More Buyers Are Looking for Homes with Green Technologies and Smaller Carbon Footprints

In February of 2017, the National Association of Realtors surveyed its members regarding green homes and home buyer priorities. NAR found that nearly half of the realtors reported green data fields in their MLS listings. 70 percent of realtors stated that promotion of energy efficiency was either very valuable or somewhat valuable when selling a property, and half of home buyers expressed interest in purchasing a sustainable home. No doubt about it, going green is a smart move for home buyers.

How Valuable Is a Green House?

Green technology is still relatively new, so data on green updates and the direct impact on home values is hard to obtain. The Boston Globe points out that solar panels can increase a home's value by approximately $3 per watt. In the same article, the Globe pointed out a study from UCLA and Berkeley that showed homes advertising green features sold for 9 percent more than homes without green features.

Greening Up Before Going On the Market

Home sellers who want to improve their property value by making green updates and home improvements are faced with a variety of choices. There are many ways, big and small, to reduce a home's carbon footprint. Costly upgrades tend to have bigger returns than small DIY projects, though home sellers on a budget may prefer to make small improvements that allow them to name green features on their home listing.

Below are some major upgrades that homeowners may perform before putting their home up for sale:

  • Install low-e windows. New windows are a great money saving feature that can help improve a home's efficiency and reduce its dependency on climate controlling systems. Low-e coatings in particular help keep warm air in the house during the winter and can keep out UV rays in the summer. With an ROI of 70 percent, window replacement is a popular option among home sellers.

  • Upgrade the HVAC system. ENERGY STAR air conditioners and furnaces use less power and can help lower utility bills in the house. In fact, installing a new HVAC system can cut a homeowner's energy bill by as much as $115 per year.

  • Install solar panels. Many solar companies work with homeowners to help them get rebates and take advantage of government subsidies for solar panels. Homeowners can purchase solar panels straight out, or can lease the solar panels for a fixed period of time. Most solar panels will not completely reduce a home's dependency on power from the electric company, but will greatly reduce the home's dependency on the power grid.

In addition to the relatively major home improvements listed above, homeowners on a budget can make smaller home improvements that can also have a big impact on the home's carbon footprint.

  • Install low-flow features in the bathroom. Low-flow toilets, faucet aerators and low-flow shower heads can save money and reduce water usage by hundreds of gallons.

  • Install a "smart" thermostat. Smart thermostats reduce energy usage when the home owner is away or sleeping. Over time, smart thermostats will learn a homeowner's energy preferences. By tracking the movements of the homeowner through his or her cell phone, the smart thermostat will adjust the temperature of the house when the homeowner returns home from work.

  • Improve attic insulation and seal air ducts. Beefing up attic insulation and sealing air ducts prevents climate-controlled air inside the home from leaking into the uninhabited parts of the house like the attic. This helps keep the house at
    a comfortable temperature year round.

    Promoting a Green House

    Some studies suggest that home buyers are just as interested in saving money on utilities as they are in saving the environment. Home sellers who want to capitalize on this interest can advertise their home's green features in terms of money savings. Listing the percentage of savings with a new HVAC system, new windows and other green features can help attract buyers. 

Earth Water Air Fire Life

The Elements

The Elements

Earth

Solid Waste: The WEB Block Building Block

Waste composition is categorized as organic, paper, plastic, glass, metals, and ‘other.’ An important component that needs to be considered is ‘construction and demolition waste’ (C&D), such as building rubble, concrete and masonry. In some cities this can represent as much as 40% of the total waste stream. As a country urbanizes and populations become wealthier, consumption of inorganic materials (such as plastics, paper, and aluminum) increases, while the relative organic fraction decreases. Generally, low and middle-income countries have a high percentage of organic matter in the urban waste stream, ranging from 40 to 85% of the total. Paper, plastic, glass, and metal fractions increase in the waste stream.

