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Sustainable Building Design & Consulting Services

In addition to our educational programs we also offer design, coaching and consulting services to those interested in creating sustainable shelters. We may not have any crystal balls but we will have some bright ideas for you. From mentoring to project management we can help you make it happen by providing the right advice and guidance for each step of your project. We are passionate about providing you with sustainable solutions.

Our Design Service for eco shelters runs out of our Sustainable Living Center.
Effective planning and design can not only create a more comfortable and convenient space to live in but can save a great deal of time and money in the creation and operation of your eco building.

Our Sustainability Consultants are available for individuals planning a new structure and often travel to clients sites to facilitate the planning and development of their projects. Their fees for Mentoring, Consulting or Project Management are all quite reasonable considering both the time and money they can save you over the life of your structure. They can work with you and your architect and builder to help guide you through all the sustainable building issues for your project. Helping to keep your building on a sustainable path.

Sustainable Design Services
At Earthwalk we craft thoughtful and sustainable smart homes. We design solutions that help you make efficient use of your solar income. We explore all your sustainable energy options. We use selective materials, such as low VOC adhesives, paints and stains to reduce hazardous toxins in your home. We also search for products that are produced sustainability and locally. For example, bamboo flooring is a sustainability harvested product that is as hard as oak flooring and can be replenished much faster than trees. We also help you to recycle or reuse any leftover building and packaging materials, leaving little or no waste for the landfill.

To be certified by Energy Star, a home needs to be tested to be at least 25% more efficient than a typical home built to code. Many of our home designs have proven to be at over 50% more energy efficient than conventionally built homes. Of course every project is unique but we typically incorporate dozens of smart home features in our projects. We specify the latest in highest efficiency insulation, heating and cooling systems and water heaters that are extremely efficient. We maximize the use of natural light in our designs and all light fixtures are Energy Star with compact fluorescent and other high efficiency bulbs. We make use of timers and occupancy sensors to reduce your unneeded lighting costs. For additional water and energy savings, we use dual flush toilets and low flow fixtures. We can incorporate rain water harvesting systems for additional reserve water supply. We always design in water quality processing that insures a healthy water supply for your family. We also incorporate air quality systems that remove unwanted irritants and toxins from your air supply.

We have tested hundreds of eco building products and materials and we only recommend products that have proven to be effective over time. This way we can have confidence in the solutions we recommend.

Eco Retrofits
At Earthwalk will can help you plan, design, and complete your remodeling projects. We use our green building and energy efficient principles on remodeling projects as well as new construction. Simply book an appointment with one of our Eco Design Consultants and they can guide you through the entire process.

We also like to use as much recycled material in our homes as possible and we are compiling a complete reuse guide to assist you with your recycled content in your projects.

Sustainable Building Consulting Services

Planning is at the heart of any successful strategy. Our Sustainable Building Consultants have a wide variety of expertise and experience that can contribute to your project. All of our consultants are available to assist you with your project in a variety of formats. Of course their available time and fees are linked to the degree of involvement with your project. We offer their services in three ways, Coaching, Consulting and Project Management.

Your Sustainability Coach is available by prearranged appointment to assist and advise you by phone or email. Your coach can provide you with critical insights, mentoring and recommendations on each step of the process subject to their availability. However they are generally not involved in on site services. However their input can be extremely valuable to the success of your project. Call our office for our Coaching rates and availability.

Consulting: Your Sustainability Consultant - is available for more than just coaching. Your consultant can provide you with research, analysis, planning and implementation assistance from concept to completion. Consulting is a collaborative process and our consultant work with you and your team to achieve your objectives. When the unexpected arises they can meet you on site and provide on the spot input on specific issues. Their main objective is to provide you with the information and resources to make informed decisions about your project and all the elements that can contribute to its success. Call our office for Consultants rates and availability.

Project Management:
Some of our Sustainability Consultants have the experience and expertise to act as your Project Manager. In this capacity they are not only your coach and consultant but can be much more involved in the implementation of the project plan and involved in specifying material and engaging and supervising the various providers. Generally in this role they not only keep you informed about the factors impacting on each decision but they are also authorized to make decisions regarding the implementation process.
Call our office for our Project Manager rates and availability.

Green Construction Project Management

All of our consultants are familiar with the complex considerations involved in sustainable construction principals and values. However each consultant has a different set of experiences to draw on. We select the project manager based on the type of construction involved in your project. We carefully match the skills and experience of our Project Manager to the specifics of your project.

Your project manager is involved in every step of the process, insuring the integrity of the process and the quality of the results. We are part of the team at every stage and direct the entire process keeping it on track, on budget and on time. Here is an outline of some of the steps that are involved from the Sustainable Building Project Management perspective.

