Top 5 Tips for Building Consciously from Casey Grey, “The Conscious Builder”

Jan 12, 2016, 16:12 PM
Homeowners generally think of living “consciously” in terms of reducing their energy use with LED bulbs, or getting their family in the habit of recycling and composting. However, there are many more ways you can make environmentally conscious decisions in your home, especially if you’re starting a remodel.

Casey Grey

Casey Grey is the owner of
Cornelis Grey Construction: The Conscious Builder, which focuses on building homes “consciously,” and to a higher standard, using environmentally friendly and health conscious products. Casey shares his top 5 tips for building consciously in your next remodel.

Buy Quality Windows

The fact is, windows are the weakest point of your home. They have little thermal resistance and are often positioned in places that affect the performance and comfort of your home. When purchasing windows, be very wary of what manufacturers tell you. I’m not saying that they are lying to you but they may not be telling you the complete truth. For example, window performance is based on the complete window assembly. This means that the glass, spacers and frames all need to work together. Great glass and spacers with a poor window frames only addresses part of the issue. No matter what, I would always suggest triple glazed windows at the very minimum. Make sure to do your research or find a contractor who can help you with these decisions.

Insulation From The Exterior

If you have the opportunity to add insulation to the exterior of your home, DO IT! This will eliminate Thermal Bridges which will make your home much more comfortable and will help it perform much better. Understanding the difference between Effective R-Value and Nominal R-Value will help you with this concept. For example, a 2”x6” wood framed wall with studs every 16” and an R-22 batt will give you an effective R-Value of R-17. That same wall with an addition R-10 (2” of foam) on the exterior will give you an effective R-Value of R-27! Here it is in point form:

Wall 1 (Typical 2" x 6" wall)
  • Nominal R-Value = R-22
  • Effective R-Value = R-17
Wall 2 (Additional 2" of foam on the exterior)
  • Nominal R-Value = R-32
  • Effective R-Value = R27
Eliminate As Many Holes As Possible

The tighter your home is, the better it will perform and the more comfortable it will be. If anybody tells you your home needs to breathe, chances are they don’t understand the basics of building science. Yes, your assembly may need to have the ability to dry out or have vapour travel through it BUT you do not want air to travel through your wall. When air leaks into your home, not only does it make it less comfortable and less energy efficient, it also opens up the potential for major structural damage and adds to poor indoor air quality.

Think of this for a second. When you turn on your bathroom fan or your huge kitchen exhaust fan, where do you think the air is coming from? Air is being blown out of the house so it needs to be coming in somewhere, right? Well that air is going to come in wherever it can which usually ends up being through plugs, switches and other exhaust openings, such as those that are required for gas appliances. This means you have all the chemicals from your walls and potentially Carbon Monoxide coming into your home. The solution is to eliminate as many holes as possible and mechanically ventilate your home with an HRV or ERV. Any contractor or HVAC contractor who understands building science should be able to help you with this.

Think of Where Your Products And Materials Come From

When building consciously, we also want to think of where all the products and materials we purchase come from. Ultimately we want to purchase quality products but we also want to make sure we’re lowering the carbon footprint of our build. For example, if you’re thinking of a stone counter top, where is that stone coming from? Is it being cut out of the ground on the other side of the world, being packaged and shipped here and then cut and polished just for your kitchen? We live at a time when we have more options than we know of. You can get counters made from paper or recycled content now! They may even be made closer to your home than you think. You can do an easy online search or ask your contractor or designer for some other options.

Think of The Air You Breathe

You may have heard of off-gassing or VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) before. If you haven’t, I suggest you take a look. Unfortunately most homes have terrible indoor air quality and one of the reasons is because of off-gassing. There are many products out there that have many different chemicals in them and they often continue to off-gas for years to come. The most common ones you hear of are paints, stains, laminates and spray foam insulation. Be wary of other types of insulation and even your furniture as well. For example, fibreglass insulation and certain fabrics are sprayed with fire retardants that are full of hormone disrupting chemicals. Make sure to talk to your contractor about the materials that are being used in your home. Healthier materials may cost more but the health of you and your family is invaluable.

Casey Grey will be sharing his tips and advice at the Ottawa Home & Remodelling Show, taking place January 21-24, 2016 at the EY Centre. Don’t miss his presentation “
Conscious Strategies For Remodelling Your Home” at the show, Thursday, January 21, 6-7 PM and Saturday, January 23, 10:30-11:30 AM. Casey Grey will also be available at the Cornelius Grey Construction booth at the show to answer all of your questions. 

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