Tag Archives: sustainability

Prairie Spruce Commons is Sustainably Built

Several participants at our ‘Journey to the Heart of CommunitySustainabilityOpen House last month told us they were drawn to the event because of the words ‘Sustainably Built’ in our advertising in the Leader Post. This got me thinking more about the sustainable features of Prairie Spruce Commons. Sustainability is an economic, social, and environmental concept that involves meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The following are examples of some of the sustainability features of Prairie Spruce Commons.

Social Sustainability:

  • lots of shared common spaces;
  • respecting needs for private space and time;
  • exceeding sound proofing requirements between floor and between units;
  • perfecting our consensus decision-making skills;
  • widening the circle with Friends of Prairie Spruce and others who are interested in growing community;
  • meeting Universal Design standards to make it safer, easier, and more convenient for everyone; and
  • having fun together in community!

Environmental Sustainability

Economic Sustainability

  • reduction in energy costs because of exceptional energy efficient design of building;
  • reduction in upkeep in maintenance costs due to use of quality materials with longer lifespans;
  • lower required equipment and resource ownership through sharing (e.g. snowblowers);
  • car sharing option reducing maintenance and insurance costs;  and
  • lower food costs through community gardening and meal sharing.

You can clearly see our enthusiasm for sustainability in our Badham Boulevard Video on Vimeo.

Brenda

What's In Your Toilet?

In most Canadian cities we could drink out of our toilets. Doesn’t sound too appealing, but we could if the toilet bowl had been thoroughly sanitized.  The same water that comes out of our taps is used to flush our toilets. In a world of increasingly scarce fresh water does this make even an ounce of sense?

I remember the first time I was told there is no new water. All the water on Earth is the same water that was here since the earth was formed about 4.6 billion years ago. This seemed impossible to believe. Water is always shape shifting: ice bergs, snow, hail, rain, rivers, lakes, oceans, glaciers, fog, mist, frost, ground water, tap water. But it is always the same water!  The same water has been cycling for 4.6 billion years.  But it is not in the same condition it was even fifty years ago. In Canada at any given time, there are usually 1000 boil water advisories in effect. Safe drinking water is essential to life and we are using it to flush our toilets!

There is an alternative. It is called grey water recycling. Grey water is defined as wastewater generated from sinks, showers and baths, which can be recycled on-site for uses such as toilet flushing, landscape irrigation and constructed wetlands. Grey water often includes discharge from laundry, dishwashers and kitchen sinks.  In July 2012, Bruce Nagy wrote the following in Plumbing and HVAC, The Voice of Canada’s Mechanical Industry.

It is probably wise to be skeptical about the next big thing. But sometimes it is just common sense; like the coming move toward more grey water recycling, especially in cities……… Whichever systems are used, there should be plenty of commercial and residential grey water and rainwater business available to contractors in the coming years. One could even say it’s the next big thing!

The Research and Innovation Centre at the University of Regina uses a grey water recycling system that is part of the research work of Dr. Stephanie Young. With the guidance of Dr. Young, the  design for Prairie Spruce Commons includes plumbing infrastructure for grey water recycling.  We plan to work with the City of Regina to seek approval to be a multi-residence grey water research site.

Our Prairie Spruce Commons Community is excited and eager to be a leader in environmental innovation in Regina. Are you the type of person that is passionate about sustainability issues and wants to be part of the solution? If so, we’re looking for more early adopters to join us on the quest to Green Regina.

Brenda

Journey to the Heart of Community this Sunday

Members of Prairie Spruce are deliberately creating a sense of place where neighbours will watch out for each other’s safety and wellness.  Being well connected to a supportive and caring group of neighbours is healthier and promotes wellness at all ages. 

Journey to the Heart of Community is an informal information sharing event being held at the Neil Balkwill Civic Arts Centre on Sunday, November 9, from 1 to 5 p.m. Please use the link above to share with your friends who might be interested in this community or to RSVP yourself. 

We warmly invite you to take this opportunity to stop by and investigate this vibrant community in the heart of Regina.  Prairie Spruce Commons has a selection of unit designs to choose from, along with extensive amenities on site. Learn about the LEED Gold certifiable sustainability design features, and enjoy coffee and conversation with members and friends of Prairie Spruce.  

