Sustainable housing and real estate in Kitchener-Waterloo Region


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 rebecca.sargent@century21.ca 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!



Welcome aboard the earthship!

What is an earthship, you ask?

Earthship in Brighton

Earthship in Brighton

Let me tell you. The earthship was the brainchild of one American man named Mike Reynolds who began experimenting with different types of architecture in the 1970s.

Reynolds dreamed of a home that would be entirely self-sustaining, using natural materials indigenous to the area or recycled materials for building, with the home being able to generate its own electricity, heating and cooling, as well as cleaning and collecting its own water, and in many cases even incorporating greenhouses within the space to grow some or all of its own food. These homes would be entirely “off the grid”, so to speak. As the concept developed over the years, Reynolds began even creating subdivisions of these homes that from outward appearance, looked much like any other neighbourhood. The difference is, the people living in these suburbs had annual combined utility bills of $0-100, cheaper building costs and healthier indoor space.

Interior

The idea experienced a lot of flack in the beginning. The American government nearly shut down construction and research permanently as it hammered Reynolds with red tape involving what a  legal subdivision should entail and denying him permits or permissions to build any new structures. As with any new technology, some kinks needed to be worked out. The technology is getting better everyday, as more homes are built and more people learn the trade.

Recycled bottle bathroom

The first homes had difficulty being entirely “off-grid”; some complained about extreme temperatures or lack of water or other comfort issues. Many of the first homes had composting toilets, but are now mostly using a system involving a solar-enhanced septic tank with leach-field and planter cells. As time went on, these kinks started to unravel and the technology got better and better and more comfortable to live within.

Rammed tire walls

Mike’s most common design involves using recycled tires and ramming them full of earth until they have great load-bearing capacity, thermal mass and resistance to fire. They are then plastered and decorated. You would never know they were once old tires underneath. So why are we not building most homes using these types of technologies yet?

Interior

It’s coming, slowly, but surely. People seem reluctant to invest in something they consider “experimental”, especially when they themselves and their families will be living within it. Earthship rental properties available in Taos, New Mexico that offer people the chance to see what it’s like to live in this type of home seem to be an encouraging idea.

There are several under construction right now in Ontario. Check out here and here for some more details.  Want to learn some techniques how to build your own earthship in Ontario? Check out here and here.

A different design

Mike even exported this idea to tsunami victims in Southern Asia to help the local population rebuild cheaply, sustainably and in more weather-resistant ways. This technology is now sprouting up everywhere, with earthships from Nicauragua to India. There is a really great documentary now available on Mike’s struggle to bring out this technology called Garbage Warrior. I highly recommend you check it out!

WBuilding an earthhip in Nicaragua.

Want to try living in an earthship of your own? Check out this earthship for sale in Ontario.



Sustainable Contacts in K-W
May 8, 2009, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Rebecca Sargent, Sustainability | Tags: , , , ,

Did you know that the K-W region is home to many advanced renewable energy technology firms, sustainable buildings and businesses? In fact, we are one of the country’s leading regions for these types of technologies.  When I first started researching sustainable technologies, I was incredibly surprised to learn this. I really had no idea. So I thought I would share with you the sustainable technologies/builders/businesses/etc. in our region that are doing sustainable technology research, information distribution, installations, services and sales.  This list is only a handful… there are many others, which I will try to add to along the way. If you see any services or suppliers missing, please let me know and I will add them!

Prometheus Energy- distributor of renewable and solar energy supplies

321 Shoemaker Street
Kitchener , Ontario
N2E 3B3
Canada
519-725-8907
519-725-8907

info@arisetech.com

Rapid-Eau Technologies Inc.- small hydro power installation and upgrades

1220 Shouldice Side Road
R.R. #4

Cambridge , Ontario
N1R 5S5
Canada
519-740-8786
519-740-0422

dave@rapid-eau.com

Advanced Design & Drafting (AYR) Inc.- Engineering and drafting support for solar and wind energy

24-140 McGovern Drive
Cambridge, Ontario
N3H 4R7
Canada
(519)-650-4413
(519)-650-5072

Alternative Energy Resources-Solar Panels, WindMills, Water Pumps, Power Inverters, and more.

