In this issue
- Inspirational Lessons in Green Building
- Featured Upcoming Project
- New SIREWALL Licensees
Inspirational Lessons in Green Building, Backed by Experience
Now that green building is hitting the mainstream there are a wealth of approaches, with a plethora of finishes and décor, illustrating what Trendwatching.com calls the ECO-BOUNTY – “the numerous emerging opportunities for brands that participate in the epic quest for a sustainable society”. What is missing from most of this ‘bounty’ is a solid track record of research and performance measures to support the green claims and earthy ads which accompany these brands.
It is refreshing and inspiring to learn from a green building expert who has forty years of varied and practical experience as an environmental builder, as well as a genuine enthusiasm for the industry. After testing a number of green building approaches, including a floating house resembling a giant boot made of fully recycled materials; SIREWALL Founder Meror Krayenhoff consciously chose to build solely with rammed earth. Standing firmly in his decision, this award-winning builder would not be swayed and instead committed to researching and developing a new approach that is stabilized, insulated, and elevated rammed earth construction, creating a high tech, high performance, wall system.
Meror’s passion and knowledge are infectious. With so many green building enthusiasts ringing his phone off the hook, he created a weekend course on Salt Spring Island that introduces his vision to transform the built environment using the SIREWALL system. It only took one weekend to convert me. Meror’s ‘stinky jar’ illustration -a demonstration showing all the toxins that are in a typical stick frame wall – shook my core and got me thinking about the inadequacy of our current reality. Why does a typical wood wall contain things like volatile organic compounds, phthalates, fungicides and urea formaldehyde? Why are there more chemicals in the ordinary home than there were in a laboratory at the turn of the last century? Other issues raised during the course… Why are we still dependent on running our homes with fossil fuels? Why are so many twenty year-old homes and buildings ‘tear downs’?
Learning about this current reality stung bitterly as I am an indebted Vancouver leaky condo owner. I shudder to think of investing again in a property built for the short term that neglects to look at a living space holistically. Working from a home office makes the case even more compelling to build a durable, ecological and healthy home since I’ll spend most of my time there. Building a home with walls that frame my personal values, both figuratively and literally, is how I want to move forward… way into the future… dreaming of my grandkids’ kids and the legacy I can leave for them. That’s the level of inspiration and vision that bubbles up listening to Meror and his team at SIREWALL.
What if you can’t take the trip to Salt Spring to get a first-hand look at a selection of the dozens of SIREWALL homes Meror has built(including Randy Bachman’s home and recording studio)? Recognizing the increasing demand and interest in his SIREWALL system, Meror has taken his story on the road at lunch & learns, industry conferences and keynote presentations around the world. From engineers and architects to university students and green building professionals, his presentations cater to a range of relevant problems and often lead to long Q&As.
With many new projects challenging Meror and his team to take the technology to new heights, SIREWALL has formed a network of highly trained SIREWALL project managers. The training process consists of rigorous hands-on and theoretical instruction preparing apprentices to oversee job sites and work together with architects, contractors and engineers. Years ago, he trained builders over a two week course. This has been significantly extended and now ranges from three months to three years – depending on apprentice’s experience and scope of work required. The SIREWALL project managers become skilled in: soil analysis, blending, wall curing, testing and numerous small details that make a world of difference in the finished product.
Meror and his team’s passion for education has been a win-win. They explore aspects of design and engineering to determine the best uses of this new material. The sharing and learning through “deep green” conversations and the debates on assessing green alternatives has pushed the technology further with even better performance results adapted to various climates. With many projects on the go, they are now comparing SIREWALL applications around the world and tracking what works and what does not work in each unique climate.
Most inspiring, those who get the chance to learn straight from Meror are effectively taught how to participate in moving this technology forward to make a real difference in the world.
Based in Vancouver and Whistler since 1999, Diana moved west to complete her MBA and has furthered her career pursuing her passion for advising businesses on environmental and sustainability issues, including mission-based companies like SIREWALL.
Featured Upcoming Project
In summer 2010, Terra Firma Builders Ltd. will begin construction of the largest SIREWALL structure in the world. This will also be the first SIREWALL project in India. Architect Ashwin Alva contacted Terra Firma Builders as a result of the “NK’mip Desert Cultural Centre” first place finish at the World Architectural Festival (2008). Terra Firma Builders Ltd. (SIREWALL Licensee) will supervise local labour in constructing the SIREWALLs. Ashwin Alva has incorporated a venue for local arts, crafts, and performance into his unique design. Lalit Hotel’s sustainable vision and values are reflected in the quality of the team assembled for this project. Terra Firma Builders is delighted and honoured to be a part of this team.
From left to right standing in front of a SIREWALL demonstration wall on the Lalit Hotel Project: Jerry Fitzpatrick – Sr. SIREWALL Project Manager, Punit Khurana – Sr. Project Manger, Joy Banerjee – Site Manager, Mrs. Jyotsna Suri – Chairperson & Managing Director of Bharat Hotels Limited, Sameeth Guha – General Manager of Mid Segment Bharat Hotels Ltd.
