Green Roofs

PA310813Five years ago, Robyn and I authored a paper for the Australian Federal House of Representatives Standing Committee for the Environment entitled Green Roofs for Sustainable Cities. This was our first collaborative effort and something we are still interested in with Climate Change and Peak oil more likely to impact our daily lives, environment and living spaces technologies like green roofs have the ability to offset many of the effects of increased weather variability and energy costs.

You can download the pdf of the paper below.


Almost five years ago in reference to Barriers to the adoption of technologies, I wrote…

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Greener Local Governments in BC

90046278_7b2ae3723f_m The British Columbia provincial government is working hard to be recognized as the greenest of all the provinces, with carbon taxes and sustainable transportation initiatives. The latest move is a mixed blessing for municipalities.

In looking for "solutions to climate change", local governments are being invited to seek solutions that "make their communities more environmentally sustainable".

CivicInfo BC – News

Once the legislation comes into force, local governments will be required to include greenhouse gas emission targets, policies and actions in their Official Community Plans and Regional Growth Strategies.

They will also be able to use development permits to promote energy and water conservation and the reduction of greenhouse gases, and encourage alternative transportation options for off-street parking. Developers who are building small housing units (29 square metres or less) will be exempt from paying Development Cost Charges. Local governments will have the ability to waive or reduce these charges for green development including small lot subdivisions and affordable rental housing.

Many of these initiative are already being used in progressive municipalities, with auditing of greenhouse gases and efforts towards water conservation two of the big ones.


The City of Rossland is in the process of reviewing their development cost charges, and will incorporate exemptions or discounts for smaller units. Rossland already uses building permits as a mechanism for requiring water conservation upgrades such as water meters and low flush toilets.

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Murphy Creek Intake Funding Approved for Rossland

The Provincial and Federal Governments have teamed up to provide a number of grants to communities in the West Kootenay Region.

434034082_1a3a6517ee_m The City of Rossland was one of the recipients of this funding under the Canada-B.C. Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund (CBCMRIF)

More than $345,000 in funding will help the City of Rossland to improve the upper Murphy Creek intake system. This includes cleaning of the pond behind a concrete dam, refurbishing of the concrete, installation of a new intake screen and upgrading the area’s access road. Approximately 1,440 households in Rossland will benefit from these improvements.

"This investment to upgrade the upper Murphy Creek intake will make a significant contribution to the health and wellness of our local community," said Gordon Smith, mayor of the City of Rossland. "Rossland will have access to a safer and more reliable source of water, which will also support the communities continued efforts towards achieving sustainable economic development."

West Kootenay Benefits from Infrastructure Upgrades – CivicInfo BC

Read more after the jump…


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Steel Buildings

7 In Australia, steel buildings, were pretty common, from residential framing, right through to commercial and industrial. Over here in North America, particularly in the North West, steel buildings seem to be predominately for commercial and industrial buildings.

Olympia Steel Buildings

Olympia Steel Buildings is the leading provider of pre-engineered metal buildings and prefabricated metal building systems in North America and Canada. Our metal steel buildings are the best choice for commercial buildings, industrial buildings or warehouses, agricultural or farm buildings, storage buildings and residential buildings including workshops and garage kits.

Steel is a very efficient material to work with for building construction. With pre-fabrication possible for all structural elements, the guesswork is kept to a minimum, and these guys have a huge range of structures that they can build for you, either pricing up your design, or you can choose from a pre-designed structure suitable for your purposes, and it will last…

A steel building can save you up to 50% in cost and time compared to conventional construction. A 25-year warranty on the roof, a 40-year warranty on the paint, a lifetime warranty on the stainless steel screws for the roof, and a 50-year warranty on the structural frames all mean that Olympia out performs your every expectation.

Check out steel as a construction material, even on smaller jobs, it can be very economical. Note that this company manufactures and distributes in both the US and Canada.

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Stormwater Consequences

Creek with Early Morning Sun - CC Licensed - prariedog - flcikr.comWhat do you know about stormwater? The science of determining how much runoff will be generated from a storm event is complex. Given a set of criteria such as land use, contaminants, slope, soil type, previous rainfall (antecedent moisture content), impervious areas, (roofs, roads, and driveways), snowpack, and temperature how does a stormwater engineer determine which ones are critical?

For the average project, it may be reasonable to make assumptions about many of these variables, but sometimes it is important to determine and model the processes that are occurring. Knowing when to ramp up the design effort requires some experience, but can usually be guided by simple engineering risk management principles and a review of the legislation that the project may fall under. Sometimes the effort in design and project management can offset huge consequences.

Just this week there have been reports out of the US of several projects where appropriate risk management may not have occurred. All of these examples are from the website, a good source of stormwater news and documentation of Best Management Practices used in the States.

