Within all the political polarization and difference of opinions on our planet right now, one thing is certain; our population is growing faster than we can build homes, while our planet is heating up, confronting us with all sorts of issues to deal with.
More than ever, the time is now for us to embrace and integrate progressive green building technologies into our homes and neighborhoods of tomorrow while building sustainable and resilient infrastructure systems that have the capacity to withstand climate uncertainty.
One does not need to look far when it comes to progressive green building designers. Spending the majority of his youth in the Cowichan Valley and nicknamed Mr. Green, Jack Anderson is a certified sustainable planner and a local expert in the field of designing green homes and green communities and truly understands what is required in order to build homes that are not only sustainable but also resilient.
As a member of the Planning Institute of British Columbia and a local pioneer of sustainable development, Jack and his Greenplan team continue to play an integral role promoting sustainable living. Designing over 500 custom residences and multiple complexes, Jack is forever using his imagination and creativity when it comes to integrating progressive green building technologies into his designs.
From homes to neighborhoods, Jack focuses on sustainability and resilience, and how these two essential elements to our long-term survival integrate with our 7 basic human needs: water, energy, clean air, shelter, food, companionship and waste management.
Designing the first ever constructed home of it’s kind in the world, located in Sooke BC, Jack designed a house containing a marvel of green building technologies under one roof. Utilizing sunspaces, solar panels, batteries and water cisterns, this sustainable home services itself through solar energy and a practical rainwater harvesting system. The gutters of the home funnel rainwater into three large concrete cisterns under the garage slab while solar panels connected to batteries supply more than enough energy to service the home and 2 electric vehicles.
This self dubbed “Harmless Home” is constructed out of non-toxic blocks that fit together like Lego pieces, creating a home that is carbon negative, fire resistant, soundproof and mold and pest resistant. Designed and manufactured in Alberta and comparable in price to many other alternatives, these carbon free Just BioFiber blocks are fully breathable, requiring no need for vapor barriers at the time of construction, bringing together the age old practice of building with hemp and lime to a whole new level by applying modern applications to the process, such as designing the blocks with a modular composition of the interior core with pre-drilled holes, allowing for easy installation of wiring, while remaining structurally sound and easy to work with on site.
Trapping cool air in the summer and hot air in the winter, this green-wall technology creates a super insulated home, lessening the need to use heating and cooling systems. And like some of our great pyramids of the world, also made from hemp and lime, Just BioFiber blocks absorb carbon, contributing to a healthier planet while becoming harder and stronger as they age, essentially turning into limestone while providing long-term resilience.
Things get a bit more complicated when it comes to designing self-sufficient multi-family developments, as stormwater management and waste management become key issues to address. The use of permeable roads, pathways and bio-swales throughout the property is a practical and non-invasive way to manage stormwater runoff, as the slow release of precipitation into the ground contributes to greater ease of stormwater management without having to build or access storm drains.
Another remarkable green technology to note dealing with the complexity of sustainable waste management is a system called a biodigester. Best used in multi-family developments, a biodigester is a unique system that handles human waste, capturing excrement and turning it into three beneficial resources: a sludge that is mixed with compost used as fertilizer, a nutrient rich fluid that’s pumped underground to support orchards, and last but not least, a bio-gas that is used to provide heat. Biodigesters are revolutionary systems transforming our waste areas into production areas!
Not all green building techniques have to be expensive or complicated. Integrating passive solar sunspaces into a home is a very practical way to capture the sun’s energy to provide light, heat and to allow for indoor food production. As well, incorporating the correct positioning of a home in relation to the trees on a property will not only provide shade in the summer but can also create micro-climatic heat traps that increase the temperature around the home.
Living in the Pacific Northwest provides the opportunity to harvest huge amounts of water over the winter months. In conjunction with rainwater harvesting and grey-water recovery systems, atmospheric water generators are remarkable machines that create clean, filtered drinking water from air. Providing water security during times of drought when reserves are low, some of these residential units can produce up to 30 litres of drinking water per day! With these systems available to us, people are becoming more confident building their homes on land that has no access to a well or city water.
Realizing that adapting our behavior to our environment is critical to our survival, it’s reassuring to see governments and city planners support the integration of progressive green building technologies into future developments. The more we can develop without the need for municipal services, the less the strain our population growth will have on our regional infrastructure systems.
Embarking into a climate of uncertainty, we owe it to our children and our future generations to embrace this concept of sustainability and resilience by incorporating progressive systems into our homes and neighborhoods that support our basic needs, guiding us into healthy, resilient, self-sufficient homes and communities while contributing to a healthier planet.
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Brian Horwitz is a licensed real estate agent in the Cowichan Valley dedicated to making homeownership more accessible.