138 Bakersfield Dr.
Cambridge, Ontario
N1R 6X7
Canada
519-624-1897
519-624-9737

solar@altenergyresources.com

Natural Power Products-sells solar power and wind turbine products

500 Trillium Drive
Suite 18

Kitchener, Ontario
N2R 1E5
Canada
519-504-1600
519-894-9263

info@npp.ca

Batteries Expert Waterloo / RET Power- Solar and wind battery and charging systems

105 Lexington Rd.
Unit #11

Waterloo, Ontario
N2J 4R7
Canada
519-747-2288
519-747-2289

batteriesexpert@primus.ca

Free Breeze Energy Systems- Renewable energy products

100 Frobisher Dr. Unit #11
Waterloo, Ontario
N2V 2A1
Canada
(519) 885-9021
(519) 885-1588

Freebreezeenergy@aol.com

Merlyn Enterprises Inc- Solar Thermal systems

80 Krug St
Kitchener , Ontario
N2H 2X7
Canada

scott@merlynpower.ca

ARISE Technologies Corporation- complete solar and wind solutions

65 Northland Road
Waterloo, Ontario
N2V 1Y8
Canada
(519) 725-2244
(519) 725-8907

info@arisetech.com

RenewABILITY Energy Inc.- Cost-effective energy solutions

60 Baffin Place
Unit 2

Waterloo, Ontario
N2V 1Z7
Canada
519-885-0283
519-885-4475

info@renewability.com

Spheral Solar Power, Inc.- Photovoltaic solar cells

250 Royal Oak Road,
Cambridge, Ontario
N3H 5M2
Canada

admin@SpheralSolar.com

MTE Consultants- Environmental engineering service520 Bingemans Centre Drive

Kitchener, Ontario N2B 3X9
Phone: (519) 743-6500
Facsimile: (519) 743-6513
E-mail: mail@mte85.com

http://www.mte85.com/main.cfm

Viessmann Manufacturing Company Inc.- Solar water heaters

750 McMurray Road
Waterloo, Ontario
N2V 2G5
Canada

info@viessmann.ca

BRC Mechanical Inc. – geothermal and heat recovery systems
79 Woolwich St. South, Unit 2
Breslau, Ontario
Tel: 519.648.2222
Fax: 519.648.3748brcmechanical@aol.com

http://members.kitchenerwaterloodirect.info/BRC_Mechanical_Inc-I/website/

AET Group- Environmental Consulting

133 Weber Street North
Suite #3-504
Waterloo, Ontario

Canada N2J 3G9

Telephone: (519) 576-9723
Fax: (519) 570-9589

E-mail: info@aet-group.com
http://www.aetconsultants.com/

The North House
in Hespeler (Cambridge)
mademche@team-north.com
http://www.cambridgereporter.com/news/article/www.kwndp.ca/article/165342
Community Renewable Energy Waterloo– resources

Sustainable Waterloo– Not for profit

Residential Energy Efficiency Project Waterloo– Not for profit

Cambridge City Hall Going Green
EMS Services Cambridge Going Green
Green Roofs Over Waterloo– promoting sustainable technologies

Sustainable Technology Education Project– Education and resources


What is geothermal heating and cooling?

Heating and cooling of indoor space is one of the biggest energy wasters in our homes and businesses. What if we could let the earth do this naturally for us, reducing our heating and cooling costs by as much as 50-70%?

A geothermal heat pump moves heat into or away from the earth through a ground loop system (a system of pipes that run deep into the ground). It quietly and comfortably controls the temperature in the home, providing more consistent heat that stays on longer and changes the temperature more gradually. It also has the capability to heat water in your home in place of a traditional water heater. In the summer, the system works as a cooling system with no need for a separate air conditioning system.

The geothermal heating system is made up of 3 main components:  the ground loop system, the heat pump furnace unit, and the distribution system. The ground loop is a system of polyethylene pipes which extract heat from soil beneath the frost line deep into the earth. In the cooling mode, the pipes return heat to the earth. The heat pump furnace unit moves heat from one place to another, and the distribution system channels it around your home through duct work and vents.

