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Things to know to build an ecological house

Things to know to build an ecological house

Green renovationInterior renovationsThings to know to build an ecological house

It’s no secret that over the past few years, green construction has grown in popularity and for good reason! An ecological home is trendy due to its green efficiency, its lack of carbon footprint as well as its eco-friendly capabilities.

As green technologies have significantly evolved over the past few years, there are now plenty of ways to build sustainably that didn’t exist before. However, as with any home renovation, this is a big project to take on.

Therefore, it’s important to know the ins and outs of building an ecological home. Luckily, we’re here to help! Read on for all of the important information:


10 things to know about building an ecological home

ecological house

Source: Canva


1- The cost of an ecological home

Until a few years ago, an eco-friendly home could cost 5% to 10% more than a traditional house. The bill tended to go up when it came to green technologies, due to the scarcity of materials and skilled labour for this type of work.

Today, green construction is in high demand and some entrepreneurs specialize in this sector, as the market is very successful. As a result, building an eco-friendly home does not necessarily cost more than a conventional home, as most eco-friendly materials do not generate any extra costs.

However, the price will tend to increase if you install solar panels, a radiant floor or a heat recovery system for hot water. However, such expenses are mostly an investment that will save you money in the long run. Such a building will save you between 30% and 70% in terms of energy consumption.

In self-construction, a new eco-friendly home will cost about $100 per square foot. If you hire a contractor, it will cost you between $150 and $220 per square foot, not counting the cost of the land, excavation, sanitary and drinking water connections, as well as landscaping, it's relatively the same price as for a conventional home. However, an eco-friendly home will sell for more than a traditional home.


2- Research and planning is key

Planning is certainly the key to the success of your green home project. Emmanuel Cosgrove, CEO of Ecohabitation, believes that ''from experience, a good margin of error, up to 20%, is the rule to prevent it from turning into a nightmare''. You will understand,  in construction as in renovation, you should never budget to the penny, always aim a little wider to prevent any problems. So setting a realistic budget will be the first step before you start researching.

What will you be looking for? This research is particularly relevant to building materials, green technologies and other design elements that will help you reduce your environmental impact. It must be said that today, there are countless durable materials and systems to save you water, energy, or that will increase your comfort.

It is up to you to do the necessary research to establish the pros and cons of the various elements. It is obvious that if you call on an eco-friendly builder, he will be able to advise you all the more according to your goals and your needs.


3- The location of the house

In the city, in the countryside or the nearby suburbs, you will certainly wonder about the location of your new home. Some people mistakenly think that for a house to be eco-friendly, it must be in the countryside, yet it is not.

For a home to be environmentally friendly, you need to be close to the office, daycare and grocery store to minimize the polluting emissions caused by transportation. If you can access several services on foot, by bicycle or by public transport, this reinforces the ecological aspect of your home.

On the other hand, an eco-friendly house must be built depending on its environment. Thus, the plans will be designed according to the particularities of your location and therefore depend on the sun, prevailing winds, soil, flora and fauna and other elements. An eco-friendly house must be passive, meaning that it must make the most of its environment and its location.

You will learn that it is necessary to think about the orientation of your home, including living rooms so that they are exposed to the sun in summer and winter, which will reduce your energy bill. This is referred to as a passive solar house.

In the same way, it is recommended to install your kitchen to the south or southwest and equip it with large glazing to recover the heat that radiates through inertia. By combining sun exposure with effective insulation, it is possible to cover at least 50% of your heating needs.


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4- Size does matter

Of course, the main point of building sustainably is keeping energy consumption and costs down. For this reason, it is best to avoid going all out and building a mansion when all you need is a mid-sized house. Build only what you need and avoid excess. When a home is too large, it will contain plenty of unused space and in turn, will place extra pressure on heating and cooling systems.

You don’t have to own the tiniest home on the block but bear in mind that smaller homes have a smaller environmental impact. Since we’ve already concluded that planning is key to building an environmentally-friendly home, plan all architectural elements well in advance, being mindful about the amount of space yourself and your family require.


