Living Design Systems (LDSy) is an Alberta based company specializing in healthy energy-efficient design and construction. The 20-year-old company also actively engages in research and development in the field of environmental design. LDS works with engineers and other specialists aimed at producing innovative solutions to our present housing and environmental challenges. To date our work has spanned Western Canada and Ontario Canada.
A new area of focus for the company is group housing, where great cost and environmental advantages can be realized. This includes First Nations housing, utility-free green sub-divisions and condominiums, and apartments. Since 1998 Living Design Systems has designed and or built 34 solar and straw bale homes and buildings. See our gallery for some examples.
Since 1995 greenhouses have taken a back seat to his housing research and prototyping. Belanger’s last 7 years work have been dominated by energy efficient and healthy housing design, construction, and research. He lives off the grid in a house powered by solar panels, and heated by wood and the sun. He teaches permaculture and straw bale construction workshops and is called upon regularly to speak at conferences and other functions on the topic of sustainable building and living.
Company research has resulted in the development of a partially prefab building systems called The APEX Advanced Building System (APEX). Below is a list of some of the benefits of this type of design.
BENEFITS OF A NATURAL HEALTHY HOUSE
Below is a summary of the advantages of natural, solar, and energy efficient housing. Keep in mind, a natural home can be built with or without the use of straw bales in the walls, although passive solar design is a wonderful compliment to straw.
Straw bale construction, along with other key resource efficient design elements, can cost less than conventional construction. Yet the end result is usually a higher quality home. Also note that conventional approaches to design and construction will not result in any savings in utility costs.
DURABILITY & REDUCED MAINTENANCE:
With cement stucco finish on the straw wall and metal roofing, life cycle maintenance costs are reduced. No repainting or staining is required to the house exterior. In addition, durable and simple interior finishes contribute to reduced maintenance. Overall a straw house can last an estimated 120 years.
REDUCED HEATING/COOLING COSTS:
Heating requirements can be 75% to 80% less than conventional construction and design methods. A straw insulated wall has an R-value of about R-35. Another environmentally appropriate choice for wall or ceiling insulation is loose cellulose. Combined with properly designed window sizing and placement to create passive solar heating for the house, only a small wood or gas backup heater is required. Thermal mass (or a heat sink material in and under the floor) is a key part of an integrated design. This mass stores heat and creates increased comfort for the occupants. Additionally this same mass acts as a natural air conditioner in the hot summer months by preventing wide temperature swings.
REDUCED ELECTRICAL ENERGY COSTS:
Through careful appliance selection and the use of LED lighting wherever possible, electrical energy demand for the house can be reduced 50% and more while not sacrificing any conveniences for the occupants. Advanced design can result in a house which uses 80% less power than conventional houses. Reduced electrical consumption can affordably be powered by an off-grid home renewable energy system. This entails the use of solar electric panels or a wind turbine, energy storage in a battery bank, and some electronics.
HEALTHY INTERIOR ENVIRONMENT:
Asthma and other indoor illnesses are prevented through careful, design and choice of interior finishing materials and paints. Unhealthy chemical off-gassing is prevented. With no basement and elimination of possible moisture problems, mold and spore growth is eliminated. Finally, indoor air quality is maintained with a heat recovery ventilator (HRV). The HRV provides incoming fresh air while removing moist stale air. The HRV does not add greatly to the house costs since a forced air furnace and its chimney are eliminated from the design.
MEETS OR EXCEEDS ALL BUILDING CODE REQUIREMENTS:
Many of the above design elements exceed the Canadian R2000 program specifications. Involvement of local building inspectors is a required design “step” to assure that all local code requirements are also met. The ultimate expression of integrated design is an affordable house or building which is made with a high content of local materials resulting in healthy spaces for the occupants. It also produces all it’s own energy required for heating and electricity. It produces no waste, and no water or air pollution during operation. (Treats it’s own sewage and greywater). It has a low ecological footprint.
A well designed house is powered by nature and not by fossil fuels. Ecological design knowledge makes this easily possible for you. For example, each year over 3-1/2 times the energy needed to satisfy all the power requirements of an energy efficient house shines on its roof. Natural, renewable energy can provide for all of our home energy needs. The goal of environmental architecture is to create energy-efficient buildings which create minimal wastes, are built with local materials when possible and are integrated with the landscape, beautiful to behold, healthy for the occupants, and above all easy on the planet.
An ecological design has many features and added comfort for the occupants. The sunroom is an example of a feature with several strong benefits for the household. A sunroom or “greenroom” is a delightful way to use the sun. Fresh air, fragrant odours, as well as heat gain are the results.
Ecological design can also give you a more stable future. You can improve your future security by choosing to live in a house which is fully energized by solar power and other local renewable sources such as wood. By living in such a house your utility bills are greatly reduced or completely eliminated! Over time this is a large savings and if you started soon enough you could retire on these savings.
What is Permaculture?
It is the science and art of designing and making ecologically sound human habitat. It addresses food, fiber and natural resource production, as well as architecture, energy, and social systems. Permaculture methodology and technology are used by Living Design Systems for landscape and subdivision layout and design.
In addition to its sources in ecology, design, and modern science, it draws heavily on the ecological practices of traditional native cultures. We find that many traditional ways remain valid today.