Green Block Initiative: Home

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Personal Action

We set out to demonstrate that it was possible to retrofit a leaky hundred-year-old house to net zero… and in our case to derive 100% of the power from solar panels. After one and a half years of research, and another eighteen months of demo and construction, the goal has been met. Ours is also the first net zero example in Canada of insulating on top of the existing stucco façade. The city believes what we are doing is scalable. For our efforts, the city of Victoria has named us climate champions.

Community Event

“By switching away from an old fossil fuel heating system and by putting great effort into whole home energy efficiency upgrades, the Fernwood Net Zero retrofit project contributes to meeting our ambitious climate targets. The project has gone above and beyond and has redefined what the “home of the future” looks like. We hope it will inspire others in the community to take action and make their homes more climate-friendly.”

– John Ho, Community Energy Specialist, City of Victoria

We aren’t engineers, architects or builders – just well-intentioned generalists. We developed a website netzerovictoria.com to chronicle the journey to net zero to help others use what we have learned and build upon it with their own homes. Now that the house is complete, our aim is to network with municipal agencies, environmental interest groups and other influencers on Vancouver Island and across BC to hasten the pace of adoption of deep energy retrofits as an affordable alternative to demolition. We are working with allies to have them tell the story of the house. Two examples are:

Viridian Solar Coop

Viridian Energy

Local Furniture Maker Part & Whole

I am a new member of Yale Blue Green having been introduced to the initiative by my classmate and friend, Becky Bunnell.  I’m excited to be launching a Green Block here in Victoria and when in Chicago to support Margot and Judith in their efforts.

Global Vision

With a NetZero home we reduce our carbon footprint to reverse greenhouse effect and allow the earth to heal.

Personal Action

In Georgetown, one of Seattle’s oldest neighborhoods, Peter Reiquam has a combined storm and sanitary sewer as he describes, This project is scheduled for completion in May, 2021.”

“[Here] are a few pictures of my rain barrel collection,” writes Peter. “This is not a gray water system, we only use this water for irrigation of garden and potted plants and as a backup supply of water in the event of an earthquake or other disaster that might interrupt the supply of municipal water. As you can see, the barrels are elevated on galvanized steel pipe racks to improve head pressure, but we also use an electric pump to improve the flow when necessary.

Community Events

Peter lives just blocks from the Duwamish River which feeds directly into Elliott Bay and Puget Sound a few miles to the north. King County is currently building a CSO (Combined Sewer Overflow) facility between us and the river which will hold and treat excess runoff during major rain events and discharge clean water into the river.” 

Global Vision

What flows from the land affects ocean life.  Each home has an impact and everyone’s consideration of our waste effects the global water cycles, improves ocean life, weather, and our sustainability.

Personal Action

MillionTrees NYC is a public-private program to plant and care for one million new trees in NYC parks. ASAP! (Adopt Saplings Project) shows others how to care for saplings, our future urban canopy.

Community events

Chicago (and NYC) have what’s called a Combined Sewer System in which wastewater (sewage) and storm water go into the same pipes in the street leading to the sewage treatment plants,” David writes.  “So, when it rains even a little, the sewage plants can’t handle it and just throw the water into the rivers (or lake in Chicago’s case). Among other measures, NYC has been making bioswales that gather water from streets. Greenroofs also help with this since they act like a sponge and delay the runoff. NYC also now requires water retention tanks (usually underground) for the same reason. Chicago has installed a deep tunnel to slow the run-off of larger storms. The Chicago Regional Tree Initiative (CRTI) will plant 22 million saplings for carbon storage and heavy rain absorption.

Global Vision

With increased volatile weather including higher wind, heavier rain, warmer temperatures trees break the wind, absorb rain and keep our homes and transportation routes cooler. The carbon we exhale is captured in tree trunks and exchanged through leaves to give oxygen for us to breath.

Personal Action

One Drop at A Time, the award-winning work of Marcus de la Fleur a demonstration of the use of green roofs, porous pavement, rain barrels, swales, and controlled burn to mitigate runoff and properly value rainwater,” said Wendy Littlefield.  “There is some arresting side by side footage which shows how much more effective his solution is than conventional yard and sidewalk treatment. DelaFleur did this work more than a decade ago.

