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10 Green Home Renovation Materials

By: Karine Dutemple

10 Green Home Renovation Materials

By: Karine Dutemple

Green renovationRenovation tips10 Green Home Renovation Materials

Green home renovation materials are slowly growing in popularity, as homeowners are becoming more and more environmentally conscious and looking to reduce their carbon footprint.

Experts would argue that environmentally friendly and efficient materials will lower heating and cooling costs, and homeowners will recover any money lost in the years following renovations.

Homeowners can think about the many ways they can incorporate green materials into their next renovation project, regardless of style or the size of their home. Environmentally-friendly building materials have come a long way and can now be incorporated into almost any environment. Read on to find our suggestions for green home renovation materials.

10 innovative green renovation materials

1- Recycled Steel

steel_10 Green Home Renovation Materials

If you’re a homeowner going for a full-blown renovation, or you’re reconstructing part of the frame of your house, consider recycled steel for your next project. Many homeowners are disregarding traditional materials such as wood beams and going for this environmentally-friendly solution. Recycled steel can be customized to fit any home design or layout, and the durability of steel is much greater than that of wood. 

Steel is one of the most commonly recycled materials on the planet, and this recycling process greatly reduces the energy produced in actually making steel. Further, the average house frame built with wood beams is composed of between 40 to 50 trees whereas a frame from recycled steel requires much less material, on average approximately 6 scrapped cars. Not only is this material durable, versatile and green but using it frees up plenty of landfill space. If you want to build a partition or build walls, consider using steel to design the structures.

2- Bamboo

bamboo_10 Green Home Renovation Materials

source: Pixabay, Pexels

Bamboo is a favourite of sustainable materials, as it grows quickly and matures in a four-year period. Not only does it hold up in a variety of environments, including moist environments like the bathroom and kitchen, but bamboo also has a beautiful texture and feel. Therefore, it is incredibly soft on the feet and knees if homeowners must stand for extended periods of time.

In the form of plywood, bamboo can be used as flooring or, in some cases, countertops. Bamboo can also be used as insulation, offering both moisture and heat resistance, soundproofing qualities as well as protecting against mould growth or bug infestations. Bamboo is a beautiful and sustainable option for environmentally-conscious homeowners. 

Adding a bamboo island will give an appearance of purity to your kitchen. Making a bamboo laundry cabinet will save you from the problems of deformations caused by moisture.

3- Low-VOC paint

Low-VOC paints are environmentally friendly, odourless and splatter resistant. This type of paint releases low levels of toxic emissions into the air, as opposed to regular paints which release elevated levels of toxic emissions. Thus, low-VOC paint is particularly important in keeping both families as well as the environment healthy.

Especially significant for homeowners with allergies, the reduced toxins can help homeowners and loved ones to avoid chemical sensitivity. Further, low-VOC paints reduce harsh chemicals that contaminate landfills and groundwater. It is important to note that even low-VOC paints contain toxins, while in much lower degrees. 

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4- Straw

straw_10 matériaux de rénovation écologiques

Straw is a plant-based material that works exceptionally well for thermal insulation, as straw can retain a fair amount of heat. Straw can be used in place of fibreglass insulation, which is not a sustainable material. As insulation, straw has the ability to bond well to stucco and plaster. Further, straw is an incredibly cheap material for homeowners who are looking to build on a budget.

Straw bales specifically provide a variety of construction benefits in place of materials that are harmful to the environment. If straw avoids getting wet, it can last for thousands of years. However, straw has a high susceptibility to rot if it happens to get wet, though the availability alongside the cost makes this renewable resource an excellent option for the environmentally-conscious homeowner. 

5- Composite 

Composite is made from a combination of wood waste and recycled plastic, this material has a superior level of strength, as well as stability and longevity. When in production, wood-plastic composite has the benefit of a reduced melting temperature, and thus, uses less energy to produce. Wood-plastic composite mimics the look of wood without the characteristics that make real wood undesirable. It is extremely resistant to all types of weather since it will not warp, crack, splinter or rot as wood might.

Further, real wood is not a sustainable material, as it costs numerous trees their lives just for a simple hardwood floor. If you like the look of wood but are interested in preserving our environment, then consider composite!

6- Cork

cork_10 Green Home Renovation Materials

Cork grows on trees, literally. This sustainable material hails from Mediterranean climates such as Spain, Portugal and Morocco. A cork tree is harvested by stripping the outer layer of its’ skin, and after a cork tree is harvested, it can remain alive for up to 170 years. Thus, harvesting the trees does not damage them.  Further, when the cork is pulled from the tree almost none of it goes it waste, as a large majority of the products made from cork are created by the energy of burning cork dust.

Cork can be employed as a flooring itself and flooring underlayment, as well as sustainable insulation. Used as a flooring material, cork employs a natural cushion, is incredibly durable and lightweight with an easy installation process to boot! Cork also has a beautiful texture, so regardless of home decor, this material can be incorporated into a variety of homes. 

7- Natural Linoleum

Linoleum has long been used in retro and older kitchens and has been popular for many years because of its low price point. Natural linoleum is made from raw materials, which include linseed oil, resins and wood flooring. These ingredients are biodegradable, all-natural and renewable, and if well maintained, this material can last up to 40 years.

Further, linoleum is a colourfast material, and therefore the hue found on the surface does not fade even on the most well-loved of kitchen or bedroom floors. Not to mention that when recycled, linoleum can be turned into a clean source of energy, making its reincorporation back into the environment a closed-loop system. Try to design an original and funky design for your floors; this material lends itself to it!

