Blog Post: No Impact Reno


Design It – Take Inventory

January 27, 2010 by preformconstruction

Since this reno is focused more on being carbon neutral than on anything else, some design aesthetics and material choices will be determined by what we have already, or what we waste, recycled, or reclaimed we have access to. We’re cheating here a little bit because a) we have some new, unused, material left over from renovating the rest of our house and b) I am part owner of two construction-related companies.

That being said, I think using all of the carbon-free resources available is an important point to make. If that means taking advantage of your own skillset to offset trades commuting to the site then all the better.

So, as far as available materials are concerned:

At our house, we currently have 3 sheets of drywall, a couple hundred linear feet of MDF baseboard and window moulding, sufficient nails, staples, screws, drywall mud and tape, paint (several colours), hardwood flooring sealer, several hundred feet of fir wainscoting and a few dozen random lumber pieces.

After the demolition we expect to have a few hundred linear feet of two by fours and 10-15 sheets of plywood.

At my pool building company, I have access to waste rebar, lathe, concrete mix and all the necessary tools for concrete work. At the home construction company, I have access to as many trim pieces of lumber as possible (my idea here is to do a feature wall out of these a la the new Vancouver Convention Centre as seen here:, trim waste plywood and other sheet materials from our millwork shop. Perhaps the most encouraging item I can reclaim is a pallet of trim Warmboard ( that we use in our homes. The warmboard is an engineered sub-floor routered to house pvc piping. The plywood has a thin layer of aluminum between it and the piping, creating radiant floor heating (perfect for thermal mass in a three-storey postage-stamp heritage house).

Although this comparison relates to electrical radiant floor heating, the pros and cons are outlined here:

What I have on-hand, or access to is really the first step because it shows me which way several things should go. With the discovery of the re-usable radiant flooring, the energy assessment and retrofit will follow and be informed by it.

Letter to No Impact Man

January 22, 2010 by preformconstruction

Where to begin? The beginning! Since this idea was first spawned by No Impact Man I decided to get in touch with him and get some more ideas. And as it turned out, he’s a buddy of a close friend in New York. Here is the letter I wrote to him:

From: Ryan @ Preform []
Sent: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 1:24 PM
To: ‘Chris Neidl’
Cc: ‘Chloe Eckert’
Subject: No Impact Reno

Hi Colin,

As Chris told you, I’m a friend of his from Vancouver, BC. My wife and I were given your book by our sister for Christmas and were both inspired by your story. We’re signed up for the March No Impact week.

I’m in the construction business – my company prefabricates house, which we hold up as being more “green” than traditional construction. I wanted to apply the lessons you learned to my work, which faces challenges in terms of energy use but also some big opportunities in terms of efficiencies and carbon sequestering. Because the changes in our business are often costly, I wanted to experiment with something on a smaller scale first to see what worked so I decided to do a no-impact reno of our basement. When I mentioned the idea and where it came from to Chris, he made the connection.

This is our list to accomplish the reno:

1. Design it
Define system parameters – how far back does our carbon footprint extend?
Inventory – what do we have already?
Take an energy and carbon audit – where are we and what ongoing net change can we accomplish?
Aesthetics – how do we make 2nd hand stuff look good?
2. Build it
Intelligent demo – how can we reduce, reuse, recycle?
Get supplies – what carbon neutral materials, reinvented waste & reclaimed materials can be used?
Range – what distance is acceptable for contractors to travel?
3. Live it
Assess – what is the net result – carbon created minus removed?
Clean up – how much net carbon, if any, should be offset?
Legacy – how much energy efficiency (appliances, alternative energy) will the changes create?

It occurred to me that there is a “No-Impact” Guide for every type of activity along the lines of the “For Dummies” series that could fall out of your work. I don’t think the average person has any idea which line items in their daily activities create the most carbon. But what I’m really interested in is your feedback on how I can get this message out there. Are there some resources I can link to or that can link to my blog?

I’m currently sourcing advice on how to proceed, but I want that process to be as public as possible as well. What kind of guide would it be without starting at tabula rasa? The appeal of your book for us, is that you are just a regular guy who didn’t know anything when he started out either. We’re optimistic about climate change because we can all take this same journey.

I understand that you’re extremely busy with everything but any quick feedback would be great.


Ryan Spong

Preform Construction, Ltd.

m 604.761.7291

Mission Statement

January 20, 2010 by preformconstruction

After receiving Colin Beaven’s No Impact Man for Christmas this year, my wife and I decided to apply what he learned during his year of living carbon-neutral to some of the activities we deemed the most “carbon costly”.  Aside from the events in our everyday life – driving, working, eating, sleeping and bathroom time – what did we do that really created a carbon footprint? Aside from travel, which is really easy to cut down on (but makes for colder than past winters in Canada), we focused on renovations.

Having bought a heritage house (read: dilapidated, but barely-affordable overpriced Vancouver home) in 2006, we immediately set to work on making the living spaces inhabitable. While we focused on sustainable products – Greenworks Building Supplies is just two blocks away – we didn’t consider their carbon footprint. To give an example of our mindset, we used recycled blue jean insulation, but didn’t consider that Bonded Logic is located in Arizona. Three years later, we are substantially finished as far as the main living areas are concerned, but we have one more item on the “TO-DO” list: the basement.

As it’s completely unfinished, uninsulated and unused (except for storage) this project is the perfect template to apply our carbon footprint knowlege to a carbon-heavy activity. We’re going to need code-comforming materials that can’t have been made for sale, licensed tradespeople that can’t drive to our house, and power tools that can’t draw power. So where to begin…

Zero Waste Challenge

January 20, 2010 by preformconstruction

Zero Waste Challenge

Metro Vancouver’s Sustainability Framework envisages a zero waste region – no waste, only resources. Currently, residents and business recycle just over half of the 3.5 million tonnes of garbage, or solid waste, created in the region each year.

Visit: for more information