INTRODUCTION

"Sustainability" and "sustainable design" refer to our ongoing responsibility to choose and design methods of manufacturing, building and ways of life that have little to no impact on the long-term health of the environment, society and economy. From government to industry to individual consumers, we must all consider our "ecological footprint" and the legacy we will leave for future generations. Sustainable design is now recognized by a growing number of business, community and environmental leaders as a key driver in innovation and competitiveness in the global market. Canada's role in this movement is growing steadily and there are many opportunities for our country to become a leader in the field. This unit focuses on sustainable living in terms of our homes and the infrastructure of our communities.

 
 DESIGN

 Design Discipline: Architecture

 Design Defined

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INTRODUCTION

"Sustainability" and "sustainable design" refer to our ongoing responsibility to choose and design methods of manufacturing, building and ways of life that have little to no impact on the long-term health of the environment, society and economy. From government to industry to individual consumers, we must all consider our "ecological footprint" and the legacy we will leave for future generations. Sustainable design is now recognized by a growing number of business, community and environmental leaders as a key driver in innovation and competitiveness in the global market. Canada's role in this movement is growing steadily and there are many opportunities for our country to become a leader in the field. This unit focuses on sustainable living in terms of our homes and the infrastructure of our communities.

 
 DESIGN

 Design Discipline: Architecture

 Design Defined

 
Design

When used as a verb, design means thinking about, conceiving and executing an idea. It is a creative, problem-solving process. When used as a noun, design refers to the result or product of such cognitive processes.

Architecture

Architecture means both the act of designing buildings and structures as well as the label given to buildings of all kinds.

Sustainable Design

Sustainable design addresses the 'triple bottom line' (economy, society and environment). Sustainable design is said to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable design can also be defined as the art of producing objects and built environments using only renewable resources, and which themselves, in operation, deplete only renewable resources using integrated design approaches in order to reduce our ecological footprint.

Healthy House

A healthy house is a house that is healthy for its occupants as well as for the global environment. Healthy homes provide healthy indoor environments, use resources such as water and energy efficiently, and are affordable. They respond to evolving household needs using a simple, sensible approach to building, renovation and day-to-day operations. Healthy homes are often located in communities that are planned and managed to enhance quality of life, protect the environment and encourage economic prosperity.

 

DESIGNER

Martin Liefhebber, Principal, Breathe Architects (Toronto, Ontario)

For more than two decades, Martin Liefhebber has been instrumental in advancing green design through his built projects. By eliminating reliance on fossil fuels, Breathe Architects seeks to use renewable resources and source manufacturers that do not reduce the value of the environment or affect the health of their client.


CLIENT

 
Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation

 
FUTURE CLIENTS AND USERS

  • Single family home consumer/owner
  • Contractors and trades people building new homes

 

DESIGN CHALLENGE


In June 1991, CMHC announced its Healthy Housing Design Competition. The objective was to demonstrate to the public and the housing industry that it is possible to design houses for the Canadian climate that are in keeping with the principles of sustainable development and are healthy for the occupants. The competition challenged the industry to develop innovative ways to design homes with the right balance of occupant health, energy efficiency, resource efficiency, environmental responsibility and affordability. The winning entry from Toronto was a 1,700 square foot semi-detached house on a vacant lot in Riverdale. Martin Liefhebber designed the house, including the envelope and the passive solar heating and cooling system. He not only established the project team, he also found a suitable site, obtained the regulatory approvals and developed working drawings.

 

DESIGN SOLUTION

 
Healthy Housing provides a healthy indoor environment, conserves the earth's resources, minimizes pollution and is affordable.