8- Eco-friendly carpet tiles

carpet tiles_10 Green Home Renovation Materials

Photo : Flickr

Eco-friendly carpet tiles are made from 80% recycled, sustainable post-consumer poly fibres and manufactured with the lowest possible pollution emissions. These materials are stain-repellent and do not hold dirt like traditional carpeting. Since eco-friendly carpet tiles do not trap dirt, allergens in the air are reduced. Further, since this style of carpet comes in tiles, individual tiles can easily be replaced if they become damaged or stained. 

Do you want to set up an office or a game room? Carpet tiles will offer you a decor to your liking, easy to maintain.

9- Insulating Concrete

concrete_10 Green Home Renovation Materials

source: Pixabay, Der_Typ_von_Nebenan

Insulating concrete or IC can be thought of as real-life Lego blocks. These interlocking units work as permanent building insulation and are generally dry-stacked, filled with concrete and used in wall, floor and roof structures. Often, reinforced steel is used in conjunction with them. Not only is IC structurally strong and durable, but it is also cost-effective and easier to install than traditional wood framing.

This material is especially good for having no air leaks or infiltration, as well as working with radiant heat and solar panelling. With its natural insulating properties, IC is an excellent, environmentally-friendly option for those looking to reinforce the structure of their home. 

Consider using concrete as a relaxing sofa base on your deck or to create a textured wall in a focal room in your home.

10- Paper-based countertop

Paper-based countertop materials make a great alternative to non-sustainable materials such as stone or plastic. The paper itself comes from tree pulp from sustainable forests, or from post-consumer recycled paper. The material is then is heated and compressed to mimic stone, while being a softer and more forgiving material.

This material is an excellent, affordable and environmentally-friendly alternative while being easy to install and lighter than stone. Homeowners shouldn’t underestimate the power of paper, as this material is incredibly durable and impervious to water. Further, it can be used both inside and outside of the home, so if there is an outdoor counter you’re looking to cover, this could be the material for you!

Curious to know more about renovations that help maintain the environment? Check out our Eco-friendly and Green Renovation Guide.

Get 3 renovation quotes for your green renovation project can help you get quotes for your eco-friendly renovation project. If you submit your project to us, we’ll put you in contact with top-rated contractors. Fill in the form on the homepage (it only takes a few minutes), and you will get estimates from trusted professionals. 

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Last modified 2023-05-13

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From the get-go, the latter must be taken into consideration when building a residence that’s not only adapted to the area’s climate but also the surrounding microclimate. The goal here is, with respect to local standards, to gain control over the amount of solar irradiance and wind on a home’s structure. To achieve said goal, taking into account the surrounding vegetation is a prerequisite. In fact, the latter also impacts natural ventilation quality. For example, a single, fully grown tree is capable of evaporating 1,460 litres of water over a 1-day period. This is consistent with a cooling strength of 870 MJ (megajoules). To give you a better idea of what that figure represents, note that an air conditioner uses between 1,500 and 2,500 W.h (Watts-hours); 870 MJ equates to 241,666 W.h. As such, passive ventilation begins in one’s yard. 3. Building’s shape This point determines the exposure level to solar irradiance in indoor spaces. The home’s shape leads to heat gains or losses. 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. By definition, cool air is stored in a building’s thermal mass to only be released the following morning. The gains derived from using this technique can amount to energy bill savings of up to 20%. Pros and Cons of Natural Ventilation Source: Canva Natural ventilation is a natural cooling method that can be very efficient in homes and buildings. It most definitely yields numerous advantages, but a few drawbacks too. The Advantages of Passive Building Ventilation Motorless Natural ventilation functions solely based on physics; it doesn’t require a motor, resulting in reduced energy consumption. Low maintenance Natural ventilation is a low-maintenance ventilation method. The ventilation grilles need to be dusted and cleaned. A nearly penny-free solution Albeit passive ventilation plays off air masses, keep in mind that purchasing exhaust vents is a must. Even though this solution isn’t entirely cost-free, in the grand scheme of things, it’s quite budget-friendly. 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. Heat Recovery Ventilation (MHRV) This is an improved CMV ventilation. The latter is designed around 2 air circuits. One circuit brings fresh, outside air into the dwelling, and a second evacuates stale air. Its purpose? Ensuring both airflows circulate through a heat exchanger. Therefore, when cold outside air enters the home, it warms up upon contact with indoor air, prior to being expelled from the dwelling. Air Supply Ventilation Air supply ventilation is the complete opposite of CMV. Instead of drawing in indoor air, this system supplies fresh, outside air, while allowing inside air to seep out by way of ventilation grilles or windows. Humidity-Controlled Mechanical Ventilation Say hello to smart CMV, a ventilation system that calculates the humidity level in the air and sets its function according to it. Type A humidity-controlled MEV detects the level of humidity in the air through air vents. 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. By exploiting smart natural resources, such as wind and temperature differences, passive ventilation comes in as an eco-friendly alternative. By fusing these principles in the architectural planning of your home, you can design a more efficient, sustainable, and comfortable living space. As such, it’s best to use what nature provides whenever possible.

6 min read 09 Aug 2023

Glulam Timber Framing: A Pioneering Method in the Construction Industry

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Strength Compared to traditional timber framing, glulam framing doesn’t have the natural flaws—big knots, for instance—of solid lumber. As such, the varying degree of strength exhibited by each beam is optimized by glued-laminated manufacturing standards. This is especially true when it comes to balancing loads—glulams can withstand greater loads compared to solid lumber beams. Lastly, glulam is very resilient when eventually exposed to chemical products, as well as humidity-caused deformation and warping. 2. Eco-friendly The construction industry is facing the ever-growing risk of resource scarcity. Consequently, the focus is placed on the use of renewable materials. Glued-laminated timber falls squarely into the criteria for efficient, clean, and green materials since it has: favourable cost-benefit; sustainable characteristics with future generations in mind; a lifecycle that’s in line with the construction industry’s development. 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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