Wednesday, 05 August 2009 10:47 Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 August 2009 12:16
According to a recent study, buildings account for:
- 36% of total energy use
- 65% of all electricity consumption
- 30% of greenhouse gas emissions
- 30% of waste output
- 12% of potable water consumption
By reducing energy, water and materials inputs, green buildings take aim at these statistics. One of our hopes is that The Ridge might become an example for builders and municipalities interested in minimizing the carbon footprint of a community. At The Ridge, the focus will not be on maximum profit, but on creating a community that reaches the highest standards possible in green home developments. We intend this to more than a promise, and will show accountability via an on-going website where regular reports will be published to help other builders and communities interested in the same goals.
A green home community needs to be more than an idea, and more than an example of how to lower the carbon footprint. While an extremely important goal is lower use of resources, the ultimate goal is to have a community of where residents enjoy their home and the surroundings, and who are good neighbors in a rural setting.
Construction — A green materials strategy
The Ridge building will use a purchasing strategy of green materials to address health and environmental concerns. The criteria will be based on existing guidelines, standards, and certifications, and review material safety data sheets for new products and all proposed substitutions. Waste Reducing Design and Construction Techniques. It’s our goal to use buildings with efficient floor plans and with wall dimensions that match standard lumber sizes, to significantly reduce waste and cut materials and energy costs.
Canada rates as the second biggest water consumer (right behind the US). On average, each Canadian uses 1600 cubic meters of water per year. This is 6400 tons of water for a family of four. This is more than twice as much water as the average person from France, three times as much as the average German, almost four times as much as the average Swede and more than eight times as much as the average Dane. Canada’s per capita water consumption is 65% above the world average. At this rate, our water supplies (mainly ground-level sources) will not be able to support our growing needs and expanding population.
The Ridge community will actively pursue water efficiency at three levels -- conservation, rain harvesting and gray water usage. Energy Efficiency.
When building green, energy savings are the greatest payback for the costs of high performance, efficient design and systems. Energy efficiency is an integral part of building green, and requires integrated design and careful calculations from day one. Proven energy modeling software will help The Ridge integrate the building systems for greatest efficiency at the lowest cost.
Along with energy efficiency, The Ridge homes will tap into renewable energy sources to lower the carbon footprint. Here, second and third generation technologies make it possible to generate energy efficiently and at a low enough cost to be practical. By pairing a solar hot water system with an efficient central boiler, for example, water heating energy use can be cut by up to 70 percent. The Ridge homes will include but not be limited to these energy sources: Solar shingles; renewable EnHybrid solar lighting (HSL); solar hot water systems; geothermal heat pump.
On-Going Waste Management
Food and paper decompose by themselves in nature. They are, however, the two largest components in landfills, accounting for nearly 50% of all municipal solid waste. There is more food and paper in landfills than diapers, styrofoam, and tires -- combined. According to the US EPA, food waste is the #1 least recycled material. Landfills are layered deep and saturated with water. No oxygen can penetrate. As a result, even "biodegradable" waste will remain embalmed for centuries to come. Landfills produce methane, a harmful greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide (according to the US EPA), and leach toxic chemicals into our air and drinking water. Landfill costs are skyrocketing, which means higher fees (or taxes) for everyone. The organic nutrients present in food and paper waste are removed from the food chain, requiring gardeners and farmers to instead rely on chemical fertilizers to replenish their soil. National and local governments around the world are enacting regulations to limit trash and increase recycling.
One solution is indoor composting. Every home will have a miniature in-vessel composting system. Waste is collected right where it is generated--in the kitchen. A computer controls the temperature, air flow, moisture, and mixing to accelerate the process and eliminate the backbreaking work. Everything is fully self contained in an modern, attractive container. Just a few square feet of floor space is required. No special plumbing or electrical connections are needed, other than a standard electrical outlet. There is no need to handle and transport the rotting material.
Best of all, composting will provide The Ridge communal garden and green house with a source of rich, organic fertilizer.