Energy Efficient Construction

Environmental Justice & Net Zero Homes

Today on Terra Informa we’re joined by Professor Julian Agyeman who tells us about his work exploring the connections between social justice and sustainability. We also speak to two home owners who are pushing the limits of energy efficiency. Shafraaz Kaba and Matt McCombe talk about their experiences building high efficiency homes and what they learned along the way.

Download this week’s show.

The Mill Creek net zero home in Edmonton. Photo courtesy of Conrad Nobert.

Julian Agyeman
Julian Agyeman is chair of the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University in Boston-Medford, Massachusetts. His research focuses on the intersections between social justice and sustainability, an idea which he terms just sustainability. He describes just sustainability as “the need to ensure a better quality of life for all, now and into the future, in a just and equitable manner, whilst living within the limits of supporting ecosystems”. Kathryn Lennon spoke with him about the need for the sustainabilty movement to broaden its work beyond ecological and conservation issues, to include issues of inequality and social justice.

More on this story: Julian’s Blog

Net Zero Homes
When it comes to high efficiency, net zero is the holy grail. That’s when you construct a building that’s so efficient it requires only minimal amounts of heat and electricity, and then you supply that power by adding some form of green energy generation to the structure — solar panels, wind turbines, or geothermal heating. On a day to day basis it may draw some power from the grid, or feed some back in, but over the course of a year things average out and it doesn’t consume any energy at all. The initial investiment can be a bit pricy, but the idea is that over the lifetime of the building it really pays off. Shafraaz Kaba and Matt McCombe are huge proponents of energy efficient buildings. Shafraaz is an architect and Matt is a builder, and they both practice what they preach in their own homes. Terra Informa spoke to them about what it’s like to live in a high efficiency home, and what a person needs to know if they want to make the switch.

Edmonton Listeners: Matt and Shafraaz will be part of a free panel discussion on net zero homes on Wednesday evening at Grant MacEwan University. Full details here.

More on this story: Shafraaz’s Blog: Chasing Net Zero, Shafraaz on The Nature of Things with David Suzuki, Solar Energy Society of Alberta, Canadian Net Zero Resources, CMHC EQuilibrium Program

News Headlines
Canada joins coalition to cut emissions of short-lived climate pollutants
Canada is putting a small wedge of its climate funding into a new program to reduce some of the short-lived pollutants that contribute to climate change. Environment Minister Peter Kent said the government will join a group of six countries, including the US, Mexico, and Bangladesh to fund programs reducing soot, methane and hydrofluorocarbon emissions in the global South. These chemicals are major players in forcing climate change, but they don’t last as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

More on this story: Letter in EOS (PDF Format), Nature Blog, BBC News, World Wildlife Fund

Low doses of pollutants linked to diabetes
An increasing amount of research suggests that some pollutants may be bigger culprits than obesity in causing diabetes. Dr. Duk-Hee Lee, a researcher at Korea’s Kyungpook National University School of Medicine, has been examining studies on populations affected by obesity and type 2 diabetes, and possible links to chemicals called persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Dr. Lee’s review, published in the journal Epidemiology and Health, showed that in one US study, type 2 diabetes rates were 15 to 40 times higher in populations with higher levels of one class of POPs. Studies on other animals suggested POPs can affect the body’s hormone regulation, and end up suppressing release of hormones like insulin.

More on this story: Epidemology and HealthEnvironmental Health Perspectives

Prime Minister please unmuzzle the scientists
The Canadian Science Writers Association published an open letter addressed to Steven Harper this week. The letter, titled “Prime Minister please unmuzzle the scientists” urged the PM office to stop a practise where federal scientists are censored and stopped from speaking with journalists without the permission of a public relations officer. They stated that the PM’s office routinely delayed or even stonewalled media interviews with federal scientists who could give valuable perspectives on contentious issues. The letter argued that the government has employed this strategy to take informed dialogue out of the news cycle in order to create an “atmosphere dominated by political messaging.

More on this story: Canadian Science Writers Association, CBC News, Montreal Gazette

Natural gas firm to face charges over pipeline leak
SemCAMS ULC faces several environmental charges after one of their pipelines leaked near a creek in west-central Alberta. The leak released approximately 850,000 litres of saline water, impacting a large area downstream and destroying wetlands. SenCAMS ULC did not immediately report the spill causing further environmental damages. The entire pipeline has since been replaced. The company’s representatives are expected to appear in provincial court on April 23 to face charges under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.

More on this story: Calgary Herald, Winnipeg Free Press, Toronto Sun