Architects, Designers, Suppliers and Builders Create the Green Building Learning Zone

CC BY 2.0. Lloyd Alter

Healthy, efficient, and low-carbon building is promoted in this terrific initiative.

There are endless jokes and stories about architects fighting with contractors fighting with suppliers. When I practiced architecture, it always seemed that I was blamed for everything. It's one reason I got out of the business, so many fights.

But these are different times, and we have a climate crisis on our hands. That's why it was so wonderful and encouraging to see the Green Living Learning Zone take shape at the Green Living Show in Toronto. It is such a terrific initiative, a demonstration of people working together instead of fighting each other:

The Green Building Learning Zone brings together architects, designers, builders, suppliers, educators, non-profits and consultants from the green building world who are all deeply committed to creating sustainable buildings and educating the public about their importance.

Its goal is to teach the public about healthy, efficient building using materials that have low embodied carbon and minimal waste.

“The need for education around high performance and healthy buildings is quite great and urgent,” says Bettina Hoar, one of the founding members of the group. “Too often homeowners are unaware that the buildings they live and work in are not up to the highest energy performance and health standards. This compromises their comfort, health and energy bills. It also negatively impacts the environment and contributes to climate change. We want them to know that they have the power to change this next time they plan to buy, build or renovate.”
Bettina Hoar and Lloyd Alter

Bettina Hoar and Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Many of these firms have been on TreeHugger (and it is nice to see that they read it too), which is not surprising, because this TreeHugger tries to espouse the same philosophy that Bettina Hoar does here in their press release:

“Typically when people want to reduce their building’s environmental footprint, they might first consider solar panels, which are often the most expensive solution relative to their overall impact,” says Hoar. “Really, the most effective way to begin is with the 'unsexy' stuff - the building envelope such as walls, roof, foundation and windows – the things we don’t see but have such a massive impact because they reduce the need for energy in the first place."

This is, of course, what I have been saying for years. Every green building show is usually full of fancy heat pumps and high tech smart stuff and insulated concrete forms, but these people get down to the basics, the true substance of sustainability. There are never-ending and often changing arguments about what green building really is, but there is a consensus among this group.

Materials palette

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

The Green Living Show used to be a wonderful collection of sustainable transportation, building and health, but has become overwhelmed with wellness and health, and is now all healthy food and beauty. So the material palette fits right in; it is almost edible and very healthy, all cork and straw and wood and cellulose, with a big hemp lego-like thing in the back.

Jeremy Clarke with panel

Jeremy Clarke of Simple Life Homes with panel/ Photo Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Jeremy Clarke of Simple Life showed a bit of his prefab wall system that is almost entirely plastic-free, with cellulose insulation and 3/4" plywood as the air barrier. I will be writing more about this.

Chris Magwood of Endeavour Centre

Chris Magwood of Endeavour Centre/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

There was also a full slate of speakers and a surprising number of people in the crowd watching them. Chris Magwood is doing some very important work on embodied carbon that I thought would scare the audience away, but he got a full house. It's clear that people are interested in this stuff and willing to learn.

Builders, architects, suppliers and teachers, all working together to deliver a message about healthy, efficient green building. Sometimes I feel like I am beating my head against a wall, but the word is getting out. I expect great things from the Green Building Learning Zone, and give the last word to Bettina Hoar:

"Buildings affect human health and wellbeing, from the way they are designed, to the materials and methods used to build them, to how to they fit into the community. We can do better."

Green Building Learning Zone collaborators include: Aerecura, Rammed Earth Builders; Agritecture, Ontario; Eco Building Resource; Endeavour - The Sustainable Building School; Fourth Pig Green & Natural Construction; Greening Homes; Nadurra Wood Corporation; The Faculty of Engineering & Architectural Science Graduate Studies, Ryerson University; Sage Living; Simple Life; Stone’s Throw Design Inc.; and, Tooketree Passive Homes. The Green Living Show booth is sponsored by Sustainable Buildings Canada, Passive Buildings Canada, and the Ontario Natural Building Coalition.