Waste Wood Cellulose Insulation and Waste Plastic Reinforcements

Celulose Insulation

Celulose Insulation

Plastic Bonded Basalt Fibre Reinforcements

Plastic Bonded Basalt Fibre Reinforcements

Waste Plastic Fibre Core Basalt Fibre Reinforcements

Waste Plastic Fibre Core Basalt Fibre Reinforcements

Water

Anaerobic Wastewater Digestion

Nutrient Rich Wastewater 

Nutrient Rich Wastewater 

Anaerobic digestion is a series of biological processes in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. One of the end products is biogas, which is combusted to generate electricity and heat, or can be processed into renewable natural gas and transportation fuels. A range of anaerobic digestion technologies are converting livestock manure, municipal wastewater solids, food waste, high strength industrial wastewater and residuals, fats, oils and grease (FOG), and various other organic waste streams into biogas, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Separated digested solids can be composted, utilized for dairy bedding, directly applied to cropland or converted into other products. Nutrients in the liquid stream are used in agriculture as fertilizers.

Canada has one of the largest renewable water supplies in the world, an average of 3,472 km3 per year. Rivers, lakes and marine areas are routinely used to dispose of industrial and urban waste waste water. 

Air

images-1.jpg

Atmospheric Waste

Like efficient new heating systems or new sources of renewable energy, using high levels of insulation from waste sources is relatively inexpensive and safely sequester(s) CO2. Once installed, it requires no maintenance. WEB Block build principles applies to all greenhouse gasses.
WEB Block structural system enables sub design directions that propose solutions to the mainstream problems of water, air food and land pollution.

Fire

Foundation scale thermal storage battery lagoon and digester.

Foundation scale thermal storage battery lagoon and digester.

Storing energy in the form of heat can store roughly 12 kWh of energy.

An average water heater storage costs around $1000.00.  In many cases an existing foundation/lagoon can also be connected to the grid. In this way, a water storage works like a kind of battery.
Storing energy in the form of heat can store roughly 12 kWh of energy. An average water heater storage costs around $1000.00, though in many cases an existing foundation/lagoon can also be grid connected. By comparison, a Tesla home battery stores just 7k Wh of energy and costs more than $5,000.

Methane gas from sanitary waste

Methane gas from sanitary waste

Solar Thermal

Solar Thermal

Solid state Seebeck thermal electric energy

Solid state Seebeck thermal electric energy

Energy Storage: Thermal water storage works like a kind of universal renewables battery . Storing energy in the form of heat can store roughly 12 kWh of energy. An average water

heater storage costs around $1000.00 In many cases an existing foundation lagoon can also be connected to the grid. In this way, a water storage works like a kind of battery.
Storing energy in the form of heat can store roughly 12 kWh of energy. An average water heater storage costs around $1000.00, though in many cases an existing foundation/lagoon can also be grid connected. By comparison, a Tesla home battery stores just 7k Wh of energy and costs more than $5,000.

Life

IMG_2847.jpg

Increasing numbers in population and demand for food and resources, threats to

agricultural production, pests, loss of soil fertility, and a lack of nutrients means low

percentage of plants to harvest with poor nutritional value. Waste byproduct sources of

robust fertility completes the cycle and supports global biodiversity.

John Todd Ocean Arks International

Waste to Resource Bio-Blocks Business Plan

 

Major Players

The suppliers of construction services and materials are in general the major players. The use of building blocks is already comparable to conventional building approaches. The refuse of waste fibre creates new products and services compatible to existing markets. Typically, construction markets are local, using locally available resources. Global service markets exist and local companies can do business globally. The distinction for the supply side becomes clearer as renewal of waste becomes a commodity in new built environments and the competitive advantage will allow conventional legacy materials like dimensional wood products to find significantly more value in a much bigger and revitalized market.

Nature of the Industry

In general there are three sectors of construction; buildings, infrastructure and industrial. Building construction is usually further divided into residential and non-residential,(commercial, institutional) Infrastructure includes large public works (dams, bridges, highways, water/waste water, utility distribution) Industrial includes; mills and manufacturing plants. The services infrastructure (i.e. Hydro, Sanitary, Roads) is secondary to the built capacity of the occupied structures. The structures we occupy are the building blocks of the services infrastructure in that they create the physical systems platform for infrastructure design capacity and technological advancements.

