Residential + Commercial Projects:
+ architectural drawings for house, condo, laneway house, commercial tenant improvement projects.
+ sustainable house design, interior & exterior design, site feasibility analysis & consulting, 3d modelling/rendering services.
+ facilitation with local permit processes & plan application submissions, zoning by-law & building code interpretation.
+ you can be confident that we’ll get the project complete for you in a timely and efficient manner.
Sustainable House Design:
It may not always be feasible to incorporate all of the items noted below but when planning your home try to integrate as many of the items below as possible.
1). House Location:
Location is the first step in building a sustainable house. If possible consider building close to your workplace, close proximity/walking distance from public transportation, areas with bike routes, car share programs . . . . this will reduce your impact on the environment.
2). House orientation for natural light & heat:
Orientation is important for sustainable homes. Your house should have more windows facing south to maximize direct sunlight in the winter. This will help heat your home as well as bring in natural light. West facing windows will give off glare, uncomfortable sunlight & provide unwanted heat in the summer. Plant a large tree to block some of that uncomfortable sunlight.
Plant deciduous trees in front of your south facing windows for more energy savings. Deciduous trees loose their leaves in winter & the trees will block sunlight in the summer but lose there leaves in the winter allowing the sunlight in during the cold months. This will help reduce your heating usage. If tree planting is difficult, install sun shades or large roof overhangs. The sun is higher in the summer than in the winter so a roof overhang can block the sun in the summer. In the winter the sun will be at a lower angle and not be blocked by the overhang. These simple types of passive design features can make a big difference on sustainability at low costs.
3). Layout impacts energy use in a house:
Did you know that igloos are very energy efficient? An igloo is built in a cold climate with a shape that minimizes surface area. Why does that matter? The reduced surface area reduces interior heat loss. Building a house that is very wide and spread out is going to have more heat loss and be less efficient than a house that is more compact. Building taller can be more efficient than building wider. A cube or a sphere are very efficient shapes. There will always be trade offs in sustainable house design. The idea is that compact is better than spread out. A compact two story house will tend to be more efficient than a one story spread out house. So for example, if you want to build a 2,000 square foot house, building 2 stories with 1,000 sf per story is going to be more efficient than building 1 story of 2,000 sf.
4). Use local materials:
Using local materials in your new sustainable house will reduce the need for shipping. It’s more green to buy wood that is locally milled rather than ordering it from across the country. This may be a difficult choice because you may not have as many options. Research locally made materials, products, suppliers you have available within close proximity, ie. lumber mill, stone quarry, marble|quartz suppliers . . .
5). Recycled materials for sustainable house construction:
There are many materials that are recycled, reclaimed, and reused.
- Terrazzo countertops use 50-95% recycled glass, it’s mixed with porcelain or concrete & then polished smooth. These countertops look similar to natural stone & are equally durable.
- Terrazzo tiles, poured in place or precast consists of chips of marble, quartz, granite & glass.
- Precast Concrete is eco-friendlier than concrete poured on site.
- Steel made from recycled metals.
- Reclaimed Wood has great appeal. There are lumber yards that specialize in purchasing and selling reclaimed wood.
- Reclaimed Bricks and other masonry stones|pavers can also be reclaimed and reused.
- Reuse soils from the excavation for new landscaping.
- Roof shingles can have recycled content.
- Plastic Products with recycled content, ie., longboard siding, composite decking . . .
- Synthetic drywall is manufactured with up to 99% recycled content, including backer board made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper.
Just about any product in your new home could come from recycled materials. Be sure to communicate with your contractor to recycle construction site waste materials.
6). Insulation for sustainable houses:
R value is a term used to rate the insulation value of a material. R value = Resistance, the higher the R value the more insulation & less heat loss. You want to make sure that your home has a sufficient R value for your climate. There are lots of different insulation types and techniques. Most importantly is to insulate your home to keep the hot air out during the summer and keep the warm air in during the winter. Good insulation is one of the most important energy efficient house ideas. Heating and air conditioning is the largest percentages of energy use and your energy bill. The better insulation you have the less energy you will use.