5- Insulation is important

Insulation is one of the most important aspects of building an ecological home. This is because heating and cooling account for 50% of your energy consumption. Air leaks can happen in places that we least expect, including around windows, doors, ductwork and in our attics and basements.

These leaks lead to excessive use of heating and cooling systems. Therefore, to own an eco-friendly home, it must be correctly insulated. Proper insulation will work to reduce energy consumption and bring down electricity costs significantly.


6- Try exploring alternative power sources

ecological home

Source: Canva


Using alternative sources of power is an excellent way to reduce costs while harnessing the powers of the environment. Solar power has grown in popularity over the past few years, and this is because it’s the ultimate source of clean energy. Including solar power into your eco-friendly home will need to happen in the planning process.  

This will include correctly positioning your home to face the sun's rays and get the most exposure possible, as this will have a huge impact on how much power they obtain. In some cities and provinces, solar power and alternative power methods will be subsidized by the government. Do a bit of research and see if this happens to be true in the area where you’re living. Finally, it should be noted that in places without sufficient sunshine, using solar energy may not be possible.

Geothermal energy is another possibility when it comes to harnessing the earth's power to provide power to your home. This is a less common method, as it isn’t exactly popular yet it will require a large property as well as an upfront investment. However, if within your budget, geothermal energy is the way of the future.


7- Energy-efficient water systems make a difference

Again, depending on the area of the country where you reside, there are environmentally-friendly options on the market to allow you to harness rainwater. Installing a rainwater harvesting system will allow you to collect rainfall and store it in tanks. This collected water doesn’t necessarily need to be used to take a shower, but can instead go towards your toilet or sprinkler system. Rain barrels are another common way to collect and save rainwater.

There is also the possibility of a tankless water heater, heating only a necessary amount of water instead of an excessive amount. This will cut down on energy costs while eliminating the storage space needed for a hot water tank. There are also appliances on the market that ensure a low flow, helping you to save water, energy and in turn, money. 


8- The choice of materials for a green home

ecological home

Source: Canva


In ecological construction, the choice of materials refers to three main elements: the health of the inhabitants, respect for the environment and energy savings. Thus, each material selected must meet these criteria as much as possible for the house to be environmentally friendly. The green construction and renovation market is booming in Quebec. There are various renewable natural materials such as:



This material is very successful in terms of ecological construction and for good reason, its advantages are undeniable. Wood is easy to implement and reduces the use of water on the site, it is resistant and is a good insulator. Also, manufacturers are now designing wood with high fire resistance.



An ecological plant par excellence, hemp grows very easily. It requires little fertilizer, little water and no pesticides. When mixed with lime, its fibres are a perfect concrete that will be deposited between formwork boards.


Raw soil

It is a recyclable, renewable, non-polluting and locally available material. It has the advantage of absorbing and restoring moisture, it regulates the temperature by thermal inertia and is a very good sound insulator.


9- The choice of furniture

The choice of furniture should not be taken lightly, either in the compositional materials of the furniture or for the design of the appliances. Choose furniture with locally produced wood from certified forests (the vast majority of Quebec's forests are).

As a result, the carbon footprint is greatly reduced, as transport-related CO2 emissions will be lower. As far as appliances are concerned, Energy Star products are recommended by Hydro-Québec. They will save you energy in the long run.


10- The construction of green homes

More and more entrepreneurs are specializing in green construction, both on site and for the result, and for good reason, this sector is booming. With prices similar to conventional homes, new homeowners prefer to invest in new eco-friendly homes that maximize their long-term energy savings.

