New UN report says buildings and construction sector are huge untapped potential for emission reductions

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Dramatic action will be needed by governments, cities and business if the global buildings and construction sector is to cut its carbon footprint in line with international agreements, according to a new report by the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction.

The 2018 Global Status Report - Towards a Zero-Emission, Efficient and Resilient Buildings and Construction Sector, highlights that emissions from buildings and construction may have peaked in the past few years, with energy efficiency gains in areas such as heating, lighting and cooking and with more offices and homes being powered by cleaner forms of energy. However the report underlines that the buildings sector – a huge engine of the global economy – still accounts for a significant 39 percent of total energy-related CO2 emissions and 36 percent of final energy use.

Notably the report identifies embodied carbon of buildings as a crucial issue.

Fourth Pig project featured in Globe and Mail

Photo: Riley Snelling

Photo: Riley Snelling

Muskoka cottage sheds its skin for a sustainable new coat” by Dave Leblanc in the Globe and Mail highlights a recent project by architect Terrell Wong of Stones Throw Design with the Fourth Pig doing the renovation work. There has been quite a transformation!

In the article Terrell Wong describes the pleasure that a well put together project can bring,
“‘I never thought I would have feelings towards siding until …’ Ms. Wong said, pausing for thought, and then giving credit to the Fourth Pig: ‘I’ve never seen people take so much time to make siding level and sexy and perfect, and I’m like, ‘Oh, is this what it’s supposed to look like?’ I’m so used to the wobbly siding with the dirt on it.’”

Read the whole piece here.

Fourth Pig becomes a certified supplier with Buy Social

This month the Fourth Pig became a certified supplier with Buy Social. “Buy Social Canada brings socially driven purchasers and social enterprise suppliers together, building business relationships that generate social benefits to communities across the country. We offer a recognized, Canada-wide social enterprise certification program that opens the door to an emerging social impact network. We work with community, private sector, and government to support the development of policy and resources to strengthen local and regional social procurement initiatives.”

Parkdale Landing project wins prize

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Indwell’s Parkdale Landing Project won the Inspiring Home Award last night from the Canada Green Building Council. The Fourth Pig acted as airtightness consultants and air barrier installers (and solver of air tightness details) on Parkdale Landing, which is to date the largest passive house retrofit in Canada. We worked with owners Indwell, the architect Invizij and the General Contractor Schithuis Construction to ensure the air barrier met or exceeded passive house air tightness standards. The building passed its air tightness requirements with flying colours (coming in at at 0.3 ACH at 50 Pascals)!

Parkdale Landing is now 57 affordable apartments, with commercial space on the ground floor.

Let it shine - solar news in "Force of Nature"

In our most recent newsletter, Force of Nature, we turn our gaze upon sun power. Let it shine!

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Let it shine

We love solar energy but, let's be honest, we focus on natural building here. This month we want to focus more on solar power news, including the growth in India, incentives in Nova Scotia and the trouble with solar roads. 

If you are in Ontario please remember that the Ontario Natural Building Tour is happening this Sunday, September 30th

Nova Scotia promoting solar

Nova Scotia's provincial government is starting to do more promotion of solar through a program called "Solar Electricity for Community Buildings" according to the The Chronicle Herald. "The initiative allows the organizations to use solar power cells installed on their building or property to generate electricity and sell power to Nova Scotia Power or a local utility on a 20-year contract. . . To be eligible for the program, applicants must be registered non-profit or charitable organizations, universities or community colleges, municipalities or organizations wholly owned by a municipality, or Mi’kmaw communities."  Twenty-Seven projects will be selected and some projects have already been announced. Nova Scotia also has a home-owner incentive solar program
 

India's solar power ambitions

India is one of the the fastest growing solar areas in the world, this short BBC video looks at the growing industry:


New "breakthrough" battery coming to market

Solar is fantastic, but the grid to go renewable you need good storage (see here for our coverage of this issue). Batteries are one big option but lithium Ion batteries (like used in laptops, phones, electric cars), have limitations, not the least of which is the use of lithium, an expensive element to mine/process. 

