Monday, December 15, 2008

The Little Row House that eats up lots of energy...

Okay. This is my fourth try. Let’s hope I don’t lose the file yet again!

I know, jdid, there’s politics here and south of the border to talk about. Actually, these days my conversations about North American politics end up being diatribes about education. How can anyone be said to participate in a democracy without having a clear idea about how one's country is governed and the nature of the inputs one can make into that process? More on this in a bit.

This post is about old Toronto houses – or an old Toronto house. It’s one of a block of row houses, and similar to many such blocks all over Toronto. It’s a lovely little house, with a deck that looks out on a long skinny backyard garden, and a parking pad at the end that connects with a lane way so a car can park inside the premises. (Hate that word!) It’s got three bedrooms, one bathroom, modest living and dining areas and a nice big kitchen. The basement is partially finished. We own it, though sadly, given the economic climate, for how much longer, I don't know.

Row houses are clever. Joined at the front, living room to living room, they tuck in on alternate sides at the back so all the rooms can have windows on at least one side. But old row houses have one big minus. They are massive consumers of energy, and that’s the real burden of my present post. I’m hoping Al Gore, or David Suzuki, or David Miller, or Jack Layton, or Oprah or Michael Lee Chin or Raymond Chang or Robert Kennedy or the TD Green Mortgage CEO, or any green fan with funding will share my concern about making these hundreds of houses more energy efficient. They need insulation for the exterior walls and roofs. They need energy efficient windows and doors. They need energy star appliances. They need solar panels (those innocent of NF3, aka nitrogen trifloride – thanks to fsjl for the note below), barrels for collecting rainwater runoff, etc., etc.

The challenge is to make them into sustainable units, even if they can’t achieve zero footprint rating. I’d love to be involved in the effort. They could be rehabilitated a block at a time, and it would be a great way to educate neighbourhoods about greening.

So this is a shout out to any person or institution who may be interested in greening the row houses of Toronto. It would be great to hear from you.

Here’s the (lightly edited) note on NF3 from

Nitrogen trifluoride, or NF3, is used for cleaning microcircuits during the manufacture of... modern electronics, including … thin-film solar panels, the latest (and cheapest) generation of solar photovoltaics. … Because industry estimates suggested that only about 2 percent of NF3 ever made it into the atmosphere, the chemical has been marketed as a cleaner alternative to other higher-emitting options. For the past decade, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has actively encouraged its use. NF3 also wasn’t deemed dangerous enough to be covered by the Kyoto Protocol, making it an attractive substitute for companies and signatory countries eager to lower their emissions footprints.

It turns out that NF3 might not be so green after all. “NF3 has a potential greenhouse impact larger than … even that of the world’s largest coal-fired power plants,” according to a June 2008 study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine.


Jdid said...

hmmm I dont know. I relate to the concern but I'm guessing the powers that be would rather tear them down and turn them into new condo townhouses or something

clarabella said...

I think you are right, again, jdid. But we need to fix this energy business. I know. I was among the last persons to get back power in the blackout! I'd have loved to have an alternative source of even a wee bit of energy...