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Last modified 2023-08-01

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How, you ask? By playing off the surface’s square footage. Façades are in fact the point of entry between indoor and outdoor temperatures. However, the home’s layout can also mean benefiting from transverse ventilation, meaning a fresh flow of outside air that travels through the home to expel stale, indoor air. In such a case, the entryways are positioned facing prevailing winds. Are you looking for general contractors for your renovation project? Fill in our form to be connected with top-rated contractors! 4. Thermal insulation The architect’s goal is to reduce indoor heat during summertime while increasing it during wintertime. 5. Behavioural patterns Featured in this category: apparel; physical activity; living areas; curtain use; proper window opening; etc. All these habits directly affect the home’s ability to benefit from natural ventilation. 6. Heat management control This mainly relates to using energy-efficient light bulbs, which emit very little heat, but also the use of other equipment. By that logic, when considering installing natural ventilation in a home, one must take into account digital devices, such as computers and servers. How to Modulate Heat Using Passive Ventilation Heat modulation occurs by way of a building’s thermal mass. A structure absorbs outdoor heat, stores it throughout the day, and then redistributes it at night courtesy of: ventilation; radiation; evaporation; ground. A building’s thermal mass relies on all materials with heat-absorbing abilities (walls, floors, partitions, etc.). As such, where there’s heat absorption, there’s also cool air absorption. On this basis, heat modulation very much relies on weather conditions. However, a home can be cooled by ventilation at night. This is known as night cooling. 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Simplicity Without passive ventilation, you would have to resort to costly and complex ventilation methods, relying on heat recovery ventilation units or air supply ducts. What Are the Drawbacks of Passive Ventilation? Natural ventilation is just as temperamental as the weather As we’ve already mentioned a few times: natural ventilation relies on air flow, and by default, the air’s temperature. To cool down a house during summertime, the temperature outside has to be cooler than the temperature inside the dwelling. This can be far from reality, especially during heat waves. A building’s ventilation speed can’t be controlled With passive ventilation, you can’t simply turn a knob to slow down ventilation. The amount of airflow inside the home directly relies on the temperature difference. As such, during summer evenings, when windows are open, one can resort to night cooling to cool down the various rooms in a home. However, the problem is that during wintertime, night cooling will allow cold air to seep into the house, thereby creating significant heat losses, which is rather a rude awakening given our harsh winters. Humidity distribution When pressure between the inside and outside is balanced, as is often the case during summertime, the heat generated from humid areas flows throughout the home. As such, humid air is sent into the rest of the home. Pollution The constant air flow coming in from outside doesn’t only expel stale air from inside. In urban areas, it also means allowing polluted air inside. What About Fan-Assisted Natural Ventilation? Source: Canva The ideal system is one that can limit nature’s temperamentalities as much as possible. When it comes to fan-assisted natural ventilation, several CMV systems are battling it out: heat recovery ventilation (MHRV); air supply ventilation; humidity-controlled ventilation; thermodynamic heat recovery ventilation. 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Type B humidity-controlled MEV not only monitors humidity through air vents but also thanks to the circuit’s air intake vents. With this type of CMV, thermal losses related to night cooling are limited. Thermodynamic Heat Recovery Ventilation Wrapping up this section with what is without a doubt the best passive ventilation system. This one consists of a heat recovery CMV fitted with a geothermal heat pump. Not only is this ventilation system super efficient, but it can also be used as a heater during wintertime. The heat pump drives hot water from its depths and its heat is recovered to warm up the ambient air. During summertime, it can be set in reverse mode, to cool down a dwelling. Natural Ventilation: For Sustainable and Comfortable Buildings Research has shown the critical importance of the efficiency of natural ventilation in designing sustainable and comfortable buildings. 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6 min read 09 Aug 2023