Housing and building is highly sensitive to changes in mortgage and interest rates. Although the indicators are highly volatile, they represent and signal the effects in the current economic financial conditions.

Analysts and economists know to watch for longer-term trends in housing statistics.

Trends in the Industry

More than ever, the traditional "bricks-and-mortar" drivers of economic growth are giving way to an economy based on "brains and creativity." Competitive differentiation today is more likely to be based on the ability of the workforce to create and absorb skills and innovation than just the traditional drivers such as available natural resources, physical labor or manufacturing prowess. As a result, the skills, aptitude, knowledge, creativity and innovation of a workforce can collectively be viewed as the talent pool and drivers of economic growth and activity

The opportunity; Modern cities are in constant renewal and they continually consume vast quantities of raw materials and create vast quantities of high quality waste materials. The reuse of waste materials represents an additional vast raw resource that can transform new built environments and the new products can enable new service platforms.

Automated 3-D printers and existing industries can be modified to rapidly process waste. This potential would be entirely based on existing techniques commonly used in industrial waste compaction devices. To accomplish this job, nothing drastically new needs to be invented, most available technologies are intended to be available “off-the-shelf”. compaction devices could craft simple shapes into smart ‘puzzle blocks’ for quick assembly. The blocks of waste material could then be pre-determined modulars using computational geometries, to fit domes, archways, lattices, windows, or whatever patterns would be needed. Different materials could serve specified purposes.

Future cities and its bio-sphere commons, will make no distinction between waste and supply.

Government Regulation

The built environment, the web of industry, technology, transportation and infrastructure services sector, raw materials, resources and refuse industries are a part of a broad regulatory maze of government regulation and policy.

Ironically, it is the regulatory climate that has created the most significant potential for innovation and cost savings in the re-built environment, which in return, the rebuilt environment has the greatest potential to change government regulations and policy.

Global climate change is becoming a welcomed concept, as many governments, municipalities and the public consumer are embracing innovation. Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Canadian Construction Materials Centre (CCMC) and the National Research Council (NRC), are recognized pioneers with expertise in Canadian building codes that have been exported and adopted globally.

Market Segment

Resource flows (i.e energy, food, water, material) including waste, makes up a resource market segment. Recognizing this facilitates new conceptual approaches to production and manufacturing.

The built environment covers everything around us that is designed, planned, and built. A constantly renewing built environment that generates resources and waste flows that are needed to constantly renew, re-built environments.

“Conscious” homeowners, green builders and sustainable developers create the need and desire for more sustainable methods of living and building. The housing and construction industry has shifted towards more sustainable approaches and improved technology and innovation throughout the built environment.

Products & Services

Our products are bio-blocks (building blocks), biocrete (fibre concrete) and pre-fabricated structural components, arrayed in a modular system that saves costs, (time, shipping and materials).

Our services offer a comprehensive design & consulting resource that surveys and engages the homeowners, cost/ performance, architectural/engineering and comfort expectations

Bio-Block/Bio-Crete products are designed for ease of assembly and production of commercial/residential/industrial structures in a specifically manufactured modular system. From the “do-it-yourself” (self-build) homeowner to contractors and developers.

The economics of recyclables will represent a significant revenue stream service ranging from $25-$250 per ton received.

Pricing and Distribution

Our products and services are competitively priced compared to conventional building products and systems.

Our products are available through recognized industry distribution channels, available to contractors and individuals locally, or shipped from our warehouse.

Market Trends

Green Building . Passive Haus . LEED Platinum . The Living Building Challenge

Global climate change is becoming a welcome concept for builders, as many are embracing energy innovations and consumer tastes. The regulatory markets are having a major impact on construction professionals, infrastructure industries, raw resources and market trends. The built environment can have a major impact simply by re-evolving towards energy and resource efficiency in the use of healthy sustainable materials and repurposed refuse of waste. By building cities of the future, builders are experimenting with materials, methods, services and technologies which can drastically reduce building time, cost and improve performance and availability.