Washington Wetlands Owner Cleared Illegally, Destabilizing Soil

Motoring along Interstate 5 in Lewis County near Winlock at exit 63, drivers can see the latest landowner illegally clearing land without a permit, causing sediment-laden water to run into a salmon bearing waterway. The Washington Department of Ecology has stepped up its actions against a landowner responsible for sending muddy water into Lacamas Creek while clearing a 190 acre site mainly consisting of wetlands.


Achtung Flutwelle - CC LIcensed - leisergu - Colorado Water District Ordered to Restore River

The Avondale Water and Sanitation District in Pueblo County, Colorado is in big trouble with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for illegally rerouting a river. The federal agency has ordered the Avondale district to restore the segment of the Arkansas River it re-engineered.

Anchorage Developer Let Stormwater Taint a Salmon Creek

The violations occurred… in Anchorage, Alaska. The stormwater discharges from the site entered Campbell Creek, a tributary of Campbell Lake where salmon are still found. Both Campbell Creek and Campbell Lake are “navigable waters” under the law and are waters of the United States.

These three examples highlight the risk of any project near or potentially impacting a waterway, and that even government organizations such as water and sanitation districts are not immune to federal legislation requirements. The legislation may be different around the world, but the need to ensure full compliance with local laws and best practice remains regardless. As developers, engineers or government agencies the first step is understanding your obligation under the local laws, then implementing risk management analysis to determine what measures or design features should be implemented to ensure compliance with these laws.

In each of these cases above, the same action fifty years ago may not have raised an eyebrow, but with our improved understanding of habitats and watershed management, the rules are tougher, and more expensive to mitigate against. Rivers, creeks, lakes and wetlands (previously called swamps) have amazingly diverse functions such as aquatic and wildlife habitat, potable water supply, flood attenuation, groundwater recharge, as well as recreation and aesthetic uses. In Newcaslte, Australia, the city we moved from a year ago, the local government had a program in place to rate the quality of aquatic wildlife in many of the urban creeks. This is called Creeks Alive, and is an opportunity for the community to be involved in protecting and rehabilitating the creeks that surround their homes. Also a year ago, (almost!), I wrote an article about frogs – which I dubbed our eco-canaries, these are the indicators of our stream health, when they start disappearing, it’s time to wonder what you are doing wrong.


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Smart TakeOffs

4 In the world of contracting, the accuracy of your quantity takeoffs often define your profit or loss. If your competitors have a better, faster, more accurate construction estimating system than yours, they may be winning more bids than you, simply by being more competitive, and having to spend less time on working out what the real quantities are.

Takeoff Live PDF

Takeoff Live PDF is the most elegantly simple, affordable digital takeoff software on the market today. It makes working on, managing and sharing any blueprint – from anywhere – easier than you ever thought possible, right on your computer screen. No digitizer or plan prints needed…you can even use a picture of your plans from your digital camera!

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Home Security

5267473_ee48a29599_m A few weeks ago, I finally got around to watching Michael Moore’s film, “Bowling for Columbine“, which I had heard a lot about, but just never gotten around to seeing. In my mind one of the great scenes is where he goes around some homes in Toronto Canada to see if it’s true that Canadians don’t lock their doors.

I can tell you that, regardless of what country I lived in, if I lived in a city as large as Toronto, I’d be locking my doors and wanting a home security system, if for nothing else than reducing excessive home insurance premiums, (apparently you can get savings of up to 20% in some areas)! Now, I don’t particularly feel threatened by home invasion or theft in our sleepy little town, but today I’m looking at what one of the big players in home and commercial security, ADT alarm has to offer as far as a website and online services, check out the end of the post for some of the things I think would be cool additions to this site. More after the jump…

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Finding the Exit

128141194_28d6bb854bExit signs are an important part of construction and building and facility safety. Do you think the exit sign in the photo is adequate? What about at night, what about if you were blind? There are different standards for exit signage and markings around the world, but as most of my readers are in the US, today, I’m reviewing a website that specializes in exit signs and emergency exit lights that comply with US regulations.

The store is very well laid out, great colors and easy navigation of products, particularly with some of the more specialist products such as photoluminescent aluminum stairwell nosings, which I’d never seen before, but look like a practical solution to the problem of emergency lighting not actuating or providing adequate lighting, or if the stair well were filled with smoke during an evacuation.

In addition to products, the website acts as a source of relevant code information, linking back to the relevant clauses in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration website.

exitroute-braille One of the interesting products that doesn’t get a lot of attention is braille exit signs. The Exit Store carries a range of commonly used braille signs, including those specified by the ADA and Californian Building Code. In addition to this special orders and tenders for larger projects are accepted as well.

The pricing appears excellent, and as a bonus, the Exit Store offers free shipping to Exit Sign and Emergency Light orders of 6 items or more and delivers via UPS Ground Shipping within the 48 Continental United States.


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