Features of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation's (CMHC) Healthy House in Toronto:

  •  It is self-sufficient. It does not depend on existing energy, water and sewer systems provided by the City of Toronto.
  • Water consumption is reduced to one-tenth of that in a typical household. Eighty percent of this reduction is achieved by recycling.
  • The house depends on rainfall for its water supply and recycles much of the water used.
  • The house's water purification systems mimic the natural path that rain follows when it passes through the ground to a spring.
  • Water is conserved through the use of low-volume toilets, low-flow shower heads and aerator faucets.
  • Water consumption is expected to be 120 litres per day for a family of three. Normal consumption for a family of three is 1,050 litres, or 350 litres per person.
  • Solar panels provide electrical energy, which can be stored for later use.
  • Low heating and cooling costs are achieved through airtight wall and roof construction, thermally efficient windows and doors, and high levels of insulation and weather resistance in the building envelope.
  • Heating bills are expected to be less than $80 per year.
  • Materials used to furnish and decorate the house emit few chemicals and vapors, improving indoor air quality.
  • The total operating costs of the house are expected to be under $300 per year.
  • The central location allows residents to take advantage of existing transportation services, while building tax base to support community infrastructure such as schools.
  • The house is built on land that was considered unusable due to lack of public services.

Case Study and Activity Resources

Affordable Adobe: Sustainable Traditional Building http://www.affordableadobe.com/

AIA / COTE 2005 Green Project Awards www.aiatopten.org

Breathe Architects (Martin Liefhebber?s website and projects)http://www.breathebyassociation.com/

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation ? Healthy Housing http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/inpr/bude/heho/index.cfm

Canadian Green Building Council www.cagbc.org

CMHC: FlexHousing http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/buho/flho/index.cfm

CMHC: The Toronto Healthy House http://cmhc-schl.gc.ca/popup/hhtoronto/

Design Exchange: Archetype for the Living City: Sustainable House Competition www.dx.org/sustainable

Design - Toronto Life "Green house" (October 2004) Katherine Ashenburg www.breathebyassociation.com/news/pdf%20articles/TLife-Oct04.pdf

Dirt Cheap Builder (resources for sustainable housing) http://www.dirtcheapbuilder.com/

Enviroguide - Toronto Life (Fall/Winter 2004) www.breathebyassociation.com/news/pdf%20articles/EnviroGuide-2004.pdf

Global TV - Health Home (First aired October 4, 2004) www.canada.com/health/story.html?id=fd332aea-9b93-430a-81f3-d1fbe8122f44

Green Build International Conference and Expo www.greenbuildexpo.org

Green Home Building http://www.greenhomebuilding.com/sustainable_architecture.htm

Healthy Home Television www.healthyhome.tv

International Institute for Sustainable Development www.iisd.org

Natural Building Colloquium Southwest: The History of Cob http://www.networkearth.org/naturalbuilding/history.html

The Natural Step: http://www.thenaturalstep.com

Networks Productions: Creating and Disseminating Media to Help Regenerate the earth http://www.networkearth.org

Ontario Straw Bale Building Coalition http://www.strawbalebuilding.ca/

Principles of Sustainability: http://www.brocku.ca/epi/sustainability/sustprin.htm

Seattle Government Green Building www.seattle.gov/dpd/sustainability

Sustainable Architecture, Building and Culture www.sustainableabc.com

The Sustainable Design Exchange http://www.dx.org/sustainable/archives.htm

Sustainable Sources www.greenbuilder.com

Terra Firma Earth Building Company (Contemporary rammed earth homes rammed earth homes - contains historical and technical information)http://www.earthhomes.com

Toronto Healthy Houses (competition winner) http://www.breathebyassociation.com/projects/healthy-house/

Wilson House (energy efficient house) http://breathebyassociation.com/projects/wilson/description

Wood Works www.woodworksawards.com/home.html

WWF-UK Homing in on Sustainability www.wwf.org.uk/core/about/ta_0000000576.asp

Additional Resources General

Beatley, Timothy, and Kristy Manning. The Ecology of Place: Planning for Environment, Economy, and Community. Island Press, 1997.

Brand, Stewart. How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built. Viking, 1995.

Burnham, Richard. Housing Ourselves: Creating Affordable, Sustainable Shelter. McGraw-Hill, 1998.

Diamond, Jared M. Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed. New York : Viking, 2005.

Friedman, Avi. The Adaptable House: Designing Homes for Change. McGraw-Hill Publications, 2002.

