The Road to Hell is Paved With Green Intentions


Toronto Mayor David Miller is trying to make Toronto a greener city, but there so often seems to be a disconnect between what he says and what happens on the ground, or in the Buildings department. Toronto architect David Dennis designed a house for himself with a lot of green features, and reminds us of the late Jeff Stinson's discussion about the merits of convention vs invention. He found himself falling down the rabbit hole into the Matrix, "the parallel universe of inventive details."

He notes that while the new house will have between a quarter and a third of the energy consumption of his current house of about the same size, "The City of Toronto consumed seven months of engineering and research to approve the site-specific use of the SIP panel roof. Any thought that the City encourages 'green'- at a bureaucratic level, is fiction."


The steel frame and aluminum was all recycled from the Ashbridges Bay Sewage Treatment Plant; The steel was from a conveyor system and the aluminum from catwalks around five stationary boilers. David writes:

"Steel - a racehorse of building materials- is strong, beautiful and tricky.
It's something like 10 times stronger than wood. It reveals beautiful shadow details. It's tricky to detail for thermal bridging, fastening and erecting.

Used steel is problematic to the structural engineer because the odd profiles require first-principles calculations. It's expensive to ship and the fabricator has added handling to trim off both ends and remove attachments. Further, a fabricator who will handle used material rarely has an engineering staff to prepare shop drawings necessary for the approvals process. That being said, you have a building in the end with shadows and details reminiscent of Barton Myers, Craig Elwood and recently, Jennifer Siegel.

Recycled steel is rarely the right size and weight for engineering purposes, but, boy, is it beautiful.. looking forward to a graphite paint finish.

The aluminum walkway grating will be used for stairs to let light down through the house. The grill mateial will screet the garage and shade the windows. it will be anodized with a HLN grey dye finish. I may attempt a green wall on the south facade.."


Green features:
SIP walls
Sip roofs
Recycled steel frame
Recycled Douglas Fir siding
Compact house footprint below allowable coverage
Recycled aluminum wall and window shades
Recycled EPS foundation insulation and drainage cloth.
Low E argon-filled windows
High efficiency boiler/ demand hot water- hydronic coil heating
No air conditioning- cross ventillation
Daylighting with light shelves
Provision for solar/ domestic hot-water
Canadian granite paving from drill-rodded scrap
Rain-water collection for garden- no grey water provision, yet
Clothes line with interior drying space
Energy star appliances
LED retrofit MR16 lights as they come available.

Grey features:
Aluminum windows [half cost of wood windows]
Custom extruded Aluminum siding [anything but brick]
Graphite paint [agricultural] with some VOCs
Zinc chromate paint [yellow-green]
Reinforced concrete foundation

TreeHugger on Jennifer Siegel
Swellhouse by Jennifer Siegel Built in Venice
takehome: affordable modernist prefab
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: Portable Architecture

TreeHugger on Barton Myers
Barton Myers ' Steel House

Related Content on