond with Keralastic additive). If using acrylic additive use one with no odour or low odour.