Sustainable Housing: Green Renovations

by Susan MacVittie 

Spring is a time when many homeowners are inspired to clean, purge and remodel. But before making a stop for supplies at your local hardware store, think of your renovation as another opportunity to go green.

 Buildings are responsible for 40% of worldwideenergy flow and material use, so how you remodel can make a difference. Going green can also save your pocket book. Effective January 27, any Canadian who spends money on home renovations will be eligible to receive up to $1,350 in tax relief through the Home Renovation Tax Credit (HRTC). 

Becoming energy efficient can be as simple as replacing your incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) to plugging leaks in your home’s insulation. There are a number of ways you can make your house green without hiring a designer or architect. The reality is we must first minimize our consumption, change that pesky leaky window, and fix that dripping shower faucet if we want renewable energy to fully support our needs. The cost of installing solar panels on your roof is much lower when you only need to install half as many to meet the needs of your more efficient lifestyle. Creating an eco-friendly living space also benefits our collective home – the earth. 

Small is beautiful. The size of your remodel will determine the resources to build it and the energy to maintain comfort for many years in the future. Plan multi-use spaces to maximize efficiency and functionality. 

Focus on energy. Energy generation pollutes and contributes to global warming. Additionally, inefficient homes are costly. Buy energy-efficient appliances. 

Use the sun. The sun provides free and plentiful energy in the form of daylight and heat. Use windows well, use direct solar for energy or heating water, and buy renewable power. 

Reduce waste. Implement a plan to eliminate construction waste, and recycle any waste you create. 

Buy local. Support businesses and jobs, keep dollars in the community, and help create a market for sustainable building. 

Use green materials. Buy wood from sustainably managed forests or use wood alternatives like bamboo whenever possible. 

Durability rules. Select products and materials that are durable and low maintenance. You will save in the long run. 

Reuse. Whenever you reuse building materials, you eliminate the need to extract and process more stuff. 

Get the whole story. A product’s lifecycle tells the whole story from extraction to end of life. Ask. 

Avoid toxics. Using safe, healthy materials helps protect your family and your community. Choose low- or zero-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints over standard paints to improve the air quality in your home. 

Gather rain. Install rain barrels or a cistern for irrigation water. 

Make it beautiful.We take care of the things we love. 

—Adapted from Designing and Building a Sustainable Home, City of Portland, Oregon, 2005

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Resources 

A multitude of resources and links to incentives including the Home Renovation Tax Credit, www.ecoaction. gc.ca/ecoenergy-ecoenergie/indexeng.cfm   
Green Building Resources 101 offers grants and incentives, fact sheets and how to guides, (www.sustainablebuildingcentre. com) including Designing and Building a Sustainable Home – a comprehensive guide from the City Of Portland, Oregon 
Living Green on Cortes Island: Building Your Home, www.watershedsentinel.ca 
Live Green Now – resource for green building and renovation, www.livegreennow.ca 
Home Performance offers a list of rebates available in BC and other provinces, www.homeperformance.com  
Solar BC provides incentives and information on solar hot water system, www.solarbc.ca  

[From WS March/April 2009]

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