Deep green homes that are healthy, energy efficient, low carbon, durable and resilient, are rare. Today, builders with deep green ambitions face a dizzying maze of challenges including: research, training, product sourcing, technical innovation challenges, ever changing building codes and the high cost of multiple specialized consultants.
In addition they face substantial regulatory, bureaucratic and certification challenges as well as the confusion of greenwashed marketing claims. Proven deep green building alternatives exist but there barriers slowing our transition to deep green housing.
The pace of change in industry and government organizaton is slow. Multiple institutional approvals are required for every home built. Interlinked policies, broad standardization and the number of institutions involved in the regulations around home building a house make the pace of change slow and inhibit innovation.
Every house built must have approvals from the: building inspector, landuse/bylaws office, the health authority (septic), BC Housing builder licensing office, providers of construction insurance, home insurance and home warantee, lender, and mortgage insurance provider. Additional requirements that may apply includer Canada Mortgage and Housing, Canadian Commission on Construction Materials Evaluation, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), and sometimes the Agricultural Land Reserve.
The level of public literacy in green, healthy building is low as is an understanding of the hidden costs of conventional building. Considerable educational outreach is required to grow awareness about the problems and possibilities in home building.
An ever-changing minimum building codes is demanding for builders. The research, training, product sourcing, and certification demands of any green certifications add to the burden as do any alternative permitting applications for innovative solutions. As a result both builders and inspectors favour a conventional, familiar approach.
Finding and investigating responsibly produced, truly green products is time consuming. Product literature rarely includes lifecycle impact analyses or environmental or health product declarations.
Standardized and prescriptive requirements
Highly standardized, prescriptive guidelines inhibit innovation, and make it difficult to prioritize products and methods that favour healthier, more local, or more ecological products.
To achieve the highest standards in health, efficiency, resilience and the environment a multi-disciplinary team of consultants is usually required.
Currently the deepest green designs are only accessible to those with the necessary time, knowledge, skills and money.
Strategies for building change
To create a system intervention with a solution that address all of the above challenges we need inspired industry, non-profit and government collaboration. The Eco Healthy Homes Project will support change in the following ways:
- Unite experienced change-makers for the common good
- Create replicable, scalable solutions
- Improve the understanding of the value of deep green housing
- Locally standardize to lower costs, and streamline regulatory approvals
- Enable collaborative, local production of homes and components
- Promote and generate demand for deep green building
- Encouraging cooperation instead of competition
- Enable knowledge sharing, profit sharing and cost reduction strategies
- Model positive change
- Develop a replicable process for other participating communities
To learn about the role of the Eco Healthy Homes builder’s resource in reducing barriers, see Builder’s Resource .