Gissen, David. Big & Green: Toward Sustainable Architecture in the 21st Century. Princeton Architectural Press, 2002.

Griggs, Robyn Lawrence. Natural Home (bimonthly magazine).

Hall, Keith, ed. Building for a Future. Association for Environment-Conscious Building (quarterly magazine).

Hammett, Jerilou, ed. DESIGNER/builder: A Journal of the Human Environment (monthly magazine). Fine Additions, Inc.

Homer-Dickson, Thomas F. Ingenuity Gap. Can We Solve the Problems of the Future? Toronto : A.A. Knopf Canada, 2000

Jenks, Mike, and Nicola Dempsey. Future Forms and Design for Sustainable Cities. Architectural Press, 2005.

Jones, David Lloyd. Architecture and the Environment: Bioclimatic Building Design. The Overlook Press, 1998.

Kennedy, Joseph F., Michael G. Smith, and Catherine Wanek. The Art of Natural Building: Design, Construction, Resources. New Society, 2002.

Kibert, Charles J., Jan Sendzimir, and G. Bradley Guy. Construction Ecology: Nature as the Basis for Green Buildings. Spon Press, 2002.

McDonough, William, and Michael Braungart. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. North Point Press, 2002.

Register, Richard. Ecocities: Building Cities in Balance with Nature. Berkeley Hills Books, 2002.

Roseland, Mark. Toward Sustainable Communities: Resources for Citizens and Their Governments. New Society Publishers, 1998.

Thomas, Randall. Sustainable Urban Design. Spon Press, 2003.

Tsui, Eugene. Evolutionary Architecture: Nature as a Basis for Design. John Wiley & Sons, 1999.

Van der Ryn, Sim, and Stuart Cowan. Ecological Design. Island Press, 1996.

Wackernagel, Mathis, and William Rees. Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth. New Society Publishers, 1996.

Wann, David, ed. Deep Design: Pathways to a Livable Future. Island Press, 1996.

Wines, James. Green Architecture. Taschen, 2000.

Wright, Ronald. A short history of progress. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2004.

 

Building Materials

Borer, Pat, and Cindy Harris. The Whole House Book: Ecological Building Design & Materials. Centre for Alternative Technology, 1998.

Janssen, Jules. Building With Bamboo : A Handbook. Intermediate Technology, 1995.

McHenry, Paul. Adobe & Rammed Earth Buildings. University of New Mexico Press, 1990.

Pearson, David. Treehouses. Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2001.

Roy, Robert L. Complete Book of Underground Houses : How to Build a Low-Cost Home. Sterling Publications, 1994.

Snell, Clarke, and Tim Callahan. Building Green : A Complete How-To Guide to Alternative Building Methods: Earth Plaster, Straw Bale, Cordwood, Cob, Living Roofs. Lark Books, 2005.

Velez, Simon. Grow Your Own House: Simon Velez and Bamboo Architecture. Vitra Design Museum, 2000.

Energy Behling, Sophia, and Stefan Behling. Solar Power: The Evolution of Sustainable Architecture. Prestel Verlag, 2000.

Guzowski, Mary. Daylighting for Sustainable Design. McGraw-Hill Professional, 2000.

Hawkes, Dean, and Wayne Forster. Energy Efficient Buildings: Architecture, Engineering, and Environment. W. W. Norton & Company, 2002.

Home Energy Magazine. No-Regrets Remodeling: Creating a Comfortable, Healthy Home That Saves Energy. Home Energy Magazine,1997.

Ireton, Kevin, ed. The Best of Fine Homebuilding: Energy-Efficient Building. The Taunton Press, 1999.

Krigger, John T. Your Home Cooling Energy Guide. Saturn Resource Management,1992.

Lyle, David. The Book of Masonry Stoves: Rediscovering an Old Way of Warming. Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 1998.

O'Cofaigh, Eoin, John A. Olley, and J. Owen Lewis. The Climatic Dwelling: An ntroduction to Climate-Responsive Residential Architecture. James & James Limited, 1996.

