Our old house is finally being demolished… so next year we can finally start landscaping.
There’s a lot I could say about demolition and the environment. We really wanted someone to ‘deconstruct’ rather than demolish the house, but we could not find anyone to do this. Most did not reply. One guy came and had a look then never got back in touch. Others were busy. The demolition company we ended up using, Environmentall, has saved the windows for Habitat for Humanity but not much else escaped the machine. They do, however, sort the remains and recycle whatever they can. I don’t know how much that is in practice.
The other day I posted about one of several probably entirely preventable problems we’ve had over the last couple of years since moving in – the problem of HRV operations at low temperatures. The second of these problems also has to do with low temperatures, but this time relating to door handles and locks. It’s not something I would ever have thought about before building this house, since we never used to bother locking our front door in our old house, but since we now have a front door that automatically locks when you leave, door locks have become an important topic, especially in winter.
Our front door, a passive house certified, super-insulated model made by a company called Tarredo in Germany, is the single most expensive item in the house. It’s also very secure: you can’t just leave it unlocked. And the only way of opening it is with a key – and there is no turnable handle or back-up. This might not seem like a problem, but the lock is also a cold bridge to the outside, and because of the frequent high contrast in temperatures between the inside and outside, we sometimes get a significant build up of ice in the lock itself.
We’ve already had to replace the lock spindle once, as last winter it ‘cold-welded’* to other parts of the lock and sheared off. That’s right, it broke in half! I only recognised what had happened because this is an occupational hazard for cyclists – winter temperatures can often result in seat posts becoming chemically bonded to the inside of the frames of bikes. It makes me wonder whether these lock mechanisms have ever been tested down to the kinds of extreme winter temperatures we get in Canada (as low as -30ºC here).
The solution we’ve come up with is threefold:
1. grease the spindle with some heavy grease that works at low temperatures;
2. spray de-icer into the lock periodically in winter; and
3. Simply cover the lock itself to prevent the passage of moist air from outside to inside. I made a neoprene and duck tape cover, which works just fine.
*yes, I know that technically this is not ‘cold-welding’ in the sense of metals combining in a vacuum.
While we’ve been through an interesting journey building our own place, there are many people in Canada who don’t have the choice of doing so. This is an amazing country in many ways, but its deepest and most unresolved issue remains its relationship to First Nations, and the conditions in which many indigenous people are living, after years of colonial dispossession, extermination, and attempts to destroy culture and connections to the land. The housing situation in indigenous communities is one of the worst current scandals. Many indigenous communities have terrible housing conditions, made worse rather than improved by multiple failed central government attempts to improve things with inappropriate and ill-thought out solutions.
But this is a government issue, right? Nothing I can do about it personally? Well, leaving aside what we might do to organise at that level, there are many things one can do to support indigenous communities, and in the area of sustainable, livable housing, there is a new and excellent initiative which we’ve been following to support the development of a new model for sustainable, expandable indigenous housing. The One House, Many Nations project is now at the stage of building a prototype to take forward to design expos and look for further funding for improvement and eventual implementation.
We encourage everyone to give the project something. They are looking to raise just $50,000 in the next month. If everyone who regularly reads this blog gave $50 that would almost cover it. It’s not a lot. But it could make a huge difference.