Halifax Green Builders Collective does it naturally

Quietly, softly, a group of local architects and builders are taking using an integrated design approach to create more natural buildings.

It hasn't got a name, a phone number, a website or its grant money, but a Halifax Green Builders Collective is happening.

"Clients want it," says Anne Sinclair, an architect with a lot of green knowledge and 25 years design experience, who sees how hard it can be for people to realize their ambitions for an ecologically friendly home. "They have good intentions but get overwhelmed."

What kind of windows are the most energy efficient for the money? Is solar or geothermal the best, most environmental investment? It's easy to let your conviction slip. "We've discovered there are gaps in the industry," says Sinclair.

Along with natural building expert Kim Thompson, Sinclair has a group of builders and architects united under a common, holistic goal: to help clients get the best, most environmental opportunities for their building and renovation projects right down the line. That means getting realtors and plumbers on board too, with everyone helping the client be more environmentally conscious. Sinclair says she can design any number of green solutions but if they go to tender and the contractor has ideas contrary to hers, it doesn't benefit the client.

"It's what they call an Integrated Design Process," says Sinclair, "with the end product more likely to be a success."

"It's more and more about skills and trades from other professions, linking them together," says Thompson. "The need for that has come out of our professional work and my work with the Ecology Action Centre. Everyone that's involved in it we've worked with in different capacities together."

Sinclair says what's most exciting about the new initiative are "really intelligent young architecture grads, locally and from Ontario, that are into it. It's so nice to be around them."

Kim Thompson's work on natural building extends to a Low Impact Forest Directory, assembled with the EAC and the Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association. It's a list of Nova Scotia-based businesses and organizations that offer services for people interested in sustainable wood products. Hard copies of the first edition are available for sale at the EAC, but the information is also available on the Eastern Shore Forest Watch website at forestwatch.ca. And if you are interested in wood products and printers endorsed by the Forest Stewardship Council, visit ecologyaction.ca or novascotiaforests.ca.

Another useful resource is Nova Scotia Green Sheets, a guide put together by Thompson and the students of the Dalhousie architecture school that should be available at the EAC by the time you read this, as well as through the Dalhousie architecture school website and on Thompson's website, naturalbuilding.ca. It's a sophisticated rating system for green building products available here in Nova Scotia.

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