Sustainable housing and real estate in Kitchener-Waterloo Region


My Two Top Service Picks for K-W

Automotive repair:

I was referred to Christine’s by a good friend of mine who told me a lovely story of the service he had received here. When my old car needed new brakes, I called for an appointment. I was met with a friendly voice that was able to squeeze me in and help me almost immediately for my own safety. Christine was not only trustworthy (no unnecessary “fixes” or upcharges here), but extremely knowledgeable and caring.

Christines’s Automotive

38 Hanson Avenue, Unit 2 (just south of Homer Watson and Ottawa), Kitchener

Tel. 519-772-5044

Computer Repair:

All I can say is Notebook Galaxy. I love these guys! After bringing my broken laptop into three different shops and being told three different stories of what was wrong with it, then requesting work at one shop only to be told they don’t have to parts and I would have to purchase them myself separately, I finally found Notebook Galaxy. I walked in and it was crowded, but I was greeted immediately none-the-less with a friendly welcome and inquiry into my computer’s status. One man was sitting on a couch, a computer taken apart in front of him. The other man was multi-tasking and assisting three people at once behind the desk. I figured it would take a while, but I did not want to leave my computer at another place again. So I waited. To my surprise, they moved through the crowd quickly and efficiently and I was served within 5 minutes. The man on the couch quickly looked at my computer, made a few minor adjustments, and to my surprise, said “it’s fixed”. And it was. No insane prices or elaborate labour charges. Simple fixes, in front of your face. He also showed me how to maintain my computer, get free spyware, and other handy little tidbits that I still use. They have since been the only people I trust to touch my computer!

Notebook Galaxy

347 Weber Street North, Unit B (near the corner of Weber and Columbia), Waterloo

Tel. 519-886-1112



Sewage Treatment, Containment and Distribution
March 10, 2010, 8:07 pm
Filed under: Sustainability | Tags: , , , , ,

reprinted from Earthship Biotecture.

We must become more aware of where our sewage goes.

Earthships contain, use and reuse all household sewage in indoor and outdoor treatment cells.

This results in food production and landscaping with no pollution of aquifers.

Toilets flush with treated gray water that does not smell.

Containment, Treatment & Distribution

The concept used for containment, treatment and distribution of sewage-water is based on and draws information from the wetlands concept which has long been used in exterior applications for thousands of years by humans and nature.

The Earthship sewage system differs from the wetlands approach in that it primarily treats the gray water inside the building and the sewage from the toilet outside of the building, both in smaller areas. Greywater is the used water after all receptacles except the toilet.

All household sewage is used & reused in the interior and exterior planters, called botanical cells.

Earthship greywater planter

Use & Re-use

Water is used to carry away our household sewage in a conventional way such as bathing, washing dishes, and for the toilet. The sewage-water, also called gray water, is used and cleaned for a second time in interior botanical cells. The flush toilet is the third use of the water. After the toilet, the water is contained and treated, and used a fourth time in exterior botanical cells.

Phoenix Earthship Kitchen

Interior Botanical Cell

The Earthship gray water system has been researched and developed by Earthship Biotecture for over 20 years. This system allows for the need of far less water than is conventionally assumed.

Gray Water Organizing Module (gWOM)

The gWOM pumps the treated water, which is now gray water to the toilet to flush.
The gWOM is part of our retrofit package for your existing home. Ask us about it: 575-751-0462 or biotecture@earthship.com.
Click here to use a web form to send a message

Greywater Organizing Module

Exterior Botanical Cell

The effort to contain the outdoor system rather than letting it leach into the earth is much more realistic and manageable because of its lower volume. It should also be noted that one or many more contained cells can be added to the outdoor system if necessary. This simply adds to the controlled landscaping of the home.

The objective is to eliminate the need for public sewage systems and un-contained septic systems that pollute the earth, while getting multiple uses out of all water collected in the catchwater systems.

For the purpose of satisfying convention, the Earthship Sewage system is set up (via valving) to flow entirely into the conventional septic tank and on to a conventional leach-field. The Earthship water system is not, therefore, in place of but in addition to convention.

Blackwater planter overview

Blackwater planter overview

The path of WASTE water in an Earthship:

  • After water is used in sinks, showers and bat-tubs, it then drains into linear biologically developed interior gray water treatment and containment systems (gray water planters).
  • Clean looking (but not drinkable) water is piped to flush the toilet (toilets) with.
  • Next the water goes outside to a conventional septic tank that is solar heated with a glazed south side to enhance the anaerobic process. This unit functions like a regular septic tank (only better) with a line out to a conventional leach-field.
  • We add a preferred but optional line out that goes in to rubber lined exterior botanical cell(s) (size and quantity varies) that are constructed very similar to the interior gray water treatment and containment planter. This facilitates total containment of remaining effluent and directs its use toward exterior landscaping. After this use the water again tests below measurable nitrate levels
Also available are dry, Solar Toilets. These act like composting toilets, but they admit the sun to increase effectiveness. Construction drawings are available.

