There have always been many things to consider when building new or renovating and now there are even more with the “green” options.
There are WAY too many things to discuss here, but a great resource for information on your options is the Built Green Checklist. Click on the link to the right to go to the Built Green site to get the checklist. It is an interactive Excel document and has tabs along the bottom you click to get to the different pages. If you do not have the Excel software, please contact Built Green for a different version of the checklist. The checklist categories are Envelope & Energy Systems, Materials & Methods, Indoor Air Quality, Ventilation, Waste Management, Water Conservation, and Business Practices.
Some Green Initiatives I Recommend
When building a new home I very highly recommend enlisting the services of a Certified Energy Advisor (CEA). Once she has your building plans and the information she needs about what you’re planning on putting in your home (furnace etc) she runs it all through a program that gives her information which she interprets and then recommends things you can do to improve your energy efficiency. For more information please contact Heather directly.
CEAs can also be used for renovations. It is an excellent idea to hire a CEA to do an energy evaluation of your existing home to point out any issues with it and recommend any improvements you can make to it. Hiring a CEA is money well spent!
If You’re Considering an Extensive Renovation
When considering an extensive renovation you should weigh the pros and cons of renovating your existing home or demolishing it and starting new. This can mean building off the existing foundation or building a new foundation and that would depend on what a structural engineer says about your existing foundation; whether it’s the size and shape of the new house and how much changing needs to be done to it. I always caution clients about investing hundreds of thousands of dollars on an old foundation…it is after all your foundation. On the flipside, I don’t see the point of demolishing it if it’s still good and reusable.
- Your existing home materials end up in our landfills. This I don’t like, but sometimes the pros outweigh the cons, even for the environment because of new technology and energy efficiency. You can also contact Habitat for Humanity or other organizations or friends that could reuse some of your materials.
- It typically costs you more to build new, although it is a better investment to put more into your home IF you end up with more value (a new home is worth more than the same older home). This may or may not be possible depending on your budget.
- You get a new home built to new construction standards. I’ve been to numerous HPO seminars and the presenter at each I’ve attended, Murray Frank, a very knowledgeable and experienced contractor has pointed out the logical, but not so obvious fact that the building envelope is the most crucial for energy efficiency, yet it’s the most costly to renovate. The building envelope is what envelopes your home: your walls, roof, and basement floor. Each portion of the building envelope has its own assembly. One example of a common wall assembly is siding, sheathing, studs & insulation, vapour barrier, and gypsum board. There have been many improvements over recent years in the building envelope and many more to come. Extensive research has and is being done to better understand how each part of these assemblies affects another and the house as a whole.
- You don’t have any surprises in the walls like old electrical or plumbing that wreak havoc on your budget. The only unknown is your site excavation etc.
- Your house value increases (typically).
- You’re not restricted by the existing layout or structure which can really interfere with creating a home that truly meets your lifestyle needs. There are always restrictions to that though so make sure to do your homework to figure out which is truly best for you.
Structural Insulated Panels
There are many different roof, floor, and wall assemblies you can choose from now and once the new BC Building Code comes out… they keep changing the date… they will be more common. One wall and roof assembly I highly recommend is one that has been around for a long time and is now becoming popular in our region. It is created by sandwiching expanded polystyrene foam insulation between sheathing, otherwise known as Structural Insulated Panels or SIPs. This is a bit more costly than standard construction, but the energy efficiency of your home is FAR better than standard construction and there is very little waste. Once the new code comes out the SIPs will become more cost effective because the new roof and wall assembly options are going to be much more costly to create.
SIPs are also different for the contractors, especially plumbers and electricians, but once they get used to it it’s not such a big deal. The key is to try and find a contractor that has built with SIPs before, and if you can’t then make sure to tell your contractor that you’re planning on building with SIPs so he can do his homework and make his trades aware so they can quote the job accordingly.
There is a local manufacturer of SIPs in Kamloops: Trout Creek International Homes and I encourage you to contact them at 250-314-1172 (or toll free at 1-877-312-1172) to learn more about this great building system! Ask for Duane. You can also check out their website here. I also recommend googling SIPs and watching you tube videos etc to educate yourself and then talk to an experienced builder.
Insulated Concrete Forms
Another very energy efficient wall assembly is created by using Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs). These are a type of concrete form that stays in place permanently and also forms the insulation and vapour barrier portion of your wall assembly. It has many pros and a few cons, although the pros outweigh the cons and will even more so when the new code comes out because the cost of the ICF will be equal to or less than what you’ll have to pay to meet code using another wall assembly option. ICFs can be used as foundation walls (where you’d normally have concrete walls), but they can also be used as your above ground walls right to the roof! I had a client that lives in a very windy location and chose to build her home with ICFs from the foundation to the roof and she is very happy with it. The biggest con to me about the ICFs is that you never see the concrete. By that I mean that unlike standard concrete walls where you strip the forms once the concrete is poured and cured to expose the concrete which allows you to inspect it for any flaws or honeycombing etc, you don’t have this advantage with ICFs. That puts extra emphasis on hiring a contractor that is experienced with ICFs. They can be tricky to work with and concrete is definitely something you want to get right the first time! However, contractors that are experienced with Insulated Concrete Forms enjoy working with them because they are easy to work with… they’re like Lego blocks… and once you have a system down the cons are no longer applicable.
There are numerous companies with different ICF products. It’s best to do a little research yourself and then talk to an experienced builder. There are a few links on the side-bar for your convenience.