Global Vision

The goal is to turn the building into a net zero home with a sustainable and resource-efficient landscape. He is chronicling this transformation – deeply nerdy and great.” 

Community events

Marcus de la Fluer came  to Chicago from Kew Gardens to build the green roof on the Betty Notebaert Museum in Lincoln Park. Now he is at work on a deep energy retrofit on a 100 plus year old masonry two flat house in the city.

Gutters send water into a container that is used to water nearby gardens. Collecting water slows runoff during storms.

Margot’s family had twenty-five years in an old home with a new studio. Some of their energy saving projects coincided with the Obama-Biden administration’s home improvements that included tax credit incentives. The McMahon-Burke family followed the U.S. government program:

1. Insulate
2. install New Windows
3. Community purchase of Solar Panels
4. Collect Runoff Water with a neighborhood group buy
5. subsidized Energy Audit
6. subsidized Electric Cars
7. Rooftop Gardens

The Biden Administration’s environmental initiatives encourage saving energy.

Twenty Solar World panels (Chicago area group purchase) were installed on the studio rooftop (each panel coverts to 120 on the panel) feeds through a smart meter to farm energy for the Com Ed community. The smart meter measures our farmed energy output and incoming household electrical needs. With SREC Trade our farmed solar energy is sold to offset our installation costs. Government subsidized programs like these encourage community solar purchases, insulation, social event energy audits, tax incentives by reducing upfront costs to farm and reduce energy use. 

Personal Action

By reducing our electrical needs with Insulation, Environmentally Efficient Windows, retaining water-run off, reflective white roof tiles, electric car, rooftop garden and vertical vines, Energy Star hot-

water heater, furnace, refrigerator and electric washer-dryer, LED lightbulbs and removing carpeting our energy bills dropped from $130/month to less than $10.  The farmed solar energy contributes more to Com Ed customers while we consume less in our home.


Chicago-area Energy Star appliance and contractors:

Solar Installation: Ailey Solar: Jack Ailey jack@aileysolarelectric.com 312.802.9004

Peerless MI-07 Boiler  Goodberlet Electrical  866.355.7710

LED lightbulbs and fixtures  Hortons of LaGrange 708.352.2110

Hot water heater (heat as you use) Navien NPE condensing heaters

Miele All-Electric clothes washer and dryer Appliance Connection 800.299.9470 

Community Events

“Nearly annually our home invited neighbors and the community for Garden Walks, Art Studio Tours, Block Party Visits, and Food Co-op Tours to view Espaliered Fruit Trees, Vines on pergolas, Maple Tree Sap Tapping, ,” Margot said. “Tours not only shared these installations, visitors taught me about policies and governmental structures.”

Global Vison:
One Home at a Time

Energy used and dissipated around homes burns more carbon, heats the immediate environment and reduces the comfort within our four-season home.  By retaining heat and air conditioning, LED lighting and heat as you go hot water heaters, we burn less carbon -one home at a time.

Wisteria vines grows on wooden framework on top of a roof for a lightweight rooftop garden. Heat from the room below keeps the greenhouse warmer throughout the winter for cold weather vegetables.
The rooftop pergola structure is lifted off the roof shingles for drainage and allows vines to cover a screened porch and a sunroom roof.  This lightweight version of a green roof garden protects the shingles and avoids extensive structural support. A deck allows a sitting area and is painted bright white to reflect the sun’s rays back to the atmosphere
While the snow is still on the ground a 3/8” hole is drilled in the yard’s Maple bark and a spigot is tapped with a hammer into the hole.  Gallons of sap drip continuously from this tiny hole from the upwelling of sugar water that fuels the tree buds. The sap is boiled down to a wee bit of syrup used for cooking and pancakes with no shipping costs.
Solar panels over white reflective roof shingles fuel an electric car, the studio, and home. Vertical berry plants along the south wall save space.