Lois

Life in Commons

Commons /kämənz/: [noun] – land or resources belonging to or affecting the whole of a community.

Now I really get it! Prairie Spruce Commons! I have been looking at the promotional packages for other condominium buildings in Regina and see that their suites are comparable to what Prairie Spruce Commons is offering. But outside the door of those suites, where are the Commons? Where are the shared spaces that help to create community and culture? It would be like living in Regina without Wascana Park! Not something I want to imagine.

But I do enjoy imagining my life in the commons at Prairie Spruce Commons. I mentally go through the list of vistas, in all the directions afforded to me from all the commons. I could go to the commons dining room on the main floor, or the terraces on the second and third floor and see what is happening in the western sky. I could also go to the sewing room/arts room on the third floor, or the lounge on the first floor to see the north sky. I could check out the view from the two guest rooms. Or perhaps the view into our courtyard, garden and play structure from the commons kitchen. I could look upon the cool hobbyist projects in the workshop with all those power tools that I love. I imagine enjoying the use of our media/music room, our bike share space, our exercise room… These will all be part of the commons at Prairie Spruce Commons.

Beyond our amazing shared amenities, there is the commons within and beyond the building: that precious commons of air, water and people. Residents eager to install solar voltaic panels and invest in sustainable and efficient design. Innovators willing to investigate the use of grey water recycling in Regina. Neighbours seeking to reduce overall energy consumption and lighten their footprint through resource sharing.

What a joy it will be to live in a community that celebrates the generosity of the commons.

Brenda

12+ Years of Profit from the Sun

When I was young I loved the sun. It gave me summers to ride my bike and an excuse for ice cream. These days I have a love/hate relationship to the sun. I love the sun for the warmth and light it brings, but hate it for the skin cancer it can cause. I slather on lotion to protect myself from the harmful UV that it bathes us in. I love it for the summer but am bitter with it for disappearing for the winter. I love it for the energy that it has given us, for the plants that grew and died and gave us oil and natural gas. I love it for the wind that it creates by heating some parts of the earth more then others. I love it when I look at a green pepper or a red tomato.

Lately, I have found a new reason to love the sun, the electricity it can create for us. I am talking about photovoltaic solar panels. These wonderful devices create electricity that I can use. They are simple to install, have long life spans and short payback periods. In looking for the panels that will adorn Prairie Spruce Commons soon, I have examined the cost and feasibility of installing 40 solar panels on the roof and getting them net metered. The panels have a life expectancy of 25 years. That is, the panels that begin making use of 97% of the suns power have steadily declined until at 25 years they are only producing 80% and are thus considered at the end of life. This does not mean that they fail after 25 years, just that they have lost efficiency. The current cost of panels and electricity lead me to calculate a payback period of 13 years! And this is a conservative estimate since I haven’t factored in any escalation in cost of electricity. In other words, the ~13000 KWH that those 40 panels produce will save enough from our power bill that in under 13 years they are totally paid for. After that they will continue to produce power and save me money into the future. At some point I might want to replace the old panels with newer ones with peak efficiency but if I don’t the old ones will continue to produce power into the foreseeable future. The best part, is the fact that once installed they will work with a minimum of maintenance. A quick rinse and squeegee to clear off dust and bird poop on a regular basis and you have free energy.

The solar panels produce electricity and the power gets sent out to the grid while your meter turns backwards. You use electricity as you normally would, though much more sparingly as you conserve power knowing what is involved in creating it. At the end of the year your meter is checked and if you have used more then you have produced you pay for the extra power you purchased. If you produce more then you use, good for you, but you won’t get a cheque for your extra power, this is not a power producing arrangement. That is possible but requires different equipment and agreements with the power company.

Saving money through the use of solar panels is nice.
The feeling of well-being knowing you are doing good for the environment, priceless!

Henning

Waking Up to the Possibilities

It is amazing how much I don’t notice in my surroundings. I have been to Nature’s Best Market hundreds of times but I never realized the smoothie bar utilizes solar power. At the west end of the smoothie bar there is a beautiful wall installation showing the solar input and what it is powering.

