Archive for Eco Renovations

The Walls Are Alive

– written for ecomii blogs:

Many of us have heard of the architectural virtues of green roofs, but what about applying the same concept to our walls? Green-, eco-, bio-, vegetated -, or living walls bring vertical gardening and drip irrigation techniques together into a panel system of plants built against existing indoor or outdoor walls.

While a wall of climbing vines could be considered a living wall, several building design companies have come up with a more technological system of a wood or steel frame with a number of cells ranging from forty-five to hundreds, depending on the size of the project. Plants grow in soil, or between layers of fibrous material (felt or plastic mesh) and are irrigated through a drip system with a line every few rows distributing water to all the cells.

Aside from the obvious aesthetic value of a wall of greenery, living walls also improve indoor air quality – plants like dracaena and peace lilies have been proven to remove toxins and purify air. In locales with dry winters or little humidity, living walls can add much-needed moisture to the air. Added insulation to the building envelope and the associated summer cooling and winter heating of the indoor environment is another definite benefit of the systems. Outdoor walls, like green roofs, absorb and filter rainwater, diverting it from municipal storm water infrastructure that can often be overtaxed.

ELT Living Walls, a company that started with modular, pre-grown green roofs, has developed a system that ships internationally and is literally greening everything from universities to individual houses. This is a window herb box taken to a whole new level. For the individual practicing sustainable living, the idea of growing a vertical vegetable or herb garden right on one’s kitchen wall could be the ultimate in eating local, year-round.


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Finding the Right Size

-written for ecomii blogs:

The world’s population is expected to reach 9 billion by the year 2040.

That’s a lot of people to sustain.

Population growth tends to be a taboo and contentious issue within climate change discourse.  However, what holds true is that we as a global population, need to be creative and also realistic about how to support our growing species.

In North America, our cultural relation to space and the need for much of it has lead to a commonly held lifestyle that does not correlate to what the Earth’s resources can support.

In the city I live in, situated in the foothills of Western Canada, our geographical footprint is said to match or exceed that of New York City, and our population is just over one million; less than one-eighth the population of New York.

Yet, the building continues. Much of it to house single families living in near or certifiable mansions.

Recently I’ve come across the concept of “rightsizing” life, an idea that seems to offer a more realistic way to exist in our spaces. Right-sizing is a step beyond down-sizing, an evaluation process of understanding better the amount of space needed to live and simplifying life in the process.

It an acknowledgment that we have different spacial and material needs according to the stages of life. Right-sizing can extend to the home, vehicle, and luxury accessories like boats, RVs, or vacation homes.

It wouldn’t make sense to wear rubber boots year-round, and yet many people drive SUVs to see them through one season of the year.

Two-person families live in four-bedroom homes to be prepared for the two weeks of the year house guests are visiting. Entire homes sit vacant and unused, for the one month of the year its owners visit for vacation.

A great way to start the right-sizing process is to list properties and the big stuff you own and chart how often and effectively these things are being used. Monitor your use of space in your home for a week. Do you have a room, or several rooms that you barely enter?

Can you eliminate unused furniture or accumulated “stuff”?

Start by de-cluttering the home to better suit your stuff to your space rather than your space to your stuff. From there, you just might find it’s time to move that de-materialized life to a space that is your right size.

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