Perlin, John. From Space to Earth: The Story of Solar Electricity. Aatec Publications,1999.

 

Waste and Water

Del Porto, David, and Carol Steinfeld. The Composting Toilet System Book: A Practical Guide to Choosing, Planning and Maintaining Composting Toilet Systems, an Alternative to Sewer and Septic Systems. Center for Ecological Pollution Prevention, 2000.

Grant, Nick, Mark Moodie, and Chris Weedon. Sewage Solutions: Answering the Call of Nature. New Society Publishers, 2001.

Jenkins, J.C. The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure. 2nd ed. Jenkins Publishing, 1999.

Van Der Ryn, Lim, and Sim Van Der Ryn. The Toilet Papers: Recycling Waste and Conserving Water. Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 1995.

Vickers, Amy. Handbook of Water Use and Conservation: Homes, Landscapes, Businesses, Industries, Farms. WaterPlow Press, 2001.

 

Healthy Home Environments

Bower, John. The Healthy House: How to Buy One, How to Cure a Sick One, How to Build One. 4th ed. The Healthy House Institute, 2001.

Bower, Lynn Marie. Creating A Healthy Household: The Ultimate Guide for Healthier, Safer, Less-Toxic Living. The Healthy House Institute, 2000.

Harland, Edward. Eco-Renovation: The Ecological Home Improvement Guide. Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 1999.

Hobbs, Angela. The Sick House Survival Guide: Simple Steps to Healthier Homes. New Society Publishers, 2003.

Kunstler, James Howard. Home from Nowhere: Remaking our Everyday World for the 21st Century. Simon & Schuster/Fireside, 1998.

May, Jeffrey C. My House is Killing Me!: The Home Guide for Families with Allergies and Asthma. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.

Pearson, David. The New Natural House Book: Creating a Healthy, Harmonious, and Ecologically Sound Home. Simon & Schuster/Fireside, 1998.

Rousseau, David, and James Wasley. Healthy By Design: Building & Remodeling Solutions for Creating Healthy Homes. 2nd ed. Hartley & Marks, 1999.

Saunders, Thomas. The Boiled Frog Syndrome: Your Health and the Built Environment. John Wiley & Sons, 2002.


© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.

Illustration of the healthy house showing solar panels

The 1,700 square foot semi-detached house was built on a vacant lot. It does not depend on energy, water and sewer systems provided by the city. The solar panels provide electrical energy, which can be stored for later use.

Martin Liefhebber, Breathe Architects
1991
CANADA Toronto Region, Ontario, Toronto Region, CANADA
© 1991, Breathe Architects. All Rights Reserved.


photograph of the healthy house showing different energy saving features

Low heating and cooling costs are achieved through airtight wall and roof construction, thermally efficient windows and doors, and high levels of insulation and weather resistance in the building envelope.

Martin Liefhebber, Breathe Architects
1991
CANADA Toronto Region, Ontario, Toronto Region, CANADA
© 1991, Breathe Architects. All Rights Reserved.


Martin Liefhebber discusses his career, his interest in sustainability and what it takes to be an architect.

Martin Liefhebber discusses his career, interest in sustainability and what it takes to be an architect. "I suppose I always had an interest in sustainable architecture. I grew up in the Netherlands which has always been about water and high winds. You have to understand nature quite well in order to make a country out of what was actually under water for a long, long time. I don’t know if that’s what did it but I went to the University of Toronto and when I graduated I actually had a number of projects as my school projects that were, I would say, about sustainability at that point. It was kind of neat because when we had critics coming in they would always want to talk about architecture and I kind of undermined it all by saying that its [architecture’s] underlying idea really is about sustainability. So they kind of went along and indulged me. But I think the subsequent decades have proven that this is really how we should be thinking. In 1984 I started my own office and soon after that I got some projects which were investigating sustainability."

Qasim Virjee
Martin Liefhebber, Elise Hodson, Daniela Bryson
March 2006
CANADA Toronto Region, Ontario, Toronto Region, CANADA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


Martin Liefhebber discusses his career, his interest in sustainability and what it takes to be an architect.

