IT’S NOW EASIER TO BE GREEN
The ecological sustainability trend is sweeping the home-design industry
BY LAURA BEESTON
Creative thinkers are regularly devising new and innovative ways to solve humanity’s problems.
Swiss designer/entrepreneur Yves Behar, for instance, recently created a smart, solar-powered garden system that monitors soil and water levels. The first female architect in Pakistan, Yasmeen Lari, has built 36,000 safe homes in a flood and earthquake region since 2010, becoming a world leader in providing disaster-relief shelters.
Innovative ecological design has the potential to help us restore our world. Sim Van der Ryn, a professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, defines ecological design as “any form of design that minimizes environmentally destructive impacts.”
Certification systems, including Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), have significantly altered the North American building landscape. Currently, 1,765 LEED projects are under construction in Canada.
Experts suggest that eco-design practices will gain momentum. “I think of it as an evolution,” says building designer Bryn Davidson of Lanefab Design/Build, who designs custom, energy-efficient, West Coast contemporary homes in Vancouver. “Our building culture is improving, and it’s not just about green projects. The other factor is [choosing to build] something that is very high quality; something that will be around and livable for 100 years.”
One big concept that Davidson supports is the burgeoning, zero-energy Passivhaus movement — something he calls the “world’s most stringent energy standard.”
Originating in Germany, Passivhaus homes are highly insulated and airtight, and are heated by the sun, the bodies of their occupants, and appliances. “The way we describe it is that your typical building is like a car that’s idling for seven months a year,” explains Davidson. “With Passivhaus, we can create a building that doesn’t idle.”
Another factor that has a huge impact on the evolution of the green trend, says Davidson, is the regulatory side of business.
When the city of Vancouver legislated an eco-density bylaw in 2009, it spawned a market for small laneway houses that could be built in the backyards of existing properties.
Green considerations in a new build or renovation should be planned at the outset, experts say. According to interior decorator and sustainable design specialist Barbara Nyke, who owns and operates Toronto-based NIKKA DESIGN, eco living can start with something as basic as using low-VOC paint or cleaning products, and finding furnishings that are locally made with recycled materials.
For Louis-Philippe Pratte, president and founder of Quebec-based À Hauteur d’homme (Hh), who has been building sustainable kitchens and creating sustainable products since 2009, the market appears more poised than ever to invest in green practices.
Hh uses only locally sourced wood for its kitchens and accessories, and the business developed X10, an innovative reforestation program that plants 10 trees for each tree used in its projects.
“We still have to compete with empires like IKEA and it’s hard,” Pratte adds, “but you just have to believe in the product.”