Laurie Gillies, co-owner of Nature’s Best and member of Prairie Spruce Commons, provided our community a tour of the installation. The silver-outlets are solely solar powered (the red arrow in the photo is pointing to a solar outlet). The blenders are used for hours each day so utilizing energy from the sun rather than from a coal fire generating plant provides the benefit of a delicious, nutritious smoothie, and leaves the oxygen in the air for us to breathe.

The solar radiation map for Canada makes it obvious that we have an abundance of sun in southern Saskatchewan. At Prairie Spruce we are committing to building and living in a green building that reduces energy consumption through high-efficiency fibreglass frame windows, increasing the insulation value in walls and ceilings, utilizing solar power, and using in-floor heating and cooling. Somehow, getting up close and personal with the solar installation at Nature’s Best has made what we are creating at Prairie Spruce more real to me and even more desirable.

If you want to know more about the energy consumption in your current home, you can click this link to find out the energy demands of many household appliances.

Brenda

 

Life Beyond Bigfoot

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Prairie Spruce Commons is committed to reducing our environmental footprint. Part of this commitment includes designing our building to use complementary power sources like solar power, but what does this really mean? Thanks to an information session with Ken Compton, local solar and wind energy expert, we are gaining more of an understanding of our options.

Life Beyond Bigfoot : Solar & Net-Metering

It is our intention to build so we are ready for future installation of solar voltaic panels. The panels have a 25 year life expectancy (production > 80%). We intend to produce power under Saskpower’s net-metering program.

Suncatcher Solar provides the following information about solar power output in Saskatchewan:

The amount of electricity you can produce depends on the size of the solar array and the amount of sunshine you receive in your area. For example, a solar power system with a 4.8 kW array (20 solar panels @ 240 Watts each) will produce an average of about 700 kWh per month in central Saskatchewan, Canada.  You can find out how much electricity you need by looking at your current power bills.

Why we will use complementary power sources:

  • Reducing our cost of living: S ask Power has applied for an annual rate increase of 5% for the next two years.
  • When possible, generating power for sale:  The Sask Power Net Metering Program makes this possible.
  • Reducing our CO2 production and elevating our province’s energy status: Saskatchewan generates almost 75% of our electricity from coal fired electric plants and is currently Canada’s worst polluter per capita.

Save Money on Water, Natural Gas and Electricity…

Save money on water: we’re Grey Water ready.

  • Grey water systems use water from the sinks, dishwasher, showers and baths and pumps it back to use for the toilet and taps outside.
  • Grey water systems can save you up to 30% on your water bill annually.
  • In a world that is slowly running out of water, grey water systems reduce your water consumption by up to 30%, that’s a lot of water saved!

Save money on gas. Geothermal/radiant in-floor heating and cooling has many benefits.

  • It’s cleaner than a forced-air system because you aren’t blowing dust around.
  • Gas boilers usually have to be replaced of need to be fixed in a major way every ten years, radiant in-floor heating can last up to fifty years, needing very little upkeep or maintenance.
  • The payback on the investment of radiant heating for houses and small buildings is said to be between five and seven years. For a condominium even a generous eight to ten years isn’t a bad payoff period when you consider we live in our house for several decades on end.
  • In-floor heating is more efficient because it heats where you are, near the floor.
  • The cost savings over a conventional heating and cooling system annually are approximately 30-60%.

Save money on electricity. Why we believe solar is a brilliant idea.

Don’t forget we’ll be talking about solar photovoltaic power with local expert Ken Compton at Nature’s Best this Wednesday August 20th. Hope you’ll join us there!

Prairie Spruce’s Answer to Cities for People Challenge

Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.

–Jane Jacobs

Prairie Spruce Commons is our way of saying YES to the invitation the Cities for People has issued:

At Cities For People, we see every city as an invitation. An invitation for interaction, innovation, change, inclusion, learning, love and growth. An invitation to think beyond the way things are and have always been, and come up with new ways to make where we live support how we would like to live.

I have been reading the Cities for People website and find it inspiring. It is helping me get out of the narrow marketing place where I have been stalled,  into a more transformative place. Yes, we need to have people purchase units, but reading Cites for People reminded me we are investing in more than walls and windows and doors; we are investing in a healthy vibrant community.

Brenda