Martin Liefhebber discusses his career, interest in sustainability and what it takes to be an architect. "Architecture is really fascinating. It’s all about everything – it’s about living, it’s about construction and it’s about making our environment. So I took a real interest in having the environment that I create to be as good as it can be from a health perspective and a pollution perspective, all kinds of things. I wanted to have buildings that run on solar energy, buildings that take rainwater, and take water that we use, like sewage, and clean it up so that we see architecture and cities not as a continued burden on our way of living but we see it as something that actually fixes the environment. We all know that the environment is in deep trouble and we need to have really good design to see if we can actually still fix it. I’ve never been interested in regular architecture because its always about building buildings that have to look good."

Qasim Virjee
Martin Liefhebber, Elise Hodson, Daniela Bryson
March 2006
CANADA Toronto Region, Ontario, Toronto Region, CANADA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


Martin Liefhebber discusses his career, his interest in sustainability and what it takes to be an architect.

Martin Liefhebber discusses his career, interest in sustainability and what it takes to be an architect. "Just about design itself: I always say that almost everything we have doesn’t really work. It is really about looks. This is important for most people and most designers. I say looks yes, but first, how does it actually function and does it get us out of the environmental hole we’ve dug for ourselves? So we really have to design very differently which means that there is – if you take the position that very little actually truly works – then that means for future designers there’s a lot of a work. There’s a heck of a lot of work in that everything has to be designed from the point of view of doing more with less, economy of means, knowing materials, knowing physics really well so that what we build with can be more carefully chosen. Where does it come from – did it need to be mined? Does it cause a lot of pollution? Such as aluminum and all these kind of things. But also, then, how do these products respond to natural forces - wind and temperature changes, convection, conduction, radiation? So I think if you’re actually good at physics you might actually be a really good designer. Which is opposite of how most high school counselors would suggest – “Oh you’re artistic that means you’d be good architect.” I would take the point of view that you have to have both. You have to have a rational side which is about mathematics and physics and, of course, an artistic content as well, but I find that in the tradition of architecture its been more about the sculptural aspects rather than about knowing what it is you’re doing and how it fits in the overall picture of the planet and the planet’s health."

Qasim Virjee
Martin Liefhebber, Elise Hodson, Daniela Bryson
March 2006
CANADA Toronto Region, Ontario, Toronto Region, CANADA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


The Healthy House was designed by Martin Liefhebber and his team in 1991. 15 years later, it is still ahead of its time.

The Healthy House was designed by Martin Liefhebber and his team in 1991. 15 years later, it is still ahead of its time. "Ultimately, what really put the stamp on me, was the Toronto Healthy House, which was a competition held in 1991. I had a great team working with me and we won that competition for the eastern Canada area. We ended up building the Toronto Healthy House which you can still see today. It was cutting edge, absolutely, and it is still cutting edge because we had a situation in Riverdale where we did not actually have sewage systems (municipal sewage systems), so the city allowed us to investigate and build an alternative sewage system where all the sewage water was being treated on site. In many places in Canada you cannot actually do this. Since then, solar electric, solar thermal, water harvesting and so on has become much more the thing but still not in terms of new neighbourhoods - not at all. It's individuals who take a keen interest in this and also, of course, individuals who want to save money, those who refuse to have to pay for electricity or for heat."

Qasim Virjee
Martin Liefhebber, Elise Hodson, Daniela Bryson
March 2006
CANADA Toronto Region, Ontario, Toronto Region, CANADA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


To build a sustainable home, architects must consider how the building will work within the larger context of the site.

To build a sustainable home, architects must consider how the building will work within the larger context of the site. "The context you are building in is very important. If you’re going to be building in a street, in a street in a neighborhood, or if you’re building in open land there is always a very strong context that the house or the building needs to fit in. The approach that we take when you deal with environmental architecture is that the context is much bigger than that. The context of sunlight is major. The buildings need to be heated by sunlight. So you have to think in terms of a combination of criteria. Yes the street is on this side, does this happen to coincide with the south side where the sun is shining from? Sometimes it isn’t, it is actually completely the opposite. So then you have really think hard about how, then, you can accomplish a house that is ideal for being in the street at the same time as being ideal for having sunlight pour into very large windows. So that would, of course, affect what the building is going to look like. So then context is incredibly important. The context of harvesting rainwater for water supply is very important. Is the area a very dirty area? Is there a lot of air contamination? Are there a lot of heavy metals like lead? Pollution from a nearby highway? And all these kind of things. So yes, context influences design in a very dramatic way."

