Sustainable housing and real estate in Kitchener-Waterloo Region

Visions of integrative-sustainable housing.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve been dreaming of building my own earthship on a large acreage (enough for a woodlot, orchard and gardens)  for many years now. I think about this all the time and hopefully someday in the no-so-distant future it will become a reality. I love growing vegetables/gardening, and definitely love the idea of living in a home that can provide me with self-sustaining renewable supplies of food, energy and water.

Integrative Sustainable city

I also have dreams of a more integrative city in the future. A city where green spaces collide with living spaces and buildings can “live” on their own. Buildings that can collect and store energy, collect and clean water, and even grow food for their occupants, not to mention help clean the air.

It doesn’t matter whether you believe climate change is “hype”– these types of building and designs make sense in many other ways. In a world where security is an issue and people are told to create “emergency preparedness kits” for their homes, it makes good sense to not have to rely on a grid that could be possibly unreliable. It also saves money, create oxygen and creates a more natural looking setting.

It makes good sense to have a way to feed cities within the cities. This ensures that in case of emergency there are still food sources available to the population. It’s also much, much cheaper to grow your own produce from seeds than buying it and it tastes so much better because it hasn’t ripened on a truck or sat in storage at some facility before being shipped. There are even services out there now in some cities that you can hire to come and tend your vegetable garden for you if you don’t want to grow them yourself. They can be grown on roofs, sidewalks, and any space big enough to hold a pot. The spaces on roofs and boulevards can also be rented out to others for them to grow produce or flowers.

city gardening

It makes good sense to have energy available on a renewable individual basis without having to be attached to some massive grid. Again it’s cheaper– much, much, much cheaper. Installation costs can be returned on utility savings in short periods of time and if you are collecting enough energy, you never pay for utility costs again. You only have to worry about maintenance and replacing the systems every 15-25 years. Again– in the case of emergency– you still have power. Makes sense.

reed bed waste treatment

It makes good sense to have a way to clean and collect water. We all need water to live, and we use a LOT of it. There are many creative ways to reduce, collect, treat and clean water that have been converted to home use and could be done on a much larger scale. Reed bed waste water systems,  for example, have very low operational costs compared to other types of waste treatment options because they use gravity for the main pumping instead of coal-burning fuel. They also look better from the outside, because instead of a massive treatment facility spewing out sludge there is only a space full of plants (creating more green space).

green roof

The city I imagine uses space wisely– more efficiently and thoughtfully. It integrates and maximizes spaces like the roofs and walls of buildings in innovative ways. It diversifies the usages of the land– combining retail space with business space, with residential space, with farm space, with industrial space, with recreational space, and making them all work together, reducing the need to travel for daily activities.

green wall

These types of initiatives are starting to happen all around us. The more we invest and use these types of systems– the better they will become. Ontario has started to implement Smart Growth policies in an attempt to redevelop the land to help prevent urban sprawl.

sustainable city growth

So let’s start creating energy, creating useful space and creating clean air instead of using energy, destroying useful space and polluting the air. It just makes sense!

Do you want to view homes and businesses utilizing sustainable and renewable energy technologies and have all your questions answered?

Hello all!

I will be running a tour of homes and businesses in the K-W region that are currently utilizing sustainable or renewable energy technologies in collaboration with University of Waterloo’s Sustainable Technology Education Project (STEP) so that you can learn about these technologies from those who use them every single day!

The tour will be absolutely FREE and everyone is welcome!

Included in the tour will be solar technologies, geothermal technologies, wind turbines, green roofs, heat recovery systems, straw bale construction and grey water systems, as well as some local community gardens. See how the technologies work and ask all your questions directly to the home or business owners who use them.

You can take the tour with your own transportation, or join a group and tour with others who will be taking the bus, walking, riding bicycles, or using rollerblades and skateboards to get from site to site!

The tour will be running Sunday September 20th starting at 10am.

If you would like to join the upcoming tour or want more details please contact me at or directly at 519-591-4299.

If you own a home or business that is using sustainable or renewable energy technologies and would like to be part of the tour, please let me know about it!

Hope to see you there!

Please be sure to add yourself to the facebook events page!

What is a green roof, and how can it enhance my property?
February 17, 2009, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Rebecca Sargent, Sustainability | Tags: , ,

While green roofs have really taken off in parts of Europe– they have yet to really impact the North American market. In our quest for sustainability and “green” products, green roofs make a lot of sense.

Green roofs are kind of just how they sound- roofs that are green spaces– spaces full of plant life. They can be places to grow fruit, vegetables, flowers or any other type of plants. They can be parks, or gardens, an oasis in the hussle and bussle of the city. They can help with heating and cooling in buildings, saving almost 25% of cooling costs in the summer months and even more in heating costs in the winter. They are great insulators, reducing sound by as much as 40 decibels.
They can increase the life span of the roof, lasting almost twice as long as conventional roofing. They reduce stormwater run-off and filter pollutants from air and water, improving air quality in the home and city. They help to increase wildlife habitat in urban spaces, increasing biodiversity. Good tree coverage can add 6-15% value to a home, and green roofs can have similar impacts on home value. It can also be a safe and protected location for gardens, not easily accessible to those living outside the building, limiting vandalism or assault.

But very few buildings take advantage. Large apartment complexes could have urban coops. Share the work amongst the entire building, and everyone reaps the benefits. Or they could sell this space off to urban farmers. We could revitalize mostly currently unused spaces and make them into urban parks or farms.

In the days of emergency prepardness– does it not make sense that those in the city should be able to help feed themselves in some ways? Green roofs can help do this. It also helps to reduce shipping costs– the amount of fuel and energy needed to get our produce and our foods to us. Our produce could be cheaper, because it comes from right beside us.

If all our city buildings had green roofs, our cities could help to feed themselves. We would have more natural spaces in the cities and we would save money and energy.

If you want more information about green roofs, check out