Local Trends:

The projected urban and industrial growth in La Peche, Quebec, and the MRC-Des-Collines in general, represents a positive local socio economic demographic that reflects the rapid growth indicated in our urban developmental strategy surrounding the completion of highway Autoroute 5.

A local developer, Ferme Minnes Inc. is currently looking for sustainable development solutions to create an intentional community “Eco-village”.

Wakefield and the surrounding municipalities are growing. Currently a satellite community to metropolitan Gatineau/Ottawa, tourism and cottages have traditionally been a local economic engine providing many service industry jobs, an abundance of restaurants and entertainment venues are already well established. The autoroute is a gateway to opening an unprecedented access to the North. Milder winters and migration from the South to these sparsely populated northern areas is expected to accelerate over the next decades with changing climates

The local problems we face are largely the same as those others face elsewhere and the remedial solutions innovated here can be shared and exported world wide.

Sustainable “Concrete Jungles”: Smart-Built Global Environments Bio-diversity . Eco-villages . Eco-cities . Eco-Industries

Implications or Risk Factors

The construction industry, (the built environment), is the biggest and the most competitive of all industries, it employs the most people and it drives the use of all resources. Competitive risk and co-operation positively permeates the industry in general and affects construction and resource use in particular.

Our company is offering radically new solutions. Homeowners, contractors and developers are looking for sustainable solutions, and economists and governments are looking for economic engines of sustainability.

In terms of risk and opportunity collectively, the global built environment is the largest waste point source in carbon emissions, (solid, atmospheric, liquid, energy, bio-diversity) and the global built environment consumes all available raw resources (industry, forestry, fisheries, mining, manufacturing, energy, agriculture, food, water, and bio-diversity).

Planned Response

Creating new waste recovery products, net resource services and infrastructure expertise in a cost competitive value advantage strategy applied to the already evolving trend towards sustainability, resources and energy efficiency in global built environments, (food, energy, clean air/water, materials, bio-diversity).

There is opportunity for growth in La Peche and neighbouring municipalities with focus on sustainable development practices and reduction of waste, carbon emissions and energy consumption.

Competitors and type of Competition

Builders/contractors (the global built environment) respond favourably to a public desire to use material products, technologies and resources of choice.

Competitive forces influence the ultimate profit potential:

The power of new entrants and the bargaining power of buyers, the threat of substitute products or services and the bargaining power of suppliers, and the rivalry among existing firms. Traditional methods of contracting with selective tenders, limits production differentiation. Resource suppliers, waste handlers and industry scale Builders/contractors are the main co-competitors.

Competition is embedded in the culture of construction contracting, continually in the quest of some means of achieving a competitive advantage so as to maximize the prospects for the award of contracts.
This competitiveness is largely due to cost, traditionally being the prime factor in the tender, selection process.

Industry professionals and academic researchers indicate that the formation of strategic alliances between firms is becoming an increasingly common way to maintain a competitive cost leadership especially advantageous in resources and manufacturing and industries. The growth of alliances is a key in developing sustainable approaches to achieve major goals and objectives.

Competitors' Strengths and Weaknesses

The main strength of our competitors is conventional housing design methods and execution, (timber-frame, block walls etc.) and these conventional designs and methods use conventional materials.

Traditionally, the construction industry weakness is its very conservative nature where innovation is marginalized due to time and cost constraints. However, innovations that survive and compete in this cost-competitive environment are quickly adopted universally. Lath and Plaster vs.Drywall board (Gypsum) case study in the research shows how new products can be resisted initially as a quality constraint, but ultimately are quickly adopted.

Competitive Advantage
EASE OF USE SKILLED OPERATOR TRAINED IN 2-3 DAYS LOWER LABOUR COSTS

Our key advantages are the material core (modular building block) and the building system (modular structure). A low-cost, easy to assemble insulating core and structural system of exceptional thermal and structural performance, (foundation, floors, walls, roof).

Sourcing cyclic waste and other locally available low-cost materials to produce a superior insulating core building block that assembles into a modular system (structure), completes the building envelope and energy cycle.