A geothermal system starts at about $20,000. With federal and provincial incentives and rebates, you can receive about $7,000 back on your system ($3,500 under federal rebate, matched in Ontario), provincial sales tax can also be waived, resulting in a further savings. Ontario also has programs for those who qualify for between $8,000 and $9,000 in possible rebates. See below for links to rebate programs.

Geothermal heating and cooling is best for new home construction or in rural areas since these present the fewest construction barriers when installing the system. Low levels of electricity are required to move the heat about, but electricity is not required to create the energy. There is no combustion taking place, therefore there is no need for a chimney or flue and there are no combustion hazards or concern for carbon monoxide gases.

Since the entire system is either indoors or below ground there is little potential for vandalism or destruction from weathering that can occur with other cooling systems. Other than at installation, noise from the system is minimal.

The initial costs are about two times as high as normal heating systems, but when you consider that the system is also responsible for cooling, the costs don’t seem nearly as high. Payback for the system can occur from savings in only 2-7 years, depending on which fuel/or system you are trading from. Most systems come with 10 year warranties, but can last much longer (20-30 years). The pumps have an average life span of about 20 years. The earth energy pipes are typically warranted for 25 years, but have a useful life of 50 years if maintained and installed properly and depending on local conditions. The best time to think about geothermal heating or cooling is when it is time to replace your old furnace. With rebates and incentives, the cost is not significantly higher than traditional systems and can result in great overall savings.

There are some concerns over the use of geothermal energies. These systems are different than the air to air heat pumps that were installed in the 1950s and 60s. They have become much more efficient and environmentally sound, and the more they are installed and used, the more options will start to come out and the cheaper they will become.

There are environmental impacts to consider when heat mining (which is what geothermal essentially is doing) and an environmental impact assessment (EIA)should be done in advance of any development to make sure the ground is suitable for this type of extraction. You are getting heat from deep aquifers in the ground, and in this process certain minor emissions of gases from the earth are possible. Geothermal heating is said to produce approximately 79 g/kWh of CO2 when the electricity is generated.  Compared to the 955 g/kWh of CO2 emitted from coal generated electricity, this is significantly less.

There is also the possibility of waste water pollution if the waste water is not treated properly. Solid wastes of calcite and silica are also possible to deposit in the pipes as travertine and siliceous sinter build up. These can cause blocking of pipes and boreholes and reduce the permeability of aquifers being developed. The environmental impact assessment should detail ways to help reduce these negative impacts. If done properly, the system should be significantly less wasteful and environmentally impacting than traditional systems.

Geothermal heating and cooling is not for everyone, but for new home construction or rural properties it can make a lot of sense. It is best when used in combination with other renewable energy systems so that the electricity needed to move the heat can be created renewably and so the environmental impact is less and the home is more self sustainable.

How geothermal works: http://www.nextenergy.ca/how-it-works.html

Check out http://www.earthheat.ca/ to find an Ontario installer.

ecoEnergy rebates:

http://www.geosmartenergy.com/specsheets/retrofit-qualify-grant.pdf

http://www.geosmartenergy.com/specsheets/grants-residential.pdf

http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/residential/personal/home-improvement.cfm?attr=4

Ontario rebates:

http://www.energy.gov.on.ca/index.cfm?fuseaction=conservation.homeretrofit

http://www.geosmartenergy.com/specsheets/General%20App_rebate.pdf

Ontario power authority (rebate of up to $550):

http://everykilowattcounts.ca/residential/coolsavings/

Cambridge Hydro (rebate of up to $1,500), call them directly at (519) 744-9799 to find more details.

If you would like more details on rebates and incentives, please talk to me.

 



How sustainable is the K-W region?