Clearing and Excavating

Before we clear a building site, we accurately stake out building and utility locations and if need be modify those locations to make best use of the environmental qualities of the site.

When we clear a lot, we do not just remove the trees and send them to a landfill or quarry for burning. We will selectively remove trees as needed, and all full sized trees removed will be used for saw logs. Some can used for rough framing material. Others we will use for trim boards and other interior finish material. Logs too small for any of the above uses are cut into firewood. Small trees can be relocated on the clients property. And all brush can be chipped for reuse as erosion control while building or finished landscaping.

Foundation and Building

Before the foundation is poured, we are already paying attention to the detail of energy efficiency. We insulate underneath the basement slab, and the entire length and height of the foundation walls, including the top portion. No foundation concrete is left exposed to cause heat loss in your home. This also keeps the thermal mass of the concrete inside the insulation providing an integral heat sink for your building.

During the framing stage that same attention is paid, particularly in the hardest to insulate portion of the framing, the box sill. First the sill plate is sealed to the foundation wall, and then rim board is sealed to the sill plate. The entire floor system is built just a bit different from a typical floor to allow us to install continuous air sealing and insulation along the entire length of the box sill.

Throughout the remainder of the framing process issues concerning air sealing and insulation continue to be of main focus for Earthwalk. Many of the details we incorporate at the framing stage are very difficult if not impossible to accomplish later on.

As we add our smart home infrastructure to your home we take care to maximize the energy and sustainability benefits at every step of the way.

Forethought at this stage pays huge dividends in the quality and comfort of your home in the end.

Finishing Touches

To us there is nothing as beautiful as simple details done perfectly. So we take care to ensure that there are only natural and non toxic materials used in the finishing process. We can even offer you guidance in equipping and furnishing your home to avoid importing toxins and to optimize the operational efficiency of your home.

How can I use more recycled and reclaimed products in my buildings?

Materials used for constructing houses frequently cause some environmental pollution during their production. Reclaimed materials and products made from recycled material, are likely to cause less environmental damage than new products and can also reduce refuse and land fill.

This site contains guidance on issues ranging from planning, choosing and specifying materials, to case studies of recycled & reclaimed material use.

Why More Recycled And Reclaimed Materials Should Be Used

Many materials used for constructing houses cause environmental issues during their production. Quarries can damage landscape, wood can come from unsustainable sources, metals use a lot of energy in production, PVC production produces atmospheric pollution, and so on.

Using reclaimed materials and products is an obvious solution to this issue

Recycling schemes organized by local authorities and the refuse industry need a market for materials collected, and products for use in buildings can be a large scale use, cellulose insulation from waste paper being a good example.

Many housing sites already use hardcore from demolished buildings but there are a whole range of other lesser known products that can be used in the "recycled house". By using them, we can:

Save energy
Reduce landfill
Reduce transport distances
Conserve natural resources
Reduce pollution
Stimulate recycling schemes

Earthwalk can help you increase the use of reclaimed and recycled materials.. and to help the Environment!

Environmental Impact of Specific Materials

This section provides information on selected materials which are used in products on the web site. The process of assessing environmental impact is complex and can potentially include a very wide range of individual impacts. Those considered here include:

Natural resource depletion
Toxic substances emitted in manufacture or after installation
Recycled content and recyclability
Waste production
Global warming
Acid rain
Energy use in manufacture
Bricks and Ceramic Tiles

Bricks and terra cotta tiles are one of the oldest known building materials, dating back at least 6,000 years. The basic material is clay, a widespread and naturally occurring material to which water, and sometimes sand or slag, is added to make it workable. The formed clay is then fired in kilns at temperatures of up to 1000 degrees Celsius. Energy use for brick manufacture is considerable and increases steeply as firing temperatures increase. As fired clay is a durable material, recycling of bricks and tiles is both possible and desirable, especially where bricks are re-used for facing purposes, which requires higher firing temperatures. However, recycling is only really economic if lime mortars have been used.

Vitrified ceramic tiles are fired from dry pressed clay, often with ground white clay (kaolin) added. The product is fired until vitrified and can be glazed. Both firing and glazing are energy-intensive processes. Recycling of ceramic tiles is impractical. However, certain products contain a high percentage of process waste, which helps to reduce the energy content of manufacture.


Concrete consists of approximately 53% gravel, 26% sand, 14% cement and 7% water. Quarrying of gravel and, to a lesser extent sand, have ecological implications because of their impact on landscapes, often in areas of natural beauty, and the impact of transport and waste disposal operations. Portland cement manufacture, from lime with added sand and clay, is energy-intensive since firing temperatures of up to 2000 degrees Celsius are required. This process also releases carbon dioxide (CO2) and is therefore a contributor to global warming.