We live in a time when many parts of our planet are experiencing water shortages. The volume of water on this planet is finite whilre human population increases. As we gauge the depletion of our aquifers and the increase in population, we are able to pedict serious water shortages in the near future.

We must begin now… learning to harvest water in each individual home. We must use this water many times before putting it back into the earth. When we do put it back, it must be in a form that works with existing nurturing forces and phenomena of the earth.

To further compound the water problem on this planet, we have polluted and contaminated most of our easily accessible surface waters and are beginning to contaminate the more difficult to access aquifers beneath the surface of the our planet. This contamination happens because of the way conventional sewage systems operate.

Facing the Facts

  • If there are energy shortages, individuals will have water problems.
  • If there is ecological damage, individuals will have water problems.
  • If there are economic crisis, individuals will have water problems.
  • If there are computer glitches, individuals will have water problems.
  • If there is political turmoil, individuals will have water problems.
  • If there is war, individuals will have water problems.

Almost anything that happens in the future can result in questionable availability of fresh water. This is not just an environmental problem. The continued pollution of the atmosphere, the surface and subsurface of the earth is not the only cause for alarm about availability of fresh water. Water availability to individuals is dependent on every other social system being in place, stable, health and at peace. It is inevitable that we will experience failure of one or more of these systems at some point in the future.

We are simply adapting our needs to the already existing activities of the planet.

Why pipe water long distances from a centralized community water system, or from an expensive well that needs significant electrical power, depletes aquifers and lowers the water table, when water fall from the sky?

Why have a corporate or political “middle man” between us and our energy needs? our vessel (home) must be designed to sail with the forces that exist beyond human control and exploitation.

An understanding of mechanical systems for most humans is limited to what is within reach of their fingertips. It is understood that when you flip a switch on the wall, a light comes on. when you turn on the faucet, hot water comes out. When you pull the handle on the toilet, it flushes. Little though is given to where the electricity comes from or what kind of nuclear waste was produced to generate it. how many of us even know where the power plant is that supplies our power. Few people ever wonder which water table is depleted to bring them water and what chemicals have been added to it. Where does the sewage go after it is flushed and which rivers and lakes are polluted by it?

Humans need comfortable temperatures, light, electricity, hot water, food, sewage treatment, etc. These necessities are all available within the framework of a certain “rhythm” in the Earthship. The more we are able to align our priorities and needs with the prevailing rhythms of the planet, the easier and less expensive (both in terms of economics and ecology) they will be to obtain.

If our lifestyles can conform more to the patterns of the planet than to our socioeconomic system, we can reduce the stress on both ourselves and the planet. This is easier said than done due to the “reality” and the “gravity” of mortgage payments, utility bills and the generally high cost of eating and living. Most of us have no choice. We have to be places at certain times looking certain ways in order to make the money needed to make those payments. However, many people have built Earthships themselves and ended up with little to no mortgage payment. They also have little or no utility bills and their ability to grow food year-round inside the Earthship has greatly affected what they have to spend on packaged, processed foods.

The condition of our planet tells us we must now begin to take responsibility for what happens beyond the reach of our fingertips. We must begin to reconsider the source of these utilities, our access to them, and how we dispose of the waste produced. The mechanical systems of the Earthship confront these issues directly. We call this direct living. Source, access and destination are all contained within the Earthship, within the reach of our fingertips. There is no mystery involved in Earthship electricity. There is no unknown source of water. There is no magical black hole that sucks up all our sewage. Instead, we work in harmony with the earth to deal with these issues – taking what it has to give us directly and giving back what it wants to receive. With this harmony ringing in our minds we evolve the Earthship Systems.



K-W Real Estate Update

INTEREST RATES
The Bank of Canada took its first steps this week  toward returning the country to more normal interest rate levels by signalling a more hawkish tone on inflation and acknowledging the economy is performing better than expected on “vigorous” consumer demand.

The messages were conveyed in the Bank of Canada’s latest interest-rate statement, which kept its record-low benchmark rate of 0.25% as is and pledged to keep it there until July.

The rate statement emerged a day after economic data indicated the Canadian economy grew at a robust 5% annualized pace in the final three months of 2009, blowing past market expectations for a 4% gain and the central bank’s original 3.3% forecast. Economists say the fourth-quarter performance has set the stage for another robust gain, of perhaps 4% or more, for the first three months of 2010.

Meanwhile, recent data indicate that both the headline and core inflation rates have moved much closer to the 2% level than the central bank had expected. Under the bank’s forecast, the 2% level would not be reached until the third-quarter of next year.

