Sustainable housing and real estate in Kitchener-Waterloo Region


What does sustainable really mean in housing anyway?

We’ve heard the word “green” for so long now, what is this other new catch word “sustainability”? Sustainability is a holistic concept, concerned with the big picture. It looks into the overall cost in terms of economic, ecological, and social costs. It is about looking at where the raw materials that went into a product came from, what happened to them along the way and the final result of where it ends up. It’s looking at the entire lifecycle of something and figuring out the most efficient way to make it happen with the least waste as an end result.

In housing, this translates into efficiency in water usage, energy usage and the minimizing of overall adverse health problems. It also means looking into where the building materials came from in the first place and finding out whether or not they are using a system that is maintainable and respecting human rights. It’s about reducing the waste that goes into a product, and finding ways to reuse the product in a new way once it’s reached its usability. It’s about thinking about the ways we are living and finding ways that better suit our current needs. Desiging the spaces around us, around our environment and figuring out the best usage.

Many innovative designs are available. Architechture and engineering schools are turning more and more to sustainable designs and ideas, but the turnover to the building industry is slower. The turnover to the real estate market, probably the main driver of how the building industry will run, even slower.

Not all of the kinks in the new technologies have been worked out, and we should not rely solely on one means of securing energy. Instead we should diversify. The more energy efficient or energy creating technology becomes in demand, the more research will be done and the more options will come out.

It’s not about changing everything overnight, but it is about making small changes to be more efficient and cost-effective (including social and ecological costs as well).

It doesn’t even mean making any real structural changes. It can be as simple as switching your energy provider to one that offers more sustainable energy (in K-W you can try www.bullfrogpower.com). It’s about stopping the leak in your sink, and cauking the cracks. It’s about turing the heat down one degree and putting on a sweater. It’s about updating windows and doing proper insulation. It’s about changing lifestyles to be less wasteful.

The smaller maintanence and daily lifestyle changes make huge differences. Not only in reducing environmental impact, but also in costs. You will save money. Sustainable efficient living will save you money. It will save the amount of toxins getting into your home and into your body.

All housing requires maintenance. When you do the maintenance, think about using more sustainable options in place of what you would normally do. If you don’t know what options exist– ask me! I’d be happy to share my resources with you.

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