Qasim Virjee
Martin Liefhebber, Daniela Bryson, Elise Hodson
March 2006
CANADA Toronto Region, Ontario, Toronto Region, CANADA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


Designing for a dramatic climate should produce dramatic architecture.

Designing for a dramatic climate should produce dramatic architecture. "The context of Canada in terms of climate is absolutely wonderful. We have the most dramatic climate – it’s just so exciting. It actually should produce very dramatic architecture. It’s not California, it’s not moderate climate Europe - which, incidentally, is informing all of our architecture today – it is not these kind of temperate climates. In fact we have nothing like it. We have a sub-arctic climate, -10, -15, -20°C, wind chill factors of -40 sometimes –50. It gets dramatic and that’s serious. On the other hand we have summer which is, in my way of thinking, kind of Malaysian or Indonesian. We have +30°C with a humidity of 85/90%. Well, that’s Jakarta, Indonesia. We need to respond to the fact that we have a climate - whether or not we’re going to be heating up as time goes by and that’s what all the projections are – the fact is that we have a very erratic kind of climate which is definitely going to get more so as time goes on."

Qasim Virjee
Martin Liefhebber, Daniela Bryson, Elise Hodson
March 2006
CANADA Toronto Region, Ontario, Toronto Region, CANADA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


Using local materials is essential for sustainable design.

Using local materials is essential for sustainable design. "Where the products come from is very important. We now have a new set of standards that are taking on importance in Canada and the US which are the LEED standards. Essentially we have to see about getting products that are not any further than 500 km away. Which is still quite large – I mean that could be from Toronto to Montreal – but still we’ve become cognizant that we don’t import tropical woods from Brazil in order to make windows. I see a lot of that. What does it take to produce a building? How far does a product have to come from? You’d be surprised by what we actually have over here."

Qasim Virjee
Martin Liefhebber, Daniela Bryson, Elise Hodson
March 2006
CANADA Toronto Region, Ontario, Toronto Region, CANADA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


Sustainable design is everyone's responsibility. What are the next steps for Canada?

Sustainable design is everyone’s responsibility. What are the next steps for Canada? "I teach at the University of Toronto and the Ontario College of Art & Design. I’d say it’s not hard because a lot of students are very much up with what’s needed – with what needs to be done. What takes a little bit more is what are the tools, what can we use to work with. In architecture it’s the building itself and how it sits in the land or sits in the city. The public is certainly on board. I think the shift has happened with people. The shift has happened with governments and municipalities. I think the big problem is builders. Builders have had it very comfortable. The product doesn’t change at all. So I think if government raised the standards for building codes – national building codes, Ontario building codes – then we would find a serious business opportunity for developers. The lessons are all in Europe and Japan. What has to be done is that we need to have more buildings where case studies can be carried out so that we develop more insight, more data. Then we can design an alternative so we can become more convincing to money managers and provide justifications that paybacks on green or sustainable measures actually happen sooner than we think."

Qasim Virjee
Martin Liefhebber, Daniela Bryson, Elise Hodson
XXth
CANADA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.




Learning Objectives

Students apply the design process through research and collaborative problem-solving. They gain an appreciation for alternative, environmentally sound architectural practices and apply several principles of sustainability to a preliminary plan for a residential community. Students compare and evaluate construction methods and materials; consider their effectiveness in a Canadian climate; identify potential barriers to unconventional construction methods, and formulate arguments in defense of green building practices. Students engage multiple learning styles and cognitive skills; practice planning, organization, and interpersonal skills through group work, and use current technology to research the problem and render their final designs.

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