The building blocks for a resilient future
Canada is at the centre of an international climate change revolution. With weather becoming more extreme every year, and increased accounts of floods and wildfires across the continent, our society must operate on a global and local scale to make the best decisions we can to help our country reach its carbon reduction goals in an innovative and clean economy.
The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change released a discussion paper last year entitled “Ontario’s Climate Change,” which addressed various ways current homes could be outfitted to become more resilient and more sustainable in the long-term. With housing booms breaking previous records within Ontario, however, it’s also extremely important to look at what’s being done to ensure our new buildings are being built with resiliency and sustainability in mind.
Homeowner concerns about flooding between 2011 and 2015 have almost doubled, according to a consumer preference report by Redfern research. In 2014, Burlington was rocked by a catastrophic storm which resulted in over $25 million in insurable damages. In 2013, Toronto endured the “Southern Ontario Flash Flood,” which resulted in over $800 million in damages.
These scenarios, and the promise of more, have driven insurance rates up. Consider that private insurers will not cover the cost of homeowners’ overland flooding damage, and it’s easy to see why this is a growing concern for many Canadians. When wood and drywall absorb contaminated floodwater, replacing the wall is unavoidable.
According to the United States’ Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), block walls are flood-resistant and should be used on lower stories to mitigate damage. They will not need to be replaced and the porous nature of the surface allows for moisture to evaporate. An external layer of brick with a waterproof membrane can increase flood-resistance.
A study by the Fraser Institute says more than one million households in Canada are spending over 10 per cent of their incomes on energy bills, which means smart planning is essential in creating buildings that are comfortable as well as energy efficient. When purchasing a home, ensure your wall system is sustainable. A high-mass building will save 8 to 13 per cent more than a low mass building of the same size. Brick, block and stone have a high thermal mass, which allows it to absorb heat, store it and gradually release it. Energy can be released through the attic and basement, so make sure high quality insulation is used to maximize your savings.
Masonry manufacturers are always looking for new ways to create the same resilient product in a more sustainable way. CarbonCure has been helping concrete plants make cleaner products by recycling carbon dioxide back into concrete. Since the 1990, the Canadian cement industry has reduced its energy consumption by 20 per cent.
Decisions that may seem small in the grand scheme add up in the long-term, and history shows it’s the long-term that matters.
Think smart; when choosing your home, consider more than today’s price tag and look at how it will impact your life tomorrow.
MasonryWorx is a not-for-profit association of brick, block and stone professionals dedicated to upholding the benefits of masonry products.