By Justin Browne
With this year’s heavy snowfall in the Shawnigan Lake area, we are experiencing a delay in completion of the wiring and piping infrastructure that will allow us to close of the trenches that currently remain open in the “Closing the Loop” housing cluster. However, the electrical cable has been measured and cut and we are looking forward to getting the cable laid as soon as the snow clears.
Once the solar power mini-grid is in place, we can install the primary well pump next to the Well Shed and start developing the system to improve our well water. Initial tests that were done after the well was drilled indicate that there are some mineral levels in the water that is above recommended values under the Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines. These fall under “aesthetic objectives” for water quality; these generally affect the taste of the water or cause experiences like scaling on pots or discoloration of clothes in the laundry. With the electrical pump installed, thanks to the amazingly generous pump donation from Grundfos and Andrew Sheret Limited in Duncan, we will pump and re-test the water to confirm whether the initial test results remain consistent so that we can plan a filtration system that will provide residents with high-quality, delicious potable water.
While heavy snow has slightly delayed progress on our trench infrastructure work, we are going back to the drawing board to re-design heating systems for the residences. Both ‘Freya’s House’ and the ‘Turtle House’ have radiant heat floor designs. This kind of design is incredible for being energy-efficient while at the same time providing a pleasant-feeling heat experience for residents. However, the source of heat to route through these floors has become the subject of some design challenges. Initial plans for a central gasifier/boiler system were found to be complicated to manage and difficult to maintain. Our revised plans considered smaller, individual, home-based gasifier systems. However, the distributor of these smaller units in Canada has decided to stop doing business. It seems that there have been issues getting these individual home heating systems approved and insured in some parts of Canada. While this might be a non-issue for some construction projects, a primary goal of OUR Ecovillage’s environmentally sustainable housing has been to ensure that the project can be replicable and legal across the country (and elsewhere in the world!).
So as the snow melts and we leave a record-breaking cold winter and move into spring, we’ll be taking on the challenge of designing energy-efficient heating and cooling systems to keep our residents healthy and comfortable.