Building Inefficient Homes, Efficiently

Who has ever been in the situation of walking by a construction site?  I am not talking about a small home reno, I am talking about a massive buildings made of concrete, that houses millions and millions of people all over the world.  If you could use one word to describe your experience of walking by these massive developments on a Tuesday morning when everything is in full swing, what would that word be?   I would use the word NOISE!!!

 

construction-site-cranes.jpg

All that I can hear is jackhammers, yelling, saws, banging, clanking, all types of noise. I will go into more detail about this in a future blog about conventional construction sites vs natural building sites.    The construction industry has high rise concrete building construction down to an art.   As human beings I can say that we have got very efficient and putting together inefficient structures.   You may be asking yourself what does he mean by that?  I will give you a prime example of something most people are familiar with.  Concrete.   Concrete is a building material consisting of aggregate and Portland cement. Some industry professionals may say that concrete is not a very sustainable material. I am still in the process of figuring out my opinion on concrete.  There is arguments on both the sustainable and unsustainable side of the fence.  The manufacturing of Portland cement is extremely carbon and energy heavy.  However it is very  popular and  used extensively in residential, commercial, industrial and civil construction industries.

Lets create a scenario.

Lets say you are interested in building your own homee.  When you decided to start , and whatever material you use to build your home, you need a foundation of some sort.  Let me define foundation, it is the part of your structure which connects the building to the ground.  In all aspects of the construction industry, the most commonly used material is reinforced concrete. Reinforced concrete can be installed in a number of different forms such as slab on grade, poured in place,  cinderblock foundations, or Insulated concrete form(ICF).  These are currently the most readily available systems used when constructing in Vancouver, BC.  Different locations throughout the world may vary, however I would venture to say that concrete is definitely the number one material of choice in the industry.

I just “Google’d” Concrete Company Vancouver and found over 10 concrete supply companies within an hour of the downtown core.  The benefit of concrete is that it is widely used, industry accepted, and formulated to perform the same every time you use it.  As long as it is installed according to the specifications.

So what other alternatives are there?  Some of the more popular techniques in the Natural Building world are rammed earth tires(Popularised by Earthship Biotecture), hempcrete,  compressed earthblock, or drystacked stones.  I have also seen something called “Urbanite” which is still considered concrete, however is large pieces of concrete leftover from a demolition.  So where is the connection between efficient and inefficient building?  We are good as a society building with concrete.  As I mentioned there are over 10 companies that could deliver a full concrete truck to you tomorrow.  Lets say you want to used rammed earth tires, or hempcrete as your foundation?  Both of these techniques have been proven to be less carbon heavy than conventional concrete, and have also been proven to be just as strong.  However not as widely accepted.  So what does that mean?  That means if you are building a house with rammed earth tires as your foundation and you bring the designs to the city for a permit they are going to be asking a lot more questions, and you will need to be providing a lot more information about the strength, and performance of a rammed earth tire foundation.  This kind of information is not as readily available as concrete information is.  This is what I mean by that we are efficient at using an inefficient and unsustainable material such as concrete, and we are not as efficient at using less carbon heavy products such as rammed earthtires or hempcrete.

What I mean to say by this, and why I give this example is to show that we have become efficient at using a material, that isn’t very efficient.  We need to start putting the systems in place for using more efficient materials, just as efficiently.   We are definitely a long way away from having 10 rammed earth foundation companies within an hour of the vancouver area, however we can start moving in the direction.  The only way this will happen is using the studies we have for these alternative solutions such as hempcrete, and helping to bring them to the mainstream.

How do you do this?  Do your research, learn about the alternative products you want to use.  Connect with the people who are doing it so they can help you and offer advice.  Talk with your local building officials.  Discuss options, and share resources with them.  Over the next few months I will be publishing a blog posts on talking with building officials about alternatives to conventional construction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Currently in Vancouver BC  where I live I would be able to take you on a 20 minutes drive, and we would see a minimum of 15-20 buildings currently under construction.  This doesn’t include the ones that have been built in the last 5 years, nor does it include the ones that are currently in the development and permit stages.   That is a lot of poorly built buildings.  In that same drive we would see a 0.85 availability rate on rental housing, skyrocketing real estate prices, and homes being torn down an average of 3 per day.   How is this working?  How does this happen?   I am currently living, and working on some of these houses in Vancouver.  I am one of the people trying to make a name for myself in the industry and really trying to shift the way the industry works and operates. I am currently working as a project manager and I have worked on these types of buildings that I am talking about.  This is where I learned about building, processes, budgets, costs, carpentry and much else.   What inspired me to write this blog post, is certifications such as the Passive House Standard or The Living Building Challenge.   I personally believe that a shift in the building industry towards the Passive House and living building challenge principles would be a huge step for all of us.  Incorporation of community, and natural buildings products are also an integral part of the future way we build.  We can already start to see in different cities throughout BC that there is an opportunity for these types of buildings.   The municipalities are becoming  open and encouraging towards efficient buildings.  Now all we need to do is learn how to building Efficient Building, Efficiently.