Now, according to the New York Times, a new battery is claiming to be a game changer, "a rechargeable battery operating on zinc and air that can store power at what it [NantEnergy] says is far less than the cost of lithium-ion batteries." NantEnergy says the batteries have been used in over 1,500 sites, including Duke Energy and they have over 100 patents on the battery. They are taking orders now. 

"In charging the batteries, electricity from solar installations is stored by converting zinc oxide to zinc and oxygen. In the discharge process, the system produces energy by oxidizing the zinc with air. When it’s time to charge, the process begins again." These new batteries, NantEnergy claims, can provide power for "up to 72 hours on a single charge."

Solar roads not a bright spot

Promoting solar is absolutely crucial to a sustainable energy world. In the last few years some companies have been testing out using solar panels on roads and paths, though there are inherent challenges here. As The Conversation points out road panels aren't at ideal angles for the sun, they have to withstand heavy loads (which can reduce efficiency), they heat up more with lack of circulation (which effects performance) and can be shaded in areas. The Conversation looked at the results of a few pilots and so far the results are not encouraging. One project came in at about $1800 cdn per KW installed and another over $43,000 per KW. Most of these projects aren't meeting close to the output they would get on a roof.

In looking at UK as a test case the article shows that if you cover every road in UK with solar panels that would equate to only a fraction of the space of buildings (.11 of the space) - and that the low-hanging fruit does not lie on the road when it comes to solar. This is early days, but we know that rooftop and ground mounted solar work. 


 

Trump tariffs cause increase in solar costs

President Trump’s solar tariff created $236.5 million in additional costs for American consumers, according to a report by EnergySage. "Immediately following the U.S. International Trade Commission’s finding of injury to American solar panel manufacturers in late September 2017, EnergySage saw the cost of residential solar spike on its Marketplace. Though prices have since restarted their decline, they are decreasing at a slower rate than before. The result is that the cost of a solar installation is now 5.6% higher than it would have been if costs had been allowed to fall at their preexisting rate of decline."
 

Solar stays steady in Puerto Rico

When firefighters arrived to help in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria the fire stations didn't have power. The grid was down and the generator was out at the first place. According to Mother Jones Magazine and Grist, "With the encouragement of San Juan fire chief Alberto Cruz Albarrán, logistical help from San Juan firefighters, and donated equipment from the company Sunrun, within a day-and-a-half a team outfitted the flat roofs of the fire department in Barrio Obrero — one of the poorer neighborhoods in San Juan — with solar panels. The panels and connected battery meant the station could be taken off the downed grid to run the most critical equipment including its 24-hour watch office that fielded calls, and its radio, lights, and doors." 

That said battery storage was key here as most of Puerto Rico's solar was attached to the grid and with no micro-grid, were unable to be used. 

There are also reports that solar power plants did well in hurricane Florence. 


Don't miss Ontario Natural Building Tour

Discover the beauty, comfort, and resilience of natural buildings across Ontario on Sunday September 30th. As it does each year the Ontario Natural Building Coalition hosts a tour of homes that went the natural way. "For the tour, dozens of natural homes and buildings across Ontario open their doors for participants to see examples of straw bale, rammed earth, cob, timber frame, off grid, passive solar, and many other natural building methods and alternative technologies."

This year it is a 2 for 1 for the Fourth Pig as we have two buildings next to each other that are participating in the tour. Come on out! Plus, if you are in the area, come see our own Melinda Zytaruk speak the same day (see below). 
 


Fourth Pig's Melinda Zytaruk presents at "Green Foundations"

Melinda Zytaruk, General Manger of the Fourth Pig Worker Co-op, will be talking about sustainable, low carbon building at Green Foundations - Shaping a Sustainable Future." Melinda's talk is at 1pm. Register for this free event right here! This event is part of Culture Days

"With discussions led by influential builders, homeowners, designers, and sustainable gurus, Green Foundations; Shaping a Sustainable Community, aims to inspire you to view your community through a greener, more sustainable lens."