The economics or waste sourced products works to an additional advantage in that the source materials can have a negative source cost, and this creates a viable revenue stream.

Governments charge a minimum of $25 dollars a ton “tipping fee syn- tax” against companies which landfill, recycle or incinerate waste material. The total business cost for materials landfilled, recycled or incinerated is upwards of $250.00 per ton tipping fee, charged to the public.

The current trend towards energy efficiency in new buildings means that we must use vastly greater quantities of insulating materials to improve energy efficiency to reduce heating and carbon emissions at the source.

Additionally the high resale value of waste fibre diverted from landfill recycling or incineration, that gets converted to an insulating and structural building product can reach a bulk product market selling value of $1000.00 a ton.

The process of conversion of waste is also expected to produce valuable clean fuels and fertilizers, building aggregates, glass, and a valuable stream of steel and plastic, both of which can be utilized in reinforcements for the modular block arrayed structures.

Finally the low cost economics of the modular building system make it possible to develop sub systems and services which are energy and resource efficient, and eliminates emissions at point sources caused from inefficiencies in built environments. CO2 is sequestered into buildings and energy use is drastically reduced by saving on combustion and heating loads, waste water is re-utilized as a source of fuels and fertilizers, making local agriculture viable, and toxic blooms in waterways and oceans are eliminated allowing fish and habitat to rebound.

Economically viable refuse recovery will naturally eliminate the stream of plastic waste reaching the oceans.

 

 

YOUR HOME IS GARBAGE Posted by: seanmichaelbutler | January 5, 2009 edited version by Robinson 2015 Bradley Robinson January 26, 2016

 

The archetype from the film 2001 that inspired this investigation into the mathematics of harmonious proportions is the monolith proportioned as the square of the first 3 integers or 1:4:9, “ when it came down to working with these Styrofoam panels,” continues Brad “ it was advantageous to go to a nine foot height because of ceiling heights. Traditionally eight feet is used but higher ceilings create better space, and you can get more light into the building. Also, because a one-foot thick wall was needed thermally, ” it just happened that the proportions I needed were very similar to the ratio proportions of the monolith.  So I thought there’s a good chance that the use of this ratio in its proportion works then I’ll possibly be able to achieve a very good ratio of materials to strength and performance at low cost. ”  He concedes: “ It’s hard to evaluate. You’d have to do a lot of comparative testing to find out whether you’re getting that kind of optimization. ”  But the tests that followed bore out the fortitude of his chosen proportions. Using a giant specialized press, at mcGill in sept 2001 Brad and several other researchers subjected the panel to 1,250,000 pounds of compression, and tested shear and bending forces, simulating earthquakes and hurricanes, as well as testing the load bearing capacity of the panel as a foundation wall floor and roof.

“It was electrifying,” says Brad, “  the work that went on during those eight weeks was slow, but during the last days, when all the results came in…and a few of us were simply awed by it.” In one loading test, they took it up to one thousand times what the building code requires for a one-story residential house. “You’re talking a phenomenal amount of strength.”

McGill U Assistant Professor Yixin Shao, who worked with Brad on the tests, says that they “achieved more than he expected. ” He really believes the material’s andapproach has significant potential, but that issues like on site quality control of the mixing of the concrete is key. Since one of the touted advantages of this kind of modular construction is that it require little building experience, Professor Shao says that they are currently working on putting together detailed concrete mixing guidelines for the layman.

But even with good quality concrete, how can EPS that is mostly air and an inch of cement support the weight of a house?

“The whole system works together,” answers Brad. “The cement would never perform up to what it does if it didn’t work as an efficiently integrated system where the skins are the stress structure. Basically you have a core material that stabilizes the skins. So instead of crimping like a sheet of paper would, the core causes the outside layers to go into tension or compression. ” Additionally the panel edges re-utilize curvilinear form–  in other words its edges are slightly rounded adding to its strength in much the same way as an egg or an aircraft fuselage gains from its curved structure.

