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.
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.
Sustainable Building Consulting Services
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
Costing and Purchasing
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.
How To Specify Reclaimed
And Recycled Materials
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.
If concrete block construction
is used, the aggregate shall be post consumer waste or crushed recycled
Learn more about sustainable building...
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
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.
more information call our office at 905-355-3000.
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