How can we build our homes and communities so that they co-exist harmoniously with Nature? What does it mean to create a sustainable house, a sustainable community, a sustainable city? For each additional day that we live, design and build unsustainably, we pull another fibre out of the fabric of Earth’s ecosystems.

Environmentally Sound Building Materials

Listing No 2 May 1994

Overall Building

The 1994 R2000 building standard requires an emphasis on healthy, non-toxic building materials, as well as energy efficiency. For information on R2000 builders, contact the Victoria Home-Builders' Association, 1-744 Fairview Rd, Victoria V9A 5T9 Tel 383-5044; Cowichan Valley Home-Builders Association, PO Box 939, Duncan V9L 3Y2 Tel 746-5838; Nanaimo Home-Builders Association, 7a, 6421 Applecross Rd, Nanaimo V9V 1K8 Tel 390-2220.

Paints, resins, glues, finishes

Look for water-based paints or varnishes, or those with zero volatile content, and no use of urea formaldehydes

Ames Paints Ltd

Manufacture a range of water-based, mercury and lead-free paints, using 30% recycled paint.

408 John St, Victoria V8T 1T5 Tel 386-6185

AFM Enterprises

Produce a wide range of Earth-friendly products including paints, soaps, stains, finishes, cleaners, waxes, carpet products, caulking & sealers, adhesives and ceramic tiles. Distributed on Vancouver Island by Katy Young, 1019 Lodge Ave, V8X 3B1, Tel 384-8892. (Catalogue available)


Flecto Varathanes and Diamond Elite varnish, a high quality water-based floor varnish, available at most hardware stores.

Livos Plant Chemistry

Produce a complete range of natural, plant-based wood preservers, stains, floor finishes, shellacs, paint, glues, cleansers, & polishes imported from Germany. Catalogue & colour chart available from Eco-House Inc, PO Box 220, Stn A, Fredericton, N.B. E3B 4Y9. Tel (506) 366-3529

BIOFA Naturprodukte

Produce a full range of products using natural & replenishable materials : oil finishes, varnishes, waxes, paints, thinners and cleansers. For the catalogue, write to BAU, PO Box 190, Alton, NH, USA 03839. Tel (603) 364-2400 Fax (603) 364-2401

Auro Paints

Natural plant-based paints from Germany. The Auro range includes floor oil, floor wax, paint, impregnating oil, furniture polish & wax, lime washes, thinner, oil paint, tints, boron wood preservative, hardening oil, linseed oil, shellac, varnish, wood stains & wood tar preservative. Teekah Environmental Products, 96 Harbord St, Toronto, Ont M5S 1G6. Also Sinan Co, Natural Building Materials, Box 857, Davis, CA 95617-0857, USA. (916) 753-3104.

Formaldehyde-free particle-boards

HOMASOTE is an underlayment board manufactured from 100% post-consumer newsprint. MEDITE-2 is a new non-urea formaldehyde-bonded fibreboard. Both are available through PJ White Hardwoods, 776 Fairview Rd, Victoria V9A 5V1. Tel 480-0338.


Look for natural floor-coverings, or carpets that contain no glues, and either have no underpad, or an underpad made from recycled rubber.

Hendricksen Naturlich Flooring - distribute natural linoleum & tiles, cork linoleum, and carpets made from wool, cotton, sisal/coir . The sample-board costs $5. For their information package on natural floorcovering, write to 8031 Mill Station Rd, Sebastopol, CA 95472. (707) 829-3959


Enviro Safe 2000, free of formaldehydes; uses non-toxic glues. Brochure available from #300 - 4250 Dawson St, Burnaby, BC V5C 4B1 298-1050

Plants as living air filters

In NASA studies on using houseplants to reduce indoor air pollution, the following species dramatically reduced the level of 3 common household pollutants - formaldehyde, benzene and trichlorethylene : Aloe plant, Bamboo plant, Spider plant, Chrysanthemums, Dracaenas, African Daisy, English Ivy, Banana Tree, Philodendrons, Peace Lily, Boston Fern.

The EcoDesign Resource Society

An excellent overall source of up-to-date information, discussion and ideas for environmentally concerned interior designers, architects, contractors and individuals. PO Box 3981, Main Post Office, Vancouver V6B 3Z4. (604) 689-7622. Membership costs $25pa (Small business 1-3 persons $50; Business $75), for which you receive a quarterly journal, EcoDesign. Also publish the EcoDesign Resource Guide Part 1 : Regional Information Sources. $8 + $2 postage.

Environmental by Design, by Kim Leclair and David Rousseau

This is the best resource guide available on the market, written by two of BC's leading 'healthy building' architects. Deals with all interior finishing materials, and includes listings of specific manufacturers' products, rating them according to a number of environmental criteria. Paperback version costs $24.95, and the Professional Edition $55.00. Available from the EcoDesign Resource Society, PO Box 3981, Main Post Office, Vancouver V6B 3Z4.

The Clean Air Guide

This 32-page guide, available free from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, helps home-owners to identify problems, and develop solutions. Call 363-3103, or write to CMHC, 1007 Fort St, Victoria V8V 4T7.

Building Green on the Rural West Coast

A sourcebook of environmentally responsible building techniques and approaches. $8.00 from Salt Spring Island Community Society, Box 314, Ganges, BC VOS 1E0.

Interiors Concerns Newsletter

Information for designers, architects and builders, keeping them current on the newest environmental products, issues and industry changes. 6 issues for $30US, PO Box 2386, Mill Valley, CA 94942.

The International Institute for Bau-Biologie & Ecology

Bau-Biologie is 'the study of the impact of the building environment upon the health of people and the application of this knowledge to the construction of healthy homes and workplaces'. It is also 'the science of holistic interactions between life and the living environment'. A free booklet introducing bau-biologie, listing the 25 Principles of Bau-Biologie and giving details of associated publications & membership ($30 pa) and of the Institute's Bau-Biologie Correspondence Course is available from Helmut Ziehe, IBE, Box 387, Clearwater, Florida 34615. (813) 461-4371


Bamberton is a planned community for 12,000 people, located on the site of the old cement works, 20 miles north of Victoria. The town is being planned as a model of traditional neighbourhood design, ecological sustainability and community values, with its own local economy. All of the buildings at Bamberton will be governed by a Registered Building Scheme, which prohibits the use of urea formaldehyde based glues and resins, woods containing pentachloraphenol or other preservatives associated with the production of volatile organics (eg dioxins), creosote, and paints containing xylene, tuolene, cadmium or lead. The use of chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers is restricted through covenants attached to the title of the the land-parcels. An 'E-Star' Awards Program will further encourage the building of environmentally healthy, advanced homes.

Written by Guy Dauncey. Please feel free to make copies.