The Greening of North America

Now as far as what works, it all depends on the climate, as green techniques are not generally universal; they are conducive to the region that you live in. For instance, if you live in a very cold climate, you may want to run hot water tubes through your concrete floor slab, but if you were in the south that technique would not work at all. If you are in a very hot region, you can use hollow concrete floor and wall systems and run your conditioned air through the wall, thereby cooling the wall and floor creating a more comfortable room for less energy.


In 2008, the plan was to start the “Greening” process on the west coast of Canada, which it has done with a number of building products, and garbage recycling. This process to produce green buildings is EnerGuide, which is a method of rating that shows a standard measure of a home's energy performance. It shows how energy efficient a home is exactly. The rating based on standard operation assumptions so that one can compare the energy performance of one house against another. The home's energy efficiency performance is on a scale of 0 to 100. A rating of zero represents a home with major air leakage, no insulation, and extremely high-energy consumption.


We are to think that bigger is better because different authorities have told us over the years that a building has to be large to keep its value, so we build the largest buildings possible. Instead, if we downsize buildings, we can improve its quality through durability, detailing, energy efficiency, green features, and we might even be able to reduce the overall costs.


Since 1950, the average house size in North America has more than doubled, while family size has dropped by 25% therefore we have providing 2.8 times more area per person than we were back then. Back then, the average home was 1,500 square feet for a family of four. Today it is 3,000 square feet for a family of three. That is an increase to 1,000 square feet per person over the 375 square feet that we once required over 60 years ago.


Why, you may ask? We are living the dream, the dream of prosperity, the dream of possessions, additional bathrooms, additional kitchens, specialty rooms, formal rooms, etc. Simply put more toys. If you think you need a 3,000 square-foot house, consider whether 2,500 would suffice, or even less. There are some great green homes being built today at 1,400 to 1,500 square feet — homes where every square foot is optimally used and there aren’t rooms, like formal dining rooms, that sit empty most of the time.


When the elevator which was invented in the 1850’s, buildings that were over three stories in height were constructed and serviced by an elevator or elevators, traditionally up to, 1900’s buildings were no more than 130 feet tall or 10 stories. Then buildings increase in height that were constructed over 10 stories which were first dubbed skyscrapers, but as their size increased to over 50 stories, people embrace description of these buildings between 10 and 50 stories as “Tall Buildings” rather than the skyscraper terminology. Although there is no official designation as a skyscraper, today they are considered to be 50 stories and over in height.


Since 9/11, cities are starting to have height restrictions for these skyscrapers and the skyscraper that was to be solution to housing in urban areas, are rethinking their approach to higher density living and working. Couple this with the return of a central heating plant for several hundred buildings in the downtown or a developed core, or total neighbourhoods in the suburbs, our carbon footprint can be greatly reduced. For example in Toronto, the cold water at the bottom of Lake Ontario to cool their buildings is now servicing air conditionings for office towers.


However, let us get back to what we to the life cycle for green buildings from inception to expiration. The life cycle stages, which represent an average home, built today, that have an life expectancy of 60 years are.


1.   Design

2.   Construction

3.   Operation

4.   Maintenance

5.   Deconstruction

6.   Recycle/Reuse


Where we build can also influence cost. By clustering houses in a development, we can reduce the total amount of pavement, the length of utility lines, and other associated infrastructure costs. By putting a house fairly close to the access road, we both save costs and reduce the impacts of that additional pavement and material usage.


What are the major changes that occur in a green home that is different from a conventional home are the following. Some of which are already here today.

·       Porous concrete to absorb the cold  from the ground or heat from the sun in order to harness the energy

·       Recycled structural materials such as an engineered truss system, or an engineered I beam joists all made from recyclable materials

·       Insulated exterior wall panel systems that are structurally sound and replace the conventional framing

·       Insulated exterior doors

·       High energy windows that have low E and argon filled insulated glass

·       Wind turbines to harness the energy for power

·       Durable metal roofing systems to harness the heat and expel the cold along with providing a solid base for photovoltaic panels

·       Photovoltaic panels for solar heating and power systems

·       Storm water management systems

·       Recycled finishes such as flooring, paneling, counters, cabinetry, etc.

·       Sealed ductwork to control heat loss

·       Geothermal heating and cooling systems

·       Integrated controls for a smart house

·       Energy efficient appliances


All of this comes with a cost. As a general rule of thumb, a greenhouse which is totally sustainable will run about 40% more expensive than an equal house done with the normal materials and processes. Now keep this in mind this is expensive and will create a higher cost to construct on front side but on the backside it will pay for itself with the savings the homeowner will enjoy over the next few years.


The bottom line is that the cost really depends on the level of Green attained, in both the design and construction costs of the home. As stock of conventional products deplete and infrastructure is constructed to accommodate the green house the cost will start to be reduced but on the same token, it is considered a better quality than convention construction therefore you may see the cost of the home increase about 17% overall.


In the long run this will be a win, win situation for building owners but a costly proposition for insurance companies that are caught under the principle of substitution for replacement cost policies, because green is now the substitute for conventional.


On February 15 of 2012, we launched the INTEGRAL CLAIMS PROGRAM that is for large or unusual and difficult building losses, which has resulted in very favourable results within the first two months of its operation.







Ron Wilkes, CMSAI

Senior Co-Ordinator

(604) 614 – 8350





A division of Integral Enterprises Inc.

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Mission, BC, V2V 5C8

Tel: (778) 239 – 6308

Fax: (604) 826 – 3010