How to reduce the ecological footprint of your home
5 March 2018
Each building has an ecological footprint. In addition, homes represent a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Quebec's real estate portfolio, however, emits fewer GHGs because we use 98.9% of electricity as the main source of energy for hydroelectricity. The fact remains that buildings are at the heart of future issues related to the city.
As Claude Villeneuve, professor and director of the Research Chair in eco-consulting, explains at UQAC: "Strong trends tend towards an increasingly urban humanity. However, the current cities are thought according to the automobile. The challenge of becoming urban is to build cities made for humans. We are already beginning to see that urban sprawl around large cities creates holes. For example in Detroit, they are complete neighborhoods that have been abandoned and are now inhabited by squatters, "says the biologist.
"In the region, too, we can make some observations. The number of homes for sale that can not find a buyer is a good example. This reality is very worrying, since it reflects another strong trend, namely the fact that more and more people are opting for new construction. And which says new construction, says urban sprawl, thus loss of agricultural and forest territories in favor of housing. In addition, urban sprawl has a huge cost for cities. "
Obviously, we can not force people to buy an existing home instead of building. However, there are good construction practices that can help reduce the environmental impact of a building. And it is not necessary to engage in a certification process, such as LEED, to reduce the ecological footprint of a building. By following a few simple rules, the pressure that a house exerts on the environment can be considerably reduced.
"When building a house, the location of the land is very important. Ideally, land adjacent to public transit and services should be favored, reducing the use of the automobile. Sunlight must also be taken into account to make the most of passive solar energy and, as far as possible, conserve biodiversity on the ground. With respect to the building, the living space must be defined according to our actual needs. Unfortunately in the construction industry, as in many other areas, having more energy-efficient buildings also pushes us to opt for larger living areas, resulting in increased efficiency. canceled. This is called the Jevons paradox, according to which the introduction of more efficient energy technologies can, in the aggregate, increase the total consumption of energy. Hence the importance of building a house according to its reasoned needs. Especially since there are ways to arrange your interior so as to create an effect of large rooms, for example, by using open areas. Architectural models with simple lines should also be favored, since they cost not only less expensive materials, but in addition they reduce the sources of heat loss from angles, "says Claude Villeneuve.
"Other important points are the quality of openings, materials and insulation, because an efficient home is first and foremost a comfortable home where you do not need to compensate for heat loss. So we opt for triple glass and well insulated doors. In the case of an existing home, the windows that are loosened are replaced and the sources of heat loss are reduced, for example by installing weatherstripping for the doors. "
Home automation and energy saving
In the era of smart home, smart car and energy self-generation, a building that has been integrated with home automation will be able to manage energy consumption much more efficiently. Since 25% of a building's performance is attributable to the behavior of its users, home automation has many advantages. For example, the installation of occupancy sensors in rooms can be an effective way to reduce heating consumption. Indeed, this type of system allows to adjust the heating according to the presence or not of individuals in the room.
"Home automation makes it possible to manage energy consumption more efficiently. However, these technologies are best applied in new buildings, since these are designed to include all of these elements. This is why it is recommended to opt for integrated design in a new construction project, which allows to think these elements upstream to take advantage of their optimal performance. On the other hand, there are some technologies related to home automation that can be applied to an existing home. However, their effectiveness will be less than if they had been integrated at the time of construction, "says the Chair of the Chair in eco-consulting.
Small daily actions
"When you want to reduce the ecological footprint of your home, you have to think globally, that is to say that you have to take into account the origin of the materials, until the end of life. building. Because at the time of the demolition, some materials can be reused. Since reducing applies to the size of the house and its accessories, it must also change its behavior. In addition, the consumption of hot water must be made in a reasoned manner. For example, by reducing the duration of your showers, choosing low-flow showerheads, and using the dishwasher only when the dishwasher is full, your consumption is reduced. Instead of systematically using the dryer to dry the laundry, you can extend some loads. All of this may seem simple, but in the end, these behavioral changes can save between $ 200 and $ 300 per year for a two-person household, "says Villeneuve.
"If, in addition, households have a garden and compost and recycle, they will further reduce the environmental footprint of their homes."
Quality before fashion
"If I had one last piece of advice, I would say, beware of fashion. Quality should take precedence over style and trends. It does not cost more, over a lifetime of 10 years to have a quality home, well built, than a bad house. In addition, a well thought and quality home will be more efficient and more comfortable. You have to take the time to think about your home, to study its design and to favor the use of natural materials and, as far as possible, of local origin ", concludes Claude Villeneuve.