 “A conventional cement wall is naturally very strong compressively,” says Brad, “  but has no almost no bending strength and near zero insulating value.”  Consequently bending strength is aided by adding steel reinforcement in the core and minimal insulation is added later. In general the concrete wall is much thicker and stronger in compression than it needs to be simply to make the system work in bending –  often upwards of 8 inches thick of concrete. Cement is energy intensive and expensive to handle. It’s global production accounts for a significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions (according to the International Energy Agency, “ the cement industry is a major emitter of CO2,” contributing 15% of the annual greenhouse gasses output from human activities worldwide).   

A Biobloc construction uses a fraction of the cement commonly used in a traditional cement foundation wall. For the same amount of cement “you would use to build a regular foundation for a conventional house, you could continue and build the entire house made of Biobloc’s. ”   

Another advantage of the material is its energy efficiency. Insulating capability is measured on a scale of R thermal resistance value –  the higher the R-value the better. The standard for modern energy efficiency, code compliant in R-2000 housing begins around R-30, but most conventional wood-frame housing falls short of R-20, in truth R6 is the wider average. A Biobloc with a one-foot thick EPS or recycled waste peat moss core, on the other hand, achieves an R-value of 40.

“To build energy-efficient housing (using conventional techniques) is, by and large, unaffordable,” says Brad. “The wood-frame becomes oversized and overbuilt simply to accommodate increasing amounts of insulation. And it also takes a lot of skilled labour. It’s a leaky building envelope. There’s a lot of cracks and settling. A Biobloc assembly is inherently tight, just the process of building it makes it a very tight envelope. You don’t have to have a lot of skill to do that, it’s a virtue of the material.”

Wood-frame housing has decades of tradition behind it in North America, but due to price volatility, increasingly high lumber prices, and what some see as the decreasing quality of lumber, some builders are beginning to look for alternatives. The increasing popularity of steel framing is one indication of this disenchantment with wood. The Metal Construction News reports a 5% increase in the market for residential steel framing per year for the past nine years. Mike Vailencourof at Steeler Inc. says that, “It takes 63 recycled cars to make a steel frame house, but an acre of trees (to make a wood one).” And according to the Master Builder’s Association, panels such as SIP’s (Structural Insulated Panels), which are very similar to Brad’s expanded polystyrene panels, except they commonly use plywood skins instead of concrete, are enjoying the same increased popularity.

Not only do Biobloc’s not use wood frames they also achieve an efficiency of materials by using “ the insulation as the form to build the structure, as opposed to building the structure to hold the insulation.” It’s a paradigm shift akin to Marshal McLuhan’s famous statement: “The medium is the message.”

This new approach also allows for a greater architectural freedom, such as vaulted ceilings. But one could also replicate conventional architecture by not making use of the Biobloc’s potential. “You wouldn’t really notice the difference,” says Brad. “If you wanted to reach market acceptability, you could still out-compete existing wood-frame, producing almost identical structures.”

So Biobloc buildings are fast and easy to assemble, they are strong, have a high insulation value, and have minimal ecological impact. But what about the make-it-or-break-it consideration: are they economical? 

Brad thinks even at the early stage’s in the development they already were cost competitive to wood frame and significantly better in performance. In fact, he believes that once we begin to transform waste into a building material for less than we can bury it, waste will become a commodity

“On a broad average, it now costs about $200 a ton,” explains Brad, to sanitary landfill our waste. That figure does not include transportation costs incurred from the garbage collection system or transport to the landfill site, costs which would still be part of the picture if waste were being funnelled into housing instead. Brad believes that we could produce the raw fibre needed for Biobloc’s for less than that $200 a ton figure. “That means that you could actually produce a building material that you could give away, and still make money based on what it costs to bury it.”

In the case of Toronto,  and most urban centres, are currently face high transportation costs to ship its garbage, often hundreds of kilometre’s to landfill, turning waste into useful materials could be accomplished much closer to home, thus eliminating the need for transportation.

 Add to this the potential revenues from bi-products of the processing, such as recyclables, fertilizers, fuels, and durable clean fibre – even if Brad’s cost estimates turn out to be overly optimistic – it still equals some pretty favourable economics. 

