Archive for September 2011

How Bad is The Air We Breathe in?


Not so common over here.

When you buy one of our homes, you get the best air quality possible. We see to that.

But what about when you go outside? How bad is the air you breathe in as you buy your groceries or commute to work?

According to the World Health Organization, a city’s air quality is affected by a combination of four main factors: private transport, power generation, indoor combustion of fuels, and industry.

And according to an air-quality index study released by the WHO on Monday, the answer to the question above is this: the air you breathe in as you go about your day is among the best in the world.

After covering over 1,000 cities in 91 countries to record their annual average of particulate matter, WHO officials announced that Canada averages only 13 micrograms per cubic metre (the recommended maximum being 20 micrograms per cubic metre).

This figure pushed us up to third place, tying with Australia after Estonia and Mauritius, and a far cry from the Iranian city of Ahvazm, which scored the worst with an astonishing 372 micrograms.

Good as this is, it still doesn’t mean we have perfect air. For example, about 2,400 people die every year in Canada as a result of air pollution.

So even though we aren’t doing badly at all, we still have work to do. Meanwhile, make sure your home has the best air quality possible. It is there, after all, that you and your kids will spend a great deal of time.

How Important is the New National Tree Day?


As I said on Twitter this week, Canada’s first-ever National Tree day took place last Wednesday September 21. This happened after the House of Commons passed a bill this spring to create a National Tree Day each September (the idea being that trees planted in the fall grow faster than trees planted in the spring).

On a larger scale, National Tree Day aims to spread awareness of the importance of trees. And if you think trees are important only within the abstract “green” realm, consider these figures borrowed from a Toronto Star article:

  • Toronto trees store 1.1 million tonnes of carbon, which equals roughly the emissions of 730,000 cars.
  • They intercept about 1,430 tonnes of air pollution.
  • They save $10.2 million in energy costs for buildings in the form of reduced air conditioning costs and the like.

No wonder the Toronto tree canopy has a replacement value of $7 million, providing ecological services on both public and private lands with an annualized value of $60 million.

Obviously, while these figures apply to Toronto only, trees are extremely important in every other town or community.

So, as much as I value efforts to spread awareness of the importance of trees or birds or butterflies or what have you, I encourage you to look around and ask yourself: What can I do today to improve our habitat?

Whether you’re a business owner or work for somebody else, you can ask yourself this question. Remember: every step helps, no matter how small it may seem.

For example, has a section for kids and teachers, companies, and volunteers. The actions taken by these varied groups of people may look like they contrast in their impact. They don’t. Again, every single action helps.

For example, at Mason Homes we do our best to preserve the existing landscapes and to plant native species, as they are resist disease and insects better, among countless other benefits.

What do you do to preserve local trees?

A Green Car You May Actually Want to Drive


Admit it—you don’t just want an environmentally friendly car.

You want a car that saves you cash and looks cool while also protecting the environment.

In other words, you want Volvo’s V60 Plug-In Hybrid.

Well, maybe you don’t. But I happen to think the V60 is incredibly cool. Here’s why.

Billed as the world’s first diesel plug-in hybrid, the Volvo V-60 packs a 2.4-liter five-cylinder turbodiesel coupled with a 70-hp electric motor on the rear axle. (The motor can be charged in anywhere from 7 hours to only 3, depending on what amp socket you use.)

The diesel-electric combo gives the driver a choice among three modes of propulsion: Pure for electric drive, Hybrid for alternating propulsion and Power for an extra boost from both (when using both electric and diesel, power output can increase from 215 to 285 horses).

Unlike most plug-ins, the V60 is downright quick—it can go from 0 to 100 km/hr in only 6.9 seconds. Not bad for a plug-in. Not bad at all.

Moreover, the driver can also operate purely under diesel thrust to conserve battery power. And if traction if limited, the driver can enable a through-the-road all-wheel-drive option that engages both motors.

The best part? Fuel consumption is an estimated 1.9-litres/100 km.

In my view, the V60 would be great for all kinds of tasks as it’s roomy, elegant, has pull, and has speed.

Note: Although Volvo initially said it’d launch the V60 in Europe, it already confirmed it will sell in North America as well.

Working Hard To Make Your Home Better


I’ve often alluded, on this blog and on the Mason Homes main website, to the ENERGY STAR® rating that all of our Green for Life homes proudly carry.

And as anyone who follows me on Twitter can attest, I also try to keep up to date with the latest green developments, especially as they pertain to the new home building industry.

Green Green Grass of Home

In the spirit of further developing my green and building credentials, I’d like to mention I’ve joined the committee for the ENERGY STAR® for New Homes Program, which works with Natural Resources Canada.

The ENERGY STAR® for New Homes initiative, according to its website, “promotes energy efficiency guidelines that enable new homes to be approximately 25 percent more energy-efficient than those built to minimum provincial building codes. The increased efficiency of these homes translates into reduced energy costs for homeowners.”

We’re currently working on setting the new ENERGY STAR® for New Homes program, establishing important updates to the program which will be applicable and available across Canada. As building code requirements increase, the minimum ENERGY STAR® for New Homes requirements must also increase. The update will include minimum requirements, technical specifications, training material and procedures. This is great news for new home buyers, families, and the environment! Onwards and upwards, always!

I am proud to be involved in this and other initiatives I’ll soon blog about. The more we can all participate in environment programs and initiatives, the better the future for our children and the healthier the present-day lifestyle for our families.

New Urbanism Gains Terrain

New Town, St. Charles, MO: More New Urbanism

Coming soon to a place nearby?

There was a time, not too long ago, when New Urbanism principles seemed radical.

(Never mind that for thousands of years cities were designed according to similar principles, which are: emphasized walkability with a focus on pedestrians, tree-lined streets, and narrow roads, among others.)

Not surprisingly, people who live in communities designed according to these principles report they enjoy it very much. For that reason, and because New Urbanism is environmentally-friendly, we at Mason Homes do our best to build communities that meet these requisites, having even won a major award for it.

What may seem surprising is a worldwide surge in New Urbanism communities. Take two places as seemingly different as Texas and Saudi Arabia.

You wouldn’t expect them to have much in common (and they probably don’t), yet the small town of Bandera, self-dubbed the “Cowboy Capital of the World,” boasts of being the prototype of New Urbanism, while in Saudi Arabia much is made about the King Abdullah Financial District, a “kind of modern Paris with canals and water transport, focusing on passive design” where “water, greenery and building merge together in a sensible master plan.”

In fact, the Wikipedia entry on New Urbanism lists communities in England, Belize, France, Sweden, Bhutan, Belgium, Italy, and South Africa.

While on the surface this doesn’t mean much for the average local homebuyer, I take pleasure in imagining a future where more and more communities will follow New Urbanism ideals, whether they market themselves as such or not.

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