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Glulam takes part in mitigating an energy consumption trend that’s rather significant. In fact, the building industry currently represents: 32% of the total energy consumption; 38% of carbon dioxide emissions. Choosing glulams means opting for a better future. 3. Mechanical performance While glulam beams are stronger than solid lumber, their mechanical performance is nonetheless largely dependent on the methods used to meet structural building constraints. Therefore, glulam framing used for substantially-sized structures can be paired with steel plates for additional reinforcement. The latter will significantly increase the load-bearing capacity and the axial rigidity of the glulam beam. 4. Significant sizes Glulam timber maintains a humidity level of 12%, which limits its tendency to contract and shrink, making it more stable than solid lumber. Since it’s made with layers of slats glued to one another, a single beam can span 328 ft (100 m). Therefore, very big structures can be built, showcasing various shapes, from curves to arcs. A structure built using this type of framing is widely open and aesthetic, courtesy of the lack of need for additional structural support beams. 5. Especially lightweight Glulams are of proportional weight, making them 5 times lighter than a standard lumber beam, yet they maintain equal strength. Are you looking for a general contractor for your renovation project? Fill in our form to be connected with top-rated contractors! The Four Cons of Glued-Laminated Timber 1. Steeper prices The cost of glulams has to be put into perspective based on available resources. In regions like Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia, where wood is readily accessible, glulam tends to be less expensive than in countries (or regions) with limited forested areas. Regardless of the situation, glued-laminated timber will always be more costly than traditional solid lumber, due to its processing and transformation. 2. Differing qualities The quality of glulam timber largely depends on the method used during its manufacturing process. This is very closely related to the adhesive used to bond the slats together. If the pressure, humidity, and temperature conditions aren’t met, the strength of a glulam beam won’t be consistent. However, standards meticulously monitor the manufacturing process of such materials. As seen with CSA 086 standard, which distinguishes 4 glulam timber grades: 20f-E; 20f-EX; 24f-E; 24f-EX. The accompanying E and EX labels serve as the beams’ positional indicators, meaning either symmetrical to the neutral axis (EX) or asymmetrical (E). The glulam is then graded as “generic” or “proprietary.” Beware of the latter. Proprietary glulam doesn’t meet CSA 086 standard but has similar characteristics. To ensure this fact, the Canadian Construction Materials Centre (CCMC) is responsible for approving their efficiency. In Quebec, generic glulam is manufactured by Goodfellow and Art Massif. 3. Integrity compromised by splitting Above all else, this is a problem inherent to large-scale structures. Although glulam has fewer joints than commonly-used materials, it’s made weaker by steel joints. Therefore, its integrity is comprised, typically resulting in the beams’ ends splitting where the tension forces are transversal to the wood grain. The ductility (the degree to which the material can sustain deformation) and its load-bearing ability are diminished. However, solutions have been developed: self-tapping screws; steel tubes; struts; braces; diagonal bracing. Ongoing research is contributing to the further development of joints maintaining the load-bearing capacity of glulams, especially when it comes to better strength distribution between the upper and lower angles of beams and columns. 4. Vulnerable to water exposure Amongst its numerous merits, we highlighted glulam timber’s resistance to humidity. While it sure can resist it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it reacts positively to it. Consequently, damage caused by water infiltration can result in: rotting; biotic decomposition. The second factor correlates with the proliferation of mould, moss, etc., which damages glulams in a similar fashion as it does solid lumber. Stability and Homogeneity of Glulam Timber Beams Source: Canva Since the slats are assembled in pieces using adhesives, it means that tall trees aren’t necessarily required. As a result, glulams aren’t as prone to knotting, which is something that typically develops over time. Therefore, glued-laminated timber exhibits greater resilience compared to solid lumber due to its exceptional homogeneity. The dimensional stability of a glulam beam is also superior to that of a solid lumber beam. This is attributed to the drying process it undergoes. In fact, each wood slat is individually dried before adhesives are applied.