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A word on the Design….

This week our designed Tyler Wied discusses his process and inspiration behind  the design of “The KAN”

 

“Kyle contacted me in early October of 2015 to discuss the idea he had for what eventually
became the KAN. I was in Toronto at the time and on my way to Central America for an
extended surf vacation. The opportunity to get involved in this project -along with the pull
of the Pacific North West- made me cancel my travel plans and fly back to YVR.

While studying towards my Architectural Tech. Diploma, I was heavily influenced by the
work of Samuel Mockbee, and specifically, the Rural Studio and his 20k house project. From this concept, I designed the moc pod in honor of Mr. Mockbee, but applied for the working poor of Calgary -where I was living at the time. The concept for what became the KAN was entirely in line with what I had championed during my education, and I was excited to apply my skills to something I was passionate about.
My early conceptual designs made use of several shipping containers at first. However, as
the finer-points of Kyle’s intention to make this a financially accessible and extremely
compact unit were revealed, the size was continually reduced to the single story unit you
see advertised on our website.
I have often answered in conversation that my love for design is focused on -what I have
come to call- microtecture. The puzzle-like challenge of doing more with less is far more
interesting to me than working with an unlimited budget. I volunteered one year with the
now defunct Architecture for Humanity who’s mission could be simply summarized as doingmore with less. Their two publications Design Like you Give a Damn 1 & 2 were both the catalyst to my studies, and subsequently, the guidebook for how best to apply my skills. The KAN is the first opportunity in my career as a designer to do just that.”

Tyler Wied

About Kyle

Hi, My name is Kyle Kozak and I am a journeyman carpenter living in Vancouver, BC. I have worked on all types of homes.  I have worked on cob and straw houses, Earthships in the desert of New Mexico, Custom homes in Vancouver and many more.

I have created this blog as a resource for people who are interested in building their own house, or connecting with people who are building amazing spaces around the world.  The KAN was designed to bring sustainability, community, teamwork and collaboration into home building.  This blog is space to share updates on our projects, ideas, concepts, tips and tricks.

Learn more here

 

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“The Kan”

“What do I want to do with my life?” Doctor? Lawyer? Dentist? Astronaut?  I decided to become a carpenter. My name is Kyle Kozak and I am a Journeyman Carpenter living in Vancouver, BC.   This is my first  blog post, an introduction to a home I have designed and will be building this year.  It started with dream of living off the grid in a beautiful space that is well designed and simplistic, We can’t forget affordable. Even bigger than that was an idea for an educational platform to educate others about home building.  This is where it started….

 

My first project was with my father.  Helping to dig out the basement addition at my childhood home. Learning how to renovate, and actually hand digging a basement.  My father was not aware they used machines for this.   That was the start, and now I will fast forward a few years.  It was the last year of High School and I got involved in a carpentry co-operative program.  This was an introduction for me, I started to learn home building,I thought  “this is for me”…..I spent years framing houses around Toronto.  It was while doing this I learned the definition of Urban Sprawl.  We would build one house, and then a next house, and then another one.  All on the same block, all the same design.  I asked myself, who wants this?  Is this what houses are?  People are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home.  It was not unique, it was not original, it was the same house as the one around the corner.   What happened to architecture?   Don’t get me wrong, there is a number of beautifully custom designed homes in Toronto and around the world.  I am also sure there are people that see the beauty in a custom designed home, most with  a hefty price tag.  When I say urban sprawl, I think you know the kind of neighborhoods I am referring too.  The ones that look the same when you pull into them, with small backyards, rows of townhomes.  It was all of this, that got me thinking.  I started asking questions, learning and exploring what else was out there.   This was the start of my journey, this is what started it all and got me to where I am today. Today I look back at what I have done,  Architecture school in Toronto, building houses of  mud, wood  and clay mixtures and participating in different workshops at O.U.R. Ecovillage, managing custom home builds in Vancouver with VictorEric Premium Homes,  Interning at Earthship Biotecture in New Mexico, Installing flooring and trim on tiny houses with Ben Garrett of Bright Green Construction in North Vancouver,  and deconstructing homes with Adam Corneil of Naturally Crafted Contracting.  All of these experiences leads me to where I am today and was the start of my latest project.  I am going to share the start of this project with you today.  A new infatuation of mine, that has my mind occupied in the days evenings and nights.  A compilation of my experiences, knowledge and ideas.  I sat down one day, and took a look at what I wanted to create.

