Thursday, 29 December 2011

Do CFL bulbs make sense in Vancouver?

A CMHC study identifies that although CFL bulbs do reduce the electrical energy needed for space lighting by up to 68%, in a predominately heated region these savings are offset by an increase in space heating loads as the interior of the home is no longer being partially 'heated' by the traditional 'inefficient' light bulbs.  In Vancouver, this increased heating load clawed back much of the savings and only resulted in a overall energy savings of $10-12/year (based on 2008 energy costs).

A further consideration before switching is looking at what provides the heating energy in the home.  For those of us concerned about the environment and the planet's ability to survive the onslaught that we humans throw at it, does it make sense to replace an electrical heating source ('inefficient' light bulbs) operating at 100% efficiency with a gas heating source operating between 50% to 90% overall efficiency (depending on age of gas appliance) and at the same time belching out all that carbon compared to our relatively clean electrical supply we enjoy in BC?

I welcome your comments.

Friday, 23 December 2011

School is Over!

Here is the next installment of how I came around to wanting to build and live sustainably.

High School is now but a distant memory and I never need to learn again, right?  Now what?

Well, I had trained to be a carpenter, so let’s get going.  I came to an agreement with a Journeyman working on a dwelling a few doors down from where I was living in Richmond.  I just needed to sign the apprenticeship papers.  I had been working for this fellow for a few weeks as a labourer to get a feel for the ‘real world’.  On one particular day, I had spent many hours prying out 2”x12” Floor joists installed at 12” centres with a nail gun (they had been set at the wrong spacing and elevation - but not by me). That evening, I ended up in the hospital with a set of pulled back muscles, interrupting a Christmas get-together with my uncle’s family in Abbotsford.  I took the opportunity to re-analyze my career path.  My family members generally had a history of bad backs and I soon realized a life in construction was probably not a prudent course for me.  Looking back, with hindsight, this was probably one of the best decisions I have ever made, as I avoided the downturns of the construction sector throughout the 80’s and 90’s and saved my body for the project I plan today - 25+ years later.

So after a few part time jobs I landed up in a spot I would have never guessed.  I landed a desk job as a professional purchaser for a chemical engineering firm with plants all over the world.  I generally worked in a two man department responsible for sourcing and supplying spare parts and replacement equipment for our 60 plus clients at locations throughout the planet.  This was a good fit for me as I was given a LOT of autonomy and wore many hats.  I became known as the “efficiency natzi” during my 19 year career there because I was always looking at ways to make the processes more efficient.

The frustration I had for inefficient processes raised its head one day when I was asked to take over the logistics on a project that was almost completed and ready to start up.  Those in the business will know that this is when the most activity takes place and ALL shipments are RUSH shipments.  My frustration with a spreadsheet based shipping and logistics system reached a climax one day and I proceeded to become self taught in Microsoft Access data base design (I thought the learning part of my life was over – I already know everything - right?)  I created a program that took a process that previously took hours to prepare the data and close to an hour to just generate the print job, to a process that just required ongoing updates to the order data and then the press of a button when it came time to print the packing lists.  15 minutes later, the 100 or so page packing list was ready at the printer.  Not wanting to stop there, I then pressed to expand this system to include purchase order and requisition generation and was able to reduce information previously entered 3 times into different systems into only 1, saving hours of work and reducing errors.

It was while working at this company that I started to think about the bigger picture.  I saw the destruction that many of our clients were causing to the environment and to the residents living near their chemical plants.  And while many of the products designed by the company I was working for greatly reduced the impact of our client’s plants (we had a division that did nothing else besides producing processes and equipment that reduced the amount of nasties discarded by a plant), I still was developing guilt for what ‘we’, as a company, were part of.

It was also during this period at the beginning of the 21st century that I also started to make personal changes to how I impacted the planet.  At work and at home, I switched to a generally paperless system.  I started scanning all inbound paper so that it could be stored and retrieved efficiently in an electronic format (why continue buying filing cabinets).  I moved away from faxes and snail mail and now emailed most documents to all my vendors and clients.  The volume of paper printed by me had dropped by many factors and I was now able to retrieve information in a much more efficient format allowing me to handle larger volumes of work (sounding a lot like my high school projects).

I was now determined that no matter how small my contributions were, I was going to start making a difference!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Living Life in Vancity

A shout-out to a colleague (Alexis Morgan) who is also documenting his personal journey through renovating an older home in the East side of Vancouver into a modern and efficient structure to serve his family for decades to come.

Check it out at