How sustainable is the Kitchener-Waterloo region? Well, according to the 2007 Corporate Knights report on sustainable cities, Kitchener ranked the 4th overall most sustainable city in Canada and 1st on the water and waste index with the relatively low water consumption of 390 litres/person/day in 2007. While we topped the 2007 list, we dropped out of ranking in 2008 and 2009. So what happened? This report focuses on more than just ecological issues, and also looks to economic security, governance and empowerment, infrastructure and social well-being.

So where are we failing? Kitchener-Waterloo region is reported to have air pollution levels as high as or higher than large cities like Hamilton and Toronto who have much greater populations. Kitchener currently has the worst air quality scores for ground-level ozone. This is fueled partly by the lack of anti-idling by-laws, polluting corporations and individuals and heavily by the coal plants in the Ohio Valley which contribute over half of the pollutant load in the K-W region according to reports. We are being heavily affected by coal plants hundreds of miles away in the US. This is just one of many reasons why developing more alternative energy is so important and why we all have to work together. We are affected by, and affect more than just our immediate neighbours. Carbon dioxide from retail fuel in the region has jumped 0.2 tonnes per capita in the past year alone, only adding to the air pollution concerns.

We are taking steps to improve public transit with over 13% of the Kitchener fleet now using alternative fuels. With housing starts primarily happening in transit-unfriendly single family or duplex units (just less than 2/3 of the housing stock), and few incentives to use the transit lines, this switch is having only minimal affect. We received a D overall in the Green Apple SMART Transportation Ranking in the past two years.

The region is taking some steps. Residential building starts were 17% more dense in 2008 than in 2007. The Region of Waterloo has also started a growth management strategy to help ensure that density is encouraged, but these steps alone are not enough. We must make a more concerted effort to be sustainable.

The Kitchener-Waterloo region is not new to sustainable technology. We are home to Arise Tech, a major solar technology company (http://www.arisetech.com/) and one of the best urban planning schools in the country (University of Waterloo). We also have energy auditing service grants available for low-income homes (http://www.reepwaterlooregion.ca/documents/assistance_brochure_waterloo.pdf), and several sustainable building housing projects to use as examples such as the KW YMCA (http://www.kwymca.org/Contribute/camping/OurFacilitiesandBuildings.asp), the little city farm (http://www.littlecityfarm.ca/sustain-5.php), the REEP homes (http://www.reepwaterlooregion.ca/prog_house.php), and several other initiatives.

Are we in position to be more efficient overall here in the K-W? Absolutely. So let’s take advantage of what’s available and make an effort to be more sustainable.

Remember though, of overarching importance to sustainability in the region (and the earth)  is the human lifestyle factor. Wasteful human lifestyle (being water usage, energy usage, waste, etc.) is something you can change. Make an effort to just use less. Conserve water and energy. Make baby steps  to be more sustainable. One thing at a time.



Renewable energy in housing

Most of our energy comes from non-renewable resources such as coal, oil, natural gas or radioactive elements. Once removed from the ground and used, these energy sources can take up to millions of years to reform. At the rate we are going, most of the resource deposits in the earth will be completely used up in less than 200 years (and maybe faster).

Renewable energy replaces itself quickly and can come from the natural flow of sunlight, wind or water. We need to spend more time and energy developing ways to harness these natural energies and to do so using sustainable resources. There are actually relatively cheap and easy ways to build yourself energy collecting devices You can check out www.re-energy.ca for some ideas to get you started. They can also be installed or retrofitted into your home so that you can create as much energy as you use and be more sustainable. This can result in great energy and money savings!

Did you know that Natural Resources Canada, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation and National Research Council Canada have been working together to export innovations in energy efficient housing (http://www.super-e.com/)?

We do have the research abilities here in Canada. In fact, we even have a Canadian Centre for Housing Technology to help test it out for us (http://www.ccht-cctr.gc.ca/). Many of these energy-efficient houses look just like any other suburban or city area from the outside. They have been working on these projects for over a decade, why are they not yet reaching the market?

Consumer choice and lifestyle will have a huge impact on the housing market and it’s progression. Look into other energy options. You might find out that an intitial investment will actually save you in the long run. You might even be able to help fund it through governments grants and incentives.

If you want more details, please ask me.