 

The Biobloc is an idea has amounted to more than just theory. Nearly 20 years ago Louis Rompré a neighbour and friend inspired by Brad’s ideas initiated andincorporated Internatural, was formed with the intention of exploring the possibilities of Biocrete.  Bob Plattsan engineer and consultant improved on the idea of making a “structural sandwich dry pack,” which Brad had initially named the Biobloc. They chose waste bark from lumber mills as their core material.

“When we found this stuff we knew it was perfect. ”  explain’s Louis Rompré, “ It comes pre-shredded and only needs to be dried before it can be packed tightly into bales and used for building. Lumber mills are burdened with towering piles of this stripped bark, which must be kept hosed down to prevent spontaneous combustion until it is trucked off to a dumping site. Internatural offered to take it off their hands.

The next challenge was to develop a way of baling this material. They designed and built a machine that operates on about the same principle as a cigarette machine: the shredded bark is stuffed down into a sleeve of plastic mesh using a hydraulic press. The mesh holds the material together, producing a bale of manageable dimensions – 2 feet long by 16 inches high by 1 foot thick–  that can then be stacked to form a wall and surfaced with cement.

They got the chance to put their concept into practice when a neighbour commissioned them to build a one-story structure to be used as a small-scale honey-processing plant. The results of that proved positive, and in 1996,  with a grant from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), they did “proof of concept” testing, assessing the same structural parameters that Brad later would with his EPS-cored blocks at McGill. The findings were equally encouraging.

The Biobloc’s themselves were produced for between $5 to $6 each, making them very competitive to similar bales of commercial baled cellulose insulation. The company also highlighted construction and demolition waste and wooden palettes used to ship goods, particularly auto parts, as another promising source of waste wood that could be shredded and used to make Biobloc’s.   

The company’s founders then went looking for capital investment and a larger pilot project. CMHC were particularly interested in exporting the technology to the Canadian north and developing nations where they saw the need for affordable housing was the greatest. Instead of relying on imported materials and labour from the far south, they argued that northern native communities could produce Biobloc’s from more local sources, and ease unemployment by using local labour. The high insulation value of the blocks also made it a perfect fit for the northern communities. After brokering a partnership between CMHC and Makivik Corporation – the body charged with administrating the billions of dollars received by the Inuit in compensation for their lands being flooded by the James Bay hydroelectric project – they were on the verge of getting their long-awaited pilot project when it fell through at the last minute.

Bob Platts’ likes to refer to the Biobloc as a “vertical landfill”. He concedes that it could beat wood-frame construction for cost if the manufacturing of the blocks were mechanized, cutting down the time it takes to produce a block from several minutes to several seconds.

As for Brad’s efforts with EPS as a core material, Bob Platts’ says that in many ways the material “is ideal, but it has one tragic Achilles heal: your fire safety is down to minutes.” The danger is that a fire would melt the Styrofoam and the structure would collapse before the fire department could even get there. 

However significant and recent advances in the reinforced concrete structural system that completely entombs the foam and results in an inherently fire resistant assembly, the load bearing component is fire resistant even in the case of the core completely disintegrating due to excessive temperatures. 

The key attribute is that the building itself does not contribute fuel to the fire and overall the level of safety exceeds the margins of conventional wood frame.

There are about 80 companies currently manufacturing SIP’s, serving North America and the Pacific Rim. According to the Structural Insulated Panel Association, ( HYPERLINK "http://www.sips.org/" http://www.sips.org/) an organization devoted to promoting SIP’s, fire performance is not a major obstacle. Fire safety regulations have been met by protecting the SIP’s with Gypsum Wall Board. Buildings made of Styrofoam have been in use in the arctic since the 1950’ s.

While the research focus initially was on the Biobloc guided by Bob Platts, he credits Bradley’s early, “mucking about with waste –  and I use that term with reverence –  “ as the inspiration to begin thinking of garbage as a building material. “ He says that Brad has served as an inspiration and catalyst for many people along the way.        