Use of recycled aggregate made from crushed brick and concrete is possible in casting of concrete slabs for house foundations. In parking spaces, crushed Portland cement concrete can replace up to 20% of the gravel.

Lightweight pre-cast concrete blocks made from cement, sand and lime are a widely used structural material and can contain a large proportion of PFA (Pulverized Fuel Ash / Fly-Ash). This is a waste material from power-stations burning fossil fuels.


Plastics (synthetic materials) are very widely used in construction because of their low weight and great durability; all are currently derived from petroleum, and many require substantial energy input in conversion to raw synthetics.


Common thermoplastic materials are polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), which are obtained by a polymerization process from the semi-manufactured products ethylene and propylene. The additional pollution caused by this process is minimal, and few, relatively harmless additives are required. Thermoplastics are also easily recyclable.


Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a synthetic material in common use for drainage, window and flooring applications. It is manufactured from ethylene and from chlorine, resulting in ethylene dichloride, whose production process creates large amounts of toxic waste containing dioxins and organochlorines. Many other chemicals are added to PVC as stabilizers, plasticisers, fillers etc; these include the phthalate DEHP, and the heavy metal cadmium, which is usually added to PVC for outdoor use as a stabilizer.

Recycling of PVC is mainly limited to production waste, there being few if any collection systems in place for post-consumer waste. However there are a number of recycled PVC products listed on this web site.

The environmental pressure group Greenpeace have called on those making decisions about building materials to specify products made from alternative materials because of the dangers of environmental contamination. It should be noted that the British Plastics Federation considers that the environmental impacts referred to above are outweighed by the material’s performance as a product in use, and because its low weight means that less energy is consumed in transportation.

Specifiers thinking of making use of PVC are advised to consider whether or not alternative materials with lower environmental impact will meet their needs. If not, this web site. provides information on recycled PVC products for external cladding, sheet piling, window cavity closers and floor tiling. Alternatives to these products include timber cladding, steel piling, steel and thermoplastic cavity closers and linoleum and rubber floor tiles (the last product is listed on this web site.).


Essential materials for the production of steel are coke (made from coal) and iron ore, whose extraction has ecological impacts due to the strip-mining process. Steel production also results in the emission of greenhouse and acid rain-contributing gases. However steel is easily recycled; while steel produced in the UK only contains around 16% recycled content, the recycling rate is a more important factor in Life Cycle Assessment. Because steel-making in Europe and elsewhere can make use of 100% recycled steel, in turn the UK recycling rate is high. The use of recycled steel means a reduction of about 30% in energy use for primary production.


Aluminum’s principal constituent is bauxite, which is strip-mined, and can cause habitat degradation. The use of large amounts of electricity are indispensable to its manufacture, and this results in very high levels of embodied energy, and CO2 emissions per tonne of product approximately twice that of steel. However much aluminum is recycled in the UK, and making use of recycled aluminum in the production process results in an energy saving of 80-95%.

Cellulose fibre insulation

Cellulose fibre insulation is made from processed waste paper, usually treated with borax for fire and insect protection. Because of the low intensity production process it has a much lower embodied energy content than most other insulation products. No research has been carried out on toxicity, and potential respiratory impact, but these risks are thought to be low. The product is inherently recyclable.

Glass fibre Insulation

Sand, limestone and other ingredients are heated to 1350 degrees to make glass fibre. Embodied energy content is about half that of plastic insulation products such as polystyrene and polyurethane, but in turn is over three times higher than mineral wool, and about five times higher than cellulose. A concern is the creation of potentially carcinogenic small fibres which can lodge in the body, although risks to workers can be minimized with appropriate controls.

Wood and Wood Products

Wood is one of the most flexible and adaptable construction materials. It is very widely used in solid form for purposes such as carcassing, trimming, flooring and fittings. It is also increasingly used in wood panel form for many functions such as wall and roof construction, flooring and fittings such as cupboards. Wood panels include such widely known materials as MDF (Medium Density Fibre board) and chipboard, and are made from wood chips and / or sawdust, which are bound together with resin under high pressure.

Wood is also inexpensive compared with other materials and widely available. The increasing volumes used (approximately 50 millions cubic meters were used in the UK in 1990) have led to wide concern about the destruction of forest habitat and its impacts on plant, animal and human lives in all climate zones of the world. As a result, a number of schemes which certify wood and wood products as being of sustainable origin have been set up, of which the best known is that operated by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) (3).