New SIREWALL Licensees
SIREWALL is thrilled to introduce two new SIREWALL Licensees to our team!
Raefer Wallis – SIREWALL China
Living and working in China, Raefer Wallis is internationally recognized as one of the country’s leading environmental pioneers.
He is the founder of GIGA: a China based, non-profit foundation doing research in positive impact architecture and green building materials. He is also co-founder of A00 Architecture and teaches courses in sustainability at Tongji and Hong Kong Universities. Recipient of numerous awards for design and design sustainability, he was recently listed by CNN as one of the top 20 people to watch in Shanghai. GIGA’s work was also recently celebrated by Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative.
Watch A00’s Moving Earth in China video.
Wes Volk & Jill Huls – Common Future Developments
Wes and Jill first became aware of SIREWALL after an extensive renovation of their 30 year old home. Astounded with the poor quality and impermanence of standard construction practices, they set out to find an alternative. Two years later they became a SIREWALL licensee.
Wes spent his formative years exploring the lakes and forests of northern Saskatchewan. His affinity for the natural environment led him to the University of Saskatchewan to obtain a BSc. in Land Use and Environmental Studies and a Certificate in Physical Geography. Intent on positively affecting the natural environment, Wes began his career as an Environmental Educator, but soon came to realize that significant change is best realized through entrepreneurship. Since then he has worked in Marketing, Economic Development, and now as SIREWALL’s newest licensee.
Complementary to Wes’s skill-set, Jill has, among her many certifications, a Commerce degree from the University of Saskatchewan. Her extensive work history and experience is primarily in the field of finance and management. Having been born and raised in Saskatchewan where temperatures can fluctuate 80 degrees between seasons, Jill is acutely aware of the necessity of thermal efficiency. It was this thermal efficiency that first attracted Jill to SIREWALL, but it wasn’t until she stepped into her first SIREWALL home, and experienced the beauty and sense of permanence, that she was truly sold.
Wes and Jill are currently building their show home in Humboldt Saskatchewan.
From Rammed Earth to SIREWALL
With interest in green building at an all time high, the SIREWALL team gets asked a lot of questions on the SIREWALL system. Some of these questions are asked repeatedly, and we notice there is confusion in the market. Understandably, when information comes from various sources, SIREWALL often gets grouped together with other types of rammed earth. Insulated rammed earth is, in effect, another category in the built environment. When constructed with a tested, consistently used, proven System, this takes insulated rammed earth up to an even higher category; SIREWALL is a high performance wall assembly.
Have a question about SIREWALL and insulated rammed earth? Check out the answers to these frequently asked questions and get the straight facts to correct common misconceptions about SIREWALL.
5 Frequently Asked Questions
Can you use SIREWALL as a load bearing wall system?
Absolutely. To not use it as a load bearing material is usually a waste. Traditional rammed earth has been built to ten stories and it’s only 2MPa strong. SIREWALL at 10MPa to 20MPa and 18” – 24” thick is extremely overbuilt to carry roof loads. Note: In high seismic areas, the safety factor becomes less and it is standard procedure to have the SIREWALL structure engineered.
I’d like to put a Trombe wall in my SIREWALL house. Is this a good idea?
Almost never. Adding the ~7 ton Trombe wall to a +100 ton SIREWALL house does not make much of a difference to the overall mass of the house. The only circumstance where this makes sense is if you want the solar gain, don’t want the view, and you have sufficient natural light coming into the interior space from elsewhere.
I’d like to put an AGA or Tulikivi stove in my SIREWALL house. Is this a good idea?
It depends on why you want it. If you want to improve the efficiency of the wood stove by adding mass, then it’s best to rely on the mass of the house and just put in a regular lightweight, high efficiency wood burner. If you want the radiant comfort of sitting on or near a warm surface to warm up, then it’s a good idea. Generally, having your SIREWALL home stay at a temperature comfortable to you is simple. To summarize, if you want an AGA or Tulikivi stove for energy efficiency don’t get it, but if you want it as a radiant and mood comfort piece, then it makes sense.
Do I need to put a sealer on SIREWALLS?
No, we use an integral admixture that seals all the way through the wall. That way there’s no maintenance. Upon the Client’s request, We will apply an anti-graffiti sealer if graffiti is a concern.
I just want a 50-100sq ft SIREWALL piece in my project to show that I support green building. Is this a good idea?
Depends. Really small projects don’t have the economies of scale that a house or larger project has. Therefore the unit cost will likely be quite expensive due to mobilization costs not spread over much wall area. If the intention is to show that SIREWALL is economical, this will likely backfire. If the intent is to create a piece that people can admire, touch, and become familiar with, yes it’s a very good idea.