Using low-impact materials that are also healthier for occupants was a priority in design. Wherever possible products containing contaminants were avoided, aiming for low and zero Volatile Organic Compound [VOC] surface finishes, as well sourcing products that were free of formaldehyde. Durability was also a priority, so for surfaces in wet areas like kitchens and bathrooms, materials that are more resistant to water and moisture damage were chosen. Here is a quick rundown of some notable products we used and some of their origins.
By Emmanuel Cosgrove
↦ SUBSCRIBE TO THE DIGITAL OR PRINT ISSUE OF ECOHOUSE CANADA FOR THE FULL VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE.
Flooring: Our final floor surface is thin cork tiles from Lusimat applied with GreenForce adhesive that is zero VOC, provided by Bostik. Cork is a renewable material, it is harvested from a specific oak tree found almost exclusively in Portugal. Cork is peeled from the tree without killing it and can be harvested about every nine years.
Sourcing regional materials is not only about encouraging the local economy, it is also about reducing the overall carbon footprint of a house through shipping materials over long distances. Portugal is certainly not considered ‘local’ for a Quebec build, but the fact that the tiles are very light and thin means there is far less fuel required for shipping. Sometimes products that aren’t available locally are worth the added shipping, this is one of those cases.
Paint: The interior paints we used were low odour and zero VOC Natura and Eco Spec from Benjamin Moore. Volatile Organic Compounds [VOCs] in paint will off-gas into your home long after paint has dried, so it is a health concern for painters and occupants alike. And maybe don’t buy the first brand you encounter – some companies will offer Zero VOC paint but not mention that there are VOCs in the colourants, that’s some fine print worth asking about. A vapour retarder primer from Benjamin Moore was used on the exterior walls as a base coat [replacing the standard 6 mil poly vapour barrier].
Great room ceiling: The great room ceiling is made with wood hauled up from the bottom of the Ottawa River and milled into finished products by Logs End Inc. The quality and colours of wood that was cut a century ago and spent that time underwater is unmatched by trees felled in a forest today. These trees had to fight for sunshine so they grew straight and slow with very few branches, resulting in a tight grain structure and small knots. Using reclaimed river wood means rather than cutting down a forest you are cleaning up a river.
Walls/ bedroom ceilings: Synthetic gypsum was sourced from CGC – Sheetrock UltraLight gypsum panels. Synthetic gypsum is the by-product of coal-fired electric plants, and replaces mined gypsum without any effect on the physical properties. The mechanical room was soundproofed with Roxul, resilient channels and two layers of 5/8 drywall, each with taped joints. DUROCK Next Gen Cement Board was used in the bathrooms as a tile backer.
Emmanuel Cosgrove, LEED® AP Homes, is one of Canada’s most sought after voices in the field of green building. He is a co-founder of Écohabitation and Ecohome, and directs multiple initiatives that contribute to reducing the environmental footprint of Canadian homes.