With the help of The Endeavor Centre in Peterborough, we designed a house that would be constructed out of the most eco-friendly materials using the best practices in the sustainable building industry. The construction industry is one of the largest polluters on the planet. We wanted to reduce our carbon footprint and showcase new ideas in sustainable building.
In order to build green, we needed to find alternatives for many of the conventional construction materials used today. For instance, cement (the key ingredient in concrete) is not environmentally friendly. For every ton of cement manufactured, a ton of CO2 is released into the atmosphere. We chose to build a predominantly straw bale house and partnered with Deirdre McGahern from Straworks, a local straw bale designer and builder. Straw is natural, cost effective and has a high R-value. Straw walls, once coated with plaster, are beautiful!
The majority of the building sits upon a rubble trench over four feet deep and about three feet wide. Our excavator, 6-Way Contracting, was able to use aggregate from our own sand & gravel pit for much of the site preparation and back-fill. The house has a small basement, just big enough to house our mechanicals, water filtration and boiler. We used Durisol block (cement bonded wood fiber) for the basement. It uses less cement than conventional block replacing it with recycled wood. Also in the basement is a cold cellar which an earthen floor to maintain the cool and humid temperatures needed to store produce from the garden.
The house is insulated with straw bale and cellulose insulation between double stud walls. The straw bale walls are about 14 inches thick and have an R-value of 35. The straw is wheat straw that was harvested from a neighbouring farmer’s field. We’re also insulating certain sections with cellulose fibre, sourced by NewEnergy. The cellulose is mostly recycled romance novels mixed with a fire and insect retardant! The straw bale walls are plastered on the outside and inside with a lime based plaster. The rest of the walls are clad with a renewable wood siding from Cape Cod. The gables and the silo are shingled with Eastern White Cedar cut from our forest.
Our roof is a standing seam steel roof that was formed on site by Havelock Metal. A metal roof lasts a lifetime with very little maintenance. The silo roof is a standard Westeel grain bin roof. Our windows are fiberglass on the outside and wood on the inside and were manufactured by Marvin Windows & Doors. Fibreglass requires very low energy to manufacture, can be made from renewable resources and is very durable. Our front and back doors are being hand crafted from repurposed Douglas fir by Neal Pope, a local craftsperson.
The wood timbers inside and out are Eastern white pine, harvested from our forest and was milled by our neighbour Wayne Howard. Three generations ago his grandfather milled pine, cedar and hemlock from our forest for our barn!
Our floor is mostly compressed earth block. This block is made locally by Henry Weirsma of Fifth Wind. Compressed earth block (CEB), is a proven construction material used around the world. The block is laid on top of a floor sandwich that includes gravel, sand, recycled foam insulation and in-floor, radiant heating installed by Brian Goulding Contracting Eco Solutions. The block will act as a heat sink, moderating the house’s temperature. A high-efficiency pellet boiler heats our floor and hot water. In the coldest day of winter we expect to be burning about one bag of pellets a day ($6.00).
We are working on a grey-water recycling system from showers, sinks and washer. This water will be filtered to flush our toilets and water our gardens.
Brian Goulding Contracting Eco Solutions
Scott Calbury Electric
Herb’s Plumbing & Heating
Jordan Carmichael Roofing
Ronny Walters Dry Walling