These are the characteristics I used to create my project,

Education, community, and sustainability as learned from OUR Ecovillage.

 

Learn about O.U.R. EcoVillage HERE

 

Modular, just like Ben Garretts Tiny Homes

Take a look at Tiny Healthy Homes HERE

 

Luxury and clean design like VictorEric Premium Homes

See a video HERE of a beautiful custom home I was a part of building

 

Autonomous Housing, and reused materials learned from Earthship Biotecture

Learn more about Earthship Biotecture HERE

 

Salvaged wood and fine carpentry, learned from Naturally Crafted Contracting.

Learn More About Naturally Crafted Contracting HERE

I took these concepts and ideas, spent a few hours on Google sketch up, I spent time sketching and doing research.  Our end design, is the one you see today on my website.  It can also be found on www.the-kan.com.   Workshop dates will be announced shortly.

This initial design was created to be a reused 8×20 shipping container home.  Salvaged materials, autonomous, fine woodworking and much else.   I decided to put it up on Facebook, as most people do with things they are proud of nowadays and it was met with over 50 likes!  I couldn’t believe it.   That was a large amount for me, and I am still not sure why that gave it so much validation. It was after this when I decided to take it to my good friend Tyler Wied.   I wanted to make this look official and look real.  I worked with Tyler at VictorEric Premium Homes, and felt he was a pro at design, and making buildings come to life on the computer.   I would say that we both left our first meeting feeling really excited about what we were working on.   We played around with a few different designs, how big, how small, what kind of finishes.  Ironing out details, and discussing plans.   We came up with something amazing..

I brought my concept to Tyler, and he created “The Kan”  a modular self sustaining model home. Tyler Wied is a freelance designer in Vancouver.  He has done some great work, take a look at his website www.tylerwied.wix.com/rnobo-arch

We have designed this home with features that can be built on your own by taking one of our workshops.  We also offer building services to build it for you as well.  Take a look at our website at www.the-kan.com for more information!

Up to 90% of a home can be recyclyed

I have always been fascinated, with the amount of “waste” that gets put into the landfill every year.  I am specifically interested in how much construction waste gets tossed away.  I have grown up on construction sites, and 9 out of 10 times on sites, there is a bin.  usually about 10 ft tall, so you can’t see into them, and 15-30 ft wide.  I have seen everything go into these bins.  Leftovers from a bagged lunch that a co worker didn’t want anymore, beer cans or bottles from a couple drinks after a long week, a huge amount of coffee cups from the bosses truck that he cleans out once a week, drywall scraps from the renovation that is being done, old and new insulation from the house, wood(not just scraps, but full pieces of lumber), shingles, nails, screws, flooring, broken tools, the list can go on and on.

I have created this blog, to show the wider community, that there is some amazing people, creating some beautiful things, out of salvaged and re purposed materials. I have attached a number of links, of only a hand full of people and places, that are helping to make a shift, and change old paradigms, of what can and can’t be done in the building world.

This couple, created a house, out of entirely salvaged, and re purposed material.

http://earth911.com/home-garden/repurposed-windows-home/

This photographer, made an amazing art and education exhibit, out of plastic he got from all of the city.

http://www.entanglement.ca/

This is a list of tiny homes made of salvaged and re purposed materials.  Tiny homes are growing in popularity, and I will be doing another blog post about them in the coming weeks

http://dornob.com/pure-salvage-10-eclectic-tiny-homes-built-with-99-scrap/#axzz2wiULpLhw

O.U.R. Ecovillage on Vancouver Island, is a permaculture and natural building demonstration site, and have built numerous buildings and educated thousands of people on the value of using salvaged material, and natural building practices.

http://www.ourecovillage.org

I thank you for your time and checking out my first blog post!