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The Time Has Come to Build Green

Posted by Sherry Rioux on September 16, 2007

I had a really interesting meeting on Friday with a young gentleman who wants to change the world.  He’s not alone.

Once dismissed as leftist ideologists, environmentalists finally have the attention of the world.  Maybe it’s due in part to persistence however, I think Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth documentary is what started the populist movement in a big way.  Whether you agree with his message or not, millions of people reacted to it and a populist movement has finally started to SAVE OUR PLANET.  The environment has moved to the top of our national agenda and suddenly we’re all rushing around to change light bulbs, fix dripping taps and catch a bus.

Did you know that, according to the Canada Green Building Council, that building has a profound impact on our environment.  Consider this.. building is estimated to consume:

  • 40% to 50% of extracted natural resources
  • 1/3 of Canada’s energy production
  • 25% of our landfill space
  • 10% of airborne particulates
  • 30% of Canadian greenhouse gas emissions

This is a pretty significant impact!  Yet we keep doing more of the same, in the same way and at break-neck speed.  We tear down old buildings in favour of new and while we talk about intensification and Places to Grow, we consume, consume, consume.But back to my meeting on Friday.  John works for a company called Solera Sustainable Energies which provides green energy products in the form of solar systems and wind turbines.  Really, these systems allow a homeowner or company to become their own miniature electric utility company by slowing down the meter or even turning it back.  Or selling power back to the grid.  Whole subdivisions or a cul-de-sac could band together to supply themselves.  We played with costs and payback scenarios that were very convincing in themselves however, there is so much more value to doing something like this.  Making the planet a better place for one.  Improving resale value for two.  John pointed out that people will think nothing of spending $15,000 to renovate a kitchen or a bathroom yet very few will spend the money to convert to solar.  Why is that?  He also pointed out that in

Europe, solar energy has been commonplace in homes, institutions and commercial buildings for many years already.So, I’ve been thinking.  We have subdivisions springing up all over the area and outside of location, there are not really any noteworthy points of difference between one developer and the other.  Two storey, 1800 sq ft house with double garage on a 60 foot lot starting at $300,000 yawn.  Perhaps these builders should call up John and see about offering solar panels as an option.  If I could buy the same $300,000 house for $315,000 but have solar and reduce my energy costs for the next 40 years, there is no question which house I’d buy.  Maybe the builder could also negotiate a green mortgage for me such as the one offered by Citizens Bank of Canada and sure to be seen soon with other lending institutions.  How about having only the energy saving lightbulbs in the house, Energy Star appliances, solar heated hot water, a gray water management system, low-flow shower heads and toilets, bamboo flooring and VOC-free paints?  There are so many things the building industry should, no make that MUST do to start being part of the solution instead of the problem.  I believe the economic payback will be there in consumer demand.

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