4 min read 03 Aug 2023

The Benefits and Uses of Recycled Concrete

Did you know that concrete could be recycled? Well, yes siree Bob! Concrete recycling is a technique used to salvage concrete waste. It’s an alternative to disposing of it in landfills that happens to be both cost-effective and eco-friendly. So, let’s zero in on concrete recycling, a practice that’s still, to this day, little known in Canada. Recycled Concrete: What Is it Exactly? Source: Canva Globally speaking, concrete is one of the most exploited materials due to its notable strength and its use in almost all infrastructures. However, its environmental impact is highly criticized. The Global Concrete and Cement Association (GCCA) states that said material is responsible for 7% of the planet’s CO2 emissions. Luckily, concrete’s environmental impact can be reduced by recycling it instead of letting it go to waste. As such, a whole series of techniques are used, thereby salvaging inert materials produced by concrete. In other words, concrete is recycled and reused on new worksites. Recycled concrete offers to same properties as traditional concrete. It’s just as resistant, easy to work, as well as viscous enough. In terms of quality, it doesn’t fall short of natural concrete aggregate. However, note that recycled concrete is limited to a few fields of use, and can’t be used on all worksites. It can be used on construction projects requiring a tensile strength of C30/37. Concrete grades with a lower tensile strength may be used during freeze cycles. There are two types of recycled concrete: Concrete issued from construction waste This includes waste from precast plants or ready-to-use concrete. The waste in this category comes in a variety of configurations: fresh concrete waste, cured concrete waste, leftover manufacturing waste, or worksite scraps. It can either make its way back to precast plants (as it’s done with fresh concrete) or be salvaged in crushing screening plants. Concrete issued from demolition waste Here too, concrete residue is recycled in crushing screening plants. The thin part of concrete is typically used to manufacture binders. The recycling process can result in new aggregates that can be used to manufacture new concrete. And, as a matter of fact, said aggregates may be employed to replace naturally occurring gravel and sand. How Is Recycled Concrete Made? Source: Canva Salvaging concrete waste is a process that’s relatively simple and done in 3 basic steps: 1st step: Sorting The first step, prior to recycling concrete, is to proceed by sorting the concrete waste to separate it from other materials. This is done with a special type of sifter found in a wheel loader’s bucket to sort concrete residue from other waste materials (pieces of wood, metal bars, or plastic films). Note: Sorting materials is a crucial step in concrete recycling. It’s done on two levels: first during the deconstruction of infrastructures, then when the resulting residue is sorted in crushing plants. 2nd step: Crushing After the residue is sorted, next comes the recycling stage, which is the crushing part of it. The materials are first lightly ground with a hydraulic chisel. Then, the pieces are reduced to smaller fragments in a crusher, to obtain a grain size of 60 millimetres. Next up is the screening step, which consists of sorting the ground materials based on their grain size. 3rd step: Dusting Lastly, the dusting phase is typically done by wet processing. And there you have, ready-to-use recycled concrete. Using Recycled Aggregates or Crushed Concrete Source: Canva Recycled concrete can be used for many different purposes in the construction industry. In fact, it can be used to: build roadway foundations; build sidewalks; backfill pipe trenches; manufacture recycled concrete aggregates; make landscaping construction materials; rubblize concrete, which consists of converting old concrete to make a base course; manufacture pavers, pots, benches, etc. Recycled concrete can help minimize rainwater runoff. What Are the Advantages of Recycled Concrete? Even though recycled concrete is an uncommon practice in Canada, criticized by some, it’s still an alternative to disposing of it in landfills, and it has numerous benefits: Reduces the use of natural resources (concrete) by close to 30%: This is a massive advantage when recognizing that enormous amounts of aggregates are used every year. Preserve the environment: Reduces mineral waste, mining, and industrial activities linked to the manufacturing of traditional concrete. Reduces transportation costs: Concrete recycling centres are usually located in urban areas near construction zones. Significant time-saver: Recycled concrete can be made and used rather quickly, which significantly reduces construction timelines. How to Standardize the Use of Recycled Concrete Recycled concrete is a material with beneficial properties for the construction industry, but it remains relatively underutilized due to preconceptions. To standardize and further promote its use, the Province of Quebec could consider implementing regulations that mandate the use of concrete made from salvaged aggregates for constructing public buildings, similar to practices in other countries such as Switzerland.

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