Just Hatched: The Whole Building Collective


While attending a trade show we came upon a group of exhibitors looking a bit younger and more treehugger than the usual suspects, sitting in front of the vaguely hobbity facade that was their booth. Intrigued, we learned that they are the Whole Building Collective, which can "provide you with a full range of ecological building solutions." It turns out that the collective got together to build the booth and create a business after graduating from Fleming College's Sustainable building Design and Construction program- three weeks ago. Notwithstanding our bias against hobbity facades, this definitely deserved an interview.Treehugger talked to four members of the Collective: Christine Johnson, Jennifer Feigin, Martin Walter and Lisa Malarz.

Q: how did you get interested in sustainable design?
Christine: Ever since I read My Side of the Mountain as a kid. Jennifer: While biking down the west coast I became interested in alternative housing and building natural homes. Martin: I had a fashion design background but became interested in the environment.

Q. It is very brave and ambitious to do all this and put it together three weeks after graduation. What has the response been? are you nervous?

The Ontario Straw Bale Building Coalition offered space at the show and flying by seat of the pants, Martin suggested idea. We all wanted to build and had talked about forming a group and setting up together, so we just grabbed the opportunity. The response had been positive, although many people do not know what we are talking about.

Q. What do you think the most important things driving the current interest in sustainability? What will drive customers to you?

Right now, we are talking to people who do not want to be dependent on the grid, on coal or oil or nuclear energy.

Q. If I came to you and said I wanted the perfect sustainable house, what would you give me?
Lisa: we would start by questioning your lifestyle direction, your philosophy of life, your reliance on society. Most people in the course feel a disconnection with society at large and we have to question how we live to determine what we live in.

Q: We are impressed that you consider that such issues come first, but getting down to systems, what turns you on?
Martin: Straw bale of course. Earth Plaster (clay and chopped straw). Rammed earth floors. (Really? Dirt Floors?) Jennifer: we weren’t meant to walk on hard surfaces, the earth floor moves with your feet. Martin: Earth bag foundations. (Huh? ) burlap tubes filled with sand, gravel and a bit of Portland cement or clay. Passive solar systems are preferred but toss in a bit of solar collectors and photovoltaics and don’t forget a green roof. Lisa: If you are on a farm: methane collection, manure heating. Local sourcing of materials.

Treehugger is impressed by this group's energy and focus. We really liked how Lisa was more concerned about how people live than what systems they live with- If the quality of their design approaches their passion for sustainability, they will go far.


Christine, Lisa, Martin and Jennifer.

Not present but who participated in the Collective:
Dave Mason
Seamus Little
David Gable
Brad Ellis
Jeff Ponsford
Cameron White

no website yet but contact them by email at ::info@wholebuilding.com

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