7). Energy efficiency |Air sealing:
Energy efficiency|air sealing & insulation go hand in hand. The 2012 (most recent) BC Building Code addressed energy efficiency. Air sealing prevents air from leaking through your house. You want to make sure your house doesn’t leak conditioned air. What is the point of having all that insulation if there is cold air blowing through cracks and crevasses in your walls. Sealing at all the openings and penetrations through your roofs and walls are required. This includes windows, doors, vents, electrical conduit, and any other penetrations.
8). Window & Doors:
You have to use efficient windows and doors. They need to have proper weather stripping to keep out the elements. They need to close tight so as to seal the opening. The types of glass and material insulation value also are very important. Windows and doors are expensive but you want to make sure they are not going to cost you more in the long run when using inefficient products. Windows and doors are also a weak point for air leakage. Make sure you have proper air sealing around these areas. You don’t want to buy good quality windows and install them with poor quality.
9). Sustainable Materials:
Use materials that avoid Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs. Examples can be using low VOC paint, adhesives, glues . . . in the construction of your new house. Use materials that can be recycled later and have already been recycled. Using local materials is a good start to sustainability. There are lots of sustainable materials in nature for example woods that are renewable and certified. Also use durable materials. If you have to replace something in a few years that is not sustainable.
10). Energy Star rated Appliances & Equipment:
As a minimum requirement use energy star rated appliances. Products such as your computer monitor, TV, kitchen appliances, heating & a/c units, water heaters should all be energy star rated.
11). LED Lighting:
LED (Light Emitting Diode) are energy efficient lighting that will reduce your energy cost (they use less power) and you won’t need to change the bulbs for many years. They more costly upfront but they last longer & you will save electricity.
12). Water Conserving Plumbing:
Toilets and many other plumbing fixtures are not the same as they once were. They make dual flush toilets where you can choose a lower flush rate or a higher flush rate as needed. All your plumbing fixtures can have reduced or low-flow water usage including faucets & shower heads. These plumbing fixtures that use water at lower flow rates are now readily available.
13). Efficient HVAC:
HVAC stands for Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning. Your heat and a/c will be the largest source of energy consumption in your home. Use a efficient & well designed system which incorporate some of the following such as programmable thermostat, energy star rated equipment & zones within your system to control temperatures within your house.
14). Rain Water Collection:
Why let all that rain water go to waste? Install roof gutters and downspouts that direct the water to a tank for reuse. This water can be used to flush your toilets or water the garden. Rain water can even be used for drinking if you filter and purify it. The most typical use of rain water collection is for gardening & irrigation. You can use a concrete underground detention tank to store rainwater with a pump to circulate the water for use.
15). Renewable Energy for Sustainable Houses:
These are three possible options for renewable energy used as a power source.
a) Solar Panels – Pre-pipe your home, run  – 2” conduit from your basement to your attic to plan for future wiring for solar panels. Panels store/generate energy from the sun in batteries which is converted to electricity. Large trees blocking the sun may cause a problem for solar panels & the orientation of the house is important. Make sure a professional determines if your location is feasible.
b) Windmills/Wind turbine – Installing a small wind turbine may be an option. Small wind turbines are electric generators that use wind to produce clean, emissions-free power for individual homes, farms, and small businesses.
c) Geothermal Heat – Use the earth’s underground hot water to heat up your home. A geothermal power plant works by tapping into steam or hot water reservoirs underground & the heat is used to drive an electrical generator. Geothermal power is gaining great momentum in western Canada & the USA where hot water reservoirs are common.
16). Tankless Water Heaters or instant Hot Water on Demand:
Tankless water heaters or instant hot water use less energy by heating water directly without the use of a storage tank. When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water travels through a pipe into the unit. Either a gas burner or an electric element heats the water. As a result, tankless water heaters deliver a constant supply of hot water.
17). Smart Planting:
People plant vegetation that does not belong in their climate or land type and then require lots of water and maintenance. Planting the right types of plants in the right locations uses less water & requires less time to maintain. Use plant species that are native to your area or that are known to thrive in your climate. Make sure these plants can survive with minimal maintenance and watering. Try planting a vegetable garden. Growing your own organic food is very sustainable and can be a fun hobby. Make sure to plant fruits and vegetables that will thrive in your location. Use the rainwater you collect from your roof drainage to water your garden.