Note the Fourth Pig has another event in the area the same day, the Ontario Natural Building Tour (see above). Come before or after the talk!



Beer and Building Science Inseperable At Last

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475 Building Supply wrote about one of our projects - a conversion from a barn to a brewery.

“If you’re talking building science, there’s a solid chance beer is involved. Builders (we hear) like beer. So when beer brewing and building construction can both be done at a high level, it’s something close to heaven. This project located northwest of Toronto married the two when The Fourth Pig Green & Natural Construction renovated Goodlot Farmstead Brewing's old barn into a high-performance brewery. . . . The Fourth Pig started with the existing horse barn on the property. It consisted of a pole barn structure with trussed roof, sheathing-less walls and roof, board and batten cladding, and a galvanized steel roof. By salvaging this existing structure, the upfront embodied carbon of the project was significantly decreased.”

Read the whole piece here!

New "Force of Nature" focuses on growing our low carbon buildings

Our free newsletter is one way we try to spread the word about sustainable building. We send it out once a month. If you are interested, sign up here. 

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Grow your buildings, shrink your carbon

Having an energy efficient building is only part of the equation towards building sustainability. The embodied carbon of your materials has a big impact on how green a building is. This week we are featuring a few stories on bio-materials (low carbon and renewable) as well as a couple of events promoting sustainable building.

The first event, September 11, is a talk by natural builder Chris Magwood, in Toronto on How Buildings Can (Help) Change the World. Then on September 30th you can visit bio-built homes with the Ontario Natural Homes Tour. On that same day Fourth Pig's Melinda Zytaruk is speaking in Bracebridge (Muskoka) Ontario about sustainable building and climate change. 

To start though, a new video about us just came out!

Senco produces short video on Fourth Pig

The Fourth Pig is featured in a short video by Senco - an initiative of Georgian College’s Centre for Changemaking and Social Innovation (CCSI). "Senco inspires, connects and equips those looking to engage in social enterprise to face cultural, environmental and social challenges in our region. We work with social enterprises, budding social entrepreneurs, organizations, intermediaries and community leaders to support innovative economic approaches to strengthen our communities. Our goal is to be the bridge to new knowledge, resources and supporting business practices to achieve financial growth and sustainability through social enterprise."

With Labour Day around the corner we are excited to be able to share a bit of what we do and why we do it in this short video.
 
SENCO series - The Fourth Pig

Architectural Digest sees advantages of straw bale

Recently Architectural Digest had this clickbait worthy headline: "This Building Material May Hold the Key to Surviving Environmental Disasters". Spoiler: straw bales. Straw bales are a great building resource not only for the insulation value but as Architectural Digest says ". . .straw bales have proven themselves not only worthy fire adversaries, but also relatively stable during tornadoes and seismic shaking." Also worth noting is ". . .  straw bale was added to the 2015 International Residential Code (IRC) for one- and two-family dwellings, which allowed most Americans to build straw-bale homes. On January 1, 2017, straw bale became an appendix to the California Building Code."

Straw bale home 1st certified Passive House Plus

The Passive House Plus standard requires a significant amount of renewable energy use along with some energy production. In the town of Leyburn in the UK a straw bale building has met the challenge. Co-owner Ruth Barnet said in the Northern Echo "A lot of people thought it was strange, going down the green route. traders and suppliers would come on site, see the straw and the sheep’s wool and laugh and say ‘Where are the animals?'" The building is reportedly producing more energy than it needs and is of course comfortable. See photos here. 
 

Carleton U. to study occupant behavior in buildings

In the world of green building there is a lot of modeling that goes on predicting how people behave in buildings. What temperatures do people set? How much electricity in general is being used? What kind of heat is being generated by appliances, computers, peoples and pets? According to the Ottawa Business Journal Carleton University has received $350K from the federal government to study occupant behavior in buildings. "The project will study and model behaviour as occupants move throughout buildings in order to better predict how energy is consumed and find ways to reduce it. Carleton professor Liam O’Brien said in a statement that assumptions about occupancy can have a 'profound impact' on construction decisions." 
 