Around 1998 Brad was commissioned to build a new barn for the Carmen Trails Youth Hostel, about 20 minutes drive north of Ottawa. Wanting to employ new ideas about using digested fibre as a core material, but lacking the equipment to make it himself, he bought pre-made bales of peat moss from a garden centre.

Although he does not advocate using mined peat moss–  it’s a relatively non-renewable resource – it does have the advantage of being very similar to the end product of the process that could turn garbage into a building material. “Peat moss is quite stable,” explains Brad, “ it’s already been biodegraded from raw organic material, all the hydrocarbons have basically split from it in the decaying process… degradation , it’s already done most of what it’s going to do.”

Recycled EPS is principally used for the foundation, where moisture is of primary concern, even if you’re using something as stable as peat moss, for sub-grade or any area where the moisture gradient is occurring, which is the foundation upwards of two feet off the ground, you can use organic materials for the above grade building envelope,  the different core materials are dimensionally compatible.

Any type of conventional insulation can be used. In the case of the Carmannroad barn roof vault he chose lightweight fibreglass insulation as the core material. “Fibreglass is made from sand,  We built a domed roof reinforced with rebar and coated with cement.

“It’s interesting to note, “that the cubic foot cost of all those materials is relatively much the same, based on today’s economics, about a 2-4 dollars per cubic foot.” If this is any indication of the cost of turning waste into similar building materials, it could, he believes, translate into substantial savings for the homebuilder. “If you take what you save on the building envelope and invest that in the finish quality, then you’ve got a competitive edge.”

  Brad’s concept goes well beyond what we make our houses out of. The implications of a shift to a much greater utilization of waste could reach into many sectors of the economy. In respect to the rise of the high tech sector, material resources still drive our economies. Our built environments consume the majority of our financial and material resources. Housing is the leading GNP indicator.  According to the World Watch Institute, the U.S. based group that publishes the yearly State of the World reports, 40% of the world’s energy and materials are used by buildings, and 55% of the wood cut for non-fuel purposes is for construction, the figures are near 100% when the built environment is considered as a singe entity.

Obviously, the forestry industry would be directly affected, however demand for the raw resource it provides would greatly increase in value and the industry would be vastly more sustainable. Its reasonable to assume every industry that puts material into the waste stream will be affected, there is hardly a human activity, in fact, that does not produce waste of some sort.

While the implications could be radical, says Brad, “ the simple technologies needed to produce the Biobloc are already well-established.” Peat moss balers, the waste-collection infrastructure and recycling techniques, would need little modification to adapt to a system of integrated waste management. Efforts at large-scale composting and deriving biofuels from waste have been underway for some years, particularly in Europe. 

“It’s not that the parts aren’t there, because they are,” asserts Brad.  “ The trick now is to get all of these parts to start to work together, so that you have economies of scale and bi-products coming out, fertilizers, hydrocarbons, recyclables and the significant proportion remaining is digested clean and durable fibre, a clean building material. 

Compost fertilizers need to be competitive with agro-fertilizers and the source has to be free simply because of the cost of trucking and applying it. ”

In an integrated waste management picture, compost could be practically free, because it would be a bi-product of moneymaking materials like bio-fuels and the durable fibre that could be made into Bio-Blocks.

Recycling is a similar story. “One of the big recycling problems is there’s really no end market,” states Brad. “They can produce all kinds of this material, but they can’t find a market for it. ”  the Biobloc could provide the missing connection that closes the loop between supply and demand.

 In a field behind the village of Wakefield, Quebec, 30 minutes drive north of Ottawa, in the year 2001, stands the monolith. After it’s testing was complete, Brad rented a truck and brought it here from Montreal. After painting it a monolithic black, a local artist, Pierre Lalonde, convinced Brad to let him paint a mandala on it instead.

Brad is not sure what his next step will be, but says he is considering writing about his ideas. “There are no ultimate solutions,” he continues. 

 

“How obvious – how necessary – was that mathematical ratio of its sides, the quadratic sequence 1:4:9... And how naïve to have imagined that the series ended at this point, in only three dimensions!”

 

    - ARTHUR C. CLARKE, “2001: A Space Odyssey”