In the statement, the central bank acknowledged economic activity has been “slightly higher” than its own projections, with the 5% gain in the fourth quarter powered by “vigorous domestic demand” and a recovery in exports.

Low interest rates are doing their job in stimulating demand — perhaps, increasingly, too well.”

The consensus remains that the central bank will wait until July to begin raising rates.  There are two more scheduled rate decisions between now and then, with one April 20 and then June 1.
Economists believes rate increases will begin in the third quarter, but  the odds have increased that the first hike will be in July as opposed to September.

How much, and how rapidly, the central bank raises rates beginning in July is up for debate, with economists estimating increases of 100 to 150 basis points in the second half of 2010.Financial Post

HOUSING ACTIVITY IN  2010

According to CMHC housing starts rebounded in the second half of 2009 and will strengthen in 2010.

Following a total of 149,081 units in 2009, housing starts are expected to be in the range of 152,000 to 189,300 units in 2010, with a point forecast of 171,250 units.
 In 2011, housing starts will be in the range of 156,400 to 205,600 units, with a point forecast of 175,150 units.

“Canadian housing markets will benefit from improving economic conditions and low mortgage rates,” said Bob Dugan, Chief Economist for CMHC. “As well, measures recently announced by the Government of Canada to support the long-term stability of Canada’s housing market will help moderate housing activity as some potential buyers will have to save a larger down payment or consider a less expensive home.”

Mr. Dugan also noted that the existing home market has shifted from a buyers’ market, at the beginning of 2009, to a sellers’ market. The relative lack of new listings for existing homes has pushed some of the demand into the new home market, which helps explain the forecast for higher housing starts activity in 2010.

The strong pace of MLS®1 sales seen in the second to fourth quarters of 2009 reflects, in part, activity that was delayed in the previous two quarters. The pace is not likely to be sustained as pent-up demand is exhausted and financing costs increase with anticipated higher interest rates later in 2010. As a result, existing home sales will be in the range of 455,350 to 509,900 units in 2010, with a point forecast of 486,700 units, and then move slightly lower in 2011 to be in the range of 426,300 to 494,600 units, with a point forecast of 469,950 units.

With an improved balance between demand and supply, the average MLS® price is expected to remain close to the average in the last quarter of 2009, for most of 2010, and then rise modestly in 2011. CHMC 

KITCHENER- WATERLOO MARKET UPDATE – KWREB  OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE 

KITCHENER‐WATERLOO, ON (March 3, 2010) – While Canada’s athletes were racing for Olympic Gold;Waterloo region’s homebuyers were racing to buy real estate. There were  553 homes traded  in February through the Multiple Listing System (MLS®) for a total value of $153,120,645, marking a 31.7 percent increase over January’s results.
This is the most residential sales we’ve seen in the month of February in over two decades.” said, Ted Scharf, President of the Kitchener‐Waterloo Real Estate Board. “It has been an exceptionally busy start to the year.”
February’s sales included 350 detached homes (up 43.4 percent from 2009), 99 condominium units (up percent from 2009), 52 semis (up 73.3 percent from 2009) and 49 townhouses  (up 63.3 percent from 2009).
There were a total of 75 properties sold in the $300,000 to $350,000 price range‐‐ the second most popular category last month—a 150 percent increase on a year‐over‐year basis.

The most active price range continued to be homes selling between $225,000 and $250,000, with 93 sales, up 50 percent over last year.
The average sale price of all residential sales increased 12.2 percent to $276,891 compared with February 2009. Single detached homes sold for an average price of $324,631, an increase of 15.8 percent compared to last year.

 In the condominium market the average sale price in February was$173,726, an increase of 8.3 percent from one year.
“The Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) which takes effect on July 1 is likely contributing somewhat to the increased sales we are seeing, “says Scharf.   But the biggest factor influencing strong sales during this traditionally slower time of year according to Scharf, is the historically low-interest rates. “Consumersare taking advantage of current interest rates now before they are predicted to rise this summer.”



Leaving Canada
March 3, 2010, 1:31 am
Filed under: Rebecca Sargent

Hello all!

I love this city, but sadly, I will be leaving it shortly!

I am heading to parts of West and Central Africa for the next two years to work and do research on the connections between the extraction of metals and violence which I will be writing on at my other blog A Peace of Conflict. During this time, I will not be available to help you with your real estate needs.

If you need real estate assistance, please contact my trusted friend Judita. She will gladly assist you with all your needs!

I will still occasionally be writing on one of my favorite topics, sustainability. Due to time constraints, this will not be regular. Judita will still be posting here on current real estate issues, so please watch for her upcoming posts.

Thanks to all my readers!

Rebecca