Using fungi to build buildings

We've reported before on folks who are growing fungi into building materials but now, according to the Guardian, things are, well, growing. London UK, the Guardian reports, is now "home to the Open Cell “bio-village”, a collection of 45 shipping containers being converted into pop-up biotechnology labs and workspaces." In this space there is research on vegan cosmetics, sustainable plastics and yes, fungi for building materials. The later is a company called Biohm. " One of the company’s most exciting new biomaterials is made of mycelia, the fine filaments of fungi that normally grow underground. The mycelia are harvested, fed on agricultural or food waste and grown in large sheets or blocks. Once the living element is killed, a fire-resistant structural material with excellent insulating properties is left."

These materials will reportedly be carbon neutral and high performing but this is early days. Also, Biohm is also working on panel construction system that doesn't require fasteners and could, in theory, allow for quite a change in building construction. See promo video below.  
 
Triagomy by Biohm | Panel-based Construction System

September 11 in Toronto: "How Buildings Can (Help) Save The World"

Don't miss it! September 11 in Toronto come hear Chis Magwood in a free talk: "How Buildings Can (Help) Save The World"

Climate change, indoor environment quality and ecosystem depletion are three major issues for the building industry and Chris Magwood has spent his career working toward practical, affordable solutions. Come and learn how the answers to these pressing concerns overlap nearly perfectly, solving any one of these issues conveniently creates solutions for all three.

Chris Magwood is currently the executive director of The Endeavour Centre, a not-for-profit sustainable building school in Peterborough, Ontario. He is co-editor of the Sustainable Building Essentials series from New Society Publishers, and is a past editor of The Last Straw Journal, an international quarterly of straw bale and natural building. 

This talk is part of Toronto Public Library's Civil Society series and part of the Fourth Pig's speaker series "Pig Tales".
 


Come out for Annual Ontario Natural Building Tour

Discover the beauty, comfort, and resilience of natural buildings across Ontario on Sunday September 30th. As it does each year the Ontario Natural Building Coalition hosts a tour of homes that went the natural way. "For the tour, dozens of natural homes and buildings across Ontario open their doors for participants to see examples of straw bale, rammed earth, cob, timber frame, off grid, passive solar, and many other natural building methods and alternative technologies."

This year it is a 2 for 1 for the Fourth Pig as we have two buildings next to each other that are participating in the tour. Come on out! Plus, if you are in the area, come see our own Melinda Zytaruk speak the same day (see below). 
 


Fourth Pig's Melinda Zytaruk presents at "Green Foundations"

Video on the Fourth Pig produced by Georgian College's Senco initiative

The Fourth Pig is featured in a short video by Senco - an initiative of Georgian College’s Centre for Changemaking and Social Innovation (CCSI). "Senco inspires, connects and equips those looking to engage in social enterprise to face cultural, environmental and social challenges in our region. We work with social enterprises, budding social entrepreneurs, organizations, intermediaries and community leaders to support innovative economic approaches to strengthen our communities. Our goal is to be the bridge to new knowledge, resources and supporting business practices to achieve financial growth and sustainability through social enterprise."

We are excited to be able to share a bit of what we do and why we do it in this short video.
 

Melinda Zytaruk, General Manger of the Fourth Pig Worker Co-op, will be talking about sustainable, low carbon building at Green Foundations - Shaping a Sustainable Future." Melinda's talk is at 1pm. Register for this free event right here! This event is part of Culture Days

"With discussions led by influential builders, homeowners, designers, and sustainable gurus, Green Foundations; Shaping a Sustainable Community, aims to inspire you to view your community through a greener, more sustainable lens."

Note the Fourth Pig has another event in the area the same day, the Ontario Natural Building Tour (see above). Come before or after the talk!