Clearly re-use of wood products such as doors, windows and structural timber, instead of products made from new wood, is beneficial in terms of its saving in energy and resources. A range of such products will be found on the Salvo web site.

Project Planning

Anyone planning a project incorporating recycled materials should be integrating the idea into the planning and design process as early as possible. Early review of the costs will enable considered choices to be made within the available budget. Housing professionals may need to be familiar with the reasons for using recycled materials, and any changes to the procurement process.

Demolition Stage
It is important to alert main vendors of development sites, or main contractors at a very early stage that demolition materials such as crushed concrete or hardcore may be used in the new development. Otherwise valuable sources of topsoil, site fill and base materials for roads and paths may be lost.

Design Stage
The design process will proceed more smoothly if architects and other designers have early notice of the requirement to specify recycled materials, as they may be unfamiliar with the concept. Standard specifications and employers' requirements are also likely to need adaptation.

Builders and their sub-contractors, whether involved in the design process or not, are likely to be unfamiliar with using recycled materials. Some contractors, such as Laing Homes at Langley Park, have organized special training sessions for sub-contractors making use of re-used materials to ensure that they have the necessary information.

Time tabling, Costing and Purchasing
The additional time required to source recycled materials needs to be built into project timetables. In some cases, for instance where re-used bricks or timber are employed, the labour content for particular tasks may be longer. Any additional costs clearly need to be taken account of in project costing.

Purchasing managers and sub-contractors may need to be briefed on how to source materials which differ from products normally purchased and which may not be available from usual sources.

For re-used materials one option is to identify a building which is about to be demolished, and from which materials can be stockpiled until required for the new development.

How To Specify Reclaimed And Recycled Materials

Client and designer need to ensure that the contractor (and subcontractors) will use the selected recycled materials, whatever type of contract is being used. Yet the contractor should not be restricted to the extent of increased costs or delays to the program, if particular materials are difficult to find or not readily available.

Traditional specifications and contracts.
The use of reclaimed or recycled materials can be specified for particular parts of the construction. Or particular materials can be specified to contain a minimum percentage of post consumer waste. The contractor then has free choice in sourcing the material, as long as the specification is followed.

For example in the National Building Specification (NBS), clauses for proprietary reference specification are available for a wide range of products. Products that utilize recycled materials can be named in these clauses. For some recycled and reused materials (demolition materials, reclaimed bricks, stone etc.) clauses are included while for others (e.g. recycled aggregate for concrete) general guidance only is given due to lack of agreed testing and quality control standards.

Employers' requirements
Special clauses can be inserted requiring the use of reclaimed and recycled materials, and products made from recycled materials for particular parts of the construction, for example:

If concrete block construction is used, the aggregate shall be post consumer waste or crushed recycled concrete
External guttering, down pipes and water butts shall be made from 100% recycled plastic
Subcontractor clauses.
Sub-contractors are normally required to adhere to what is required of the main contractor, so that no additional clauses should be necessary.

Learn more about sustainable building...

Eco Shelter Design
Follow this link to learn about our sustainable building design services. Planning can make all the difference and save a great deal of time and money in the crafting of any green building.

Sustainability Consulting Services
Follow this link to learn about personal sustainable construction coaching and consulting services. From mentoring to project management we can help you make it happen by providing the right advice and guidance for each step of your project.

Eco Products
We have tested hundreds of eco building products and materials and we only recommend products that have proven to be effective over time. We have identified sources for many of these products on our Sustainable Products page. You can follow this link to source many of your sustainable solutions.

Eco Services
We have evaluated local service providers that can build your green home or install your eco technologies. Follow this link to review our list of Sustainable Service Providers. This list is by no means complete but the providers on this list have qualified to be there or we would not be endorsing their services.

Books , CD's & Publications - If you have the time to read there are more and more books being published on the subject of sustainable construction and we have a number of Green Building books available through our Resource Center.

If you like the personal touch, we will be inviting many of these authors to do presentations at Earthwalk and we will list these events in our schedule of events.

Our Web Site - Of course this web site is another resource you can use when planning a green building project. It will be constantly expanding with additional information and articles on the subject. On these pages you will find an over view of number of resources and a discussion of some of the issues and possibilities that you might want to consider including in your next building project. More importantly we will endeavor to link you to a wide variety of useful information sources.

Online Resources - You can follow many of the useful links on our Links of Interest page. We are also compiling a Sustainability Resource List with contact information for sustainability providers that will be available at our future workshops.


Further Information
Wooley, Kimmins, Harrison: Green Building Handbook; E & FN Spon 1997
Anink, Boonstra, Mak: Handbook of Sustainable Building; James & James 1996
Berge: The Ecology of Building Materials; UK; Architectural Press 2001


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