March 24, 2008
GreenWorks supplies contractors, architects and designers with green building materials
If the green building movement is going to work, products that carry the concept into the marketplace need to become readily available to contractors, subcontractors, interior designers and architects looking for alternate choices.
That’s the reason why two SFU-graduated environmental planners Alastair Moore and Peter McGee opened a wholesale-retail outlet, GreenWorks Building Supplies in Vancouver.
“This is where the rubber hits the road,” said Moore, 42, adding that interior designers and architects like the unique and different products offered while contractors use the store as a one-stop shopping outlet. It reduces the time they spend sourcing and finding products that help achieve LEED or green building standards.
New products not commonly seen include Ice-Stone (a kitchen counter top material of glass and cement), EcoTimber flooring derived from reclaimed wood or harvest areas certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) as practicing sustainable yields, PaperStone granite-like countertops made from recycled paper originally from FSC trees, Marmoleum (a linoleum with a wear surface derived from Canadian flax seed oil) and paints such as AFM Safe Coat, doctor recommended and used in hospitals.
Clear cedar from first-growth trees is also available but only taken from trees blown down by the wind or removed because of safety or fire threats.
Collected under one roof are more than 40 different product lines with each line having several items in different designs and patterns.
They fall into three broad categories, said Moore.
There are kitchen counters, floors, and paints and coatings.
Other products are also stocked such as low-flow toilets and Moore is currently working with a kitchen cabinet manufacturer able to supply kitchen cabinet shells (made from FSC wood) with PaperStone countertops and bamboo doors.
The store’s products focus on healthy building materials or products that are non-toxic, environmentally-friendly and energy efficient.
Such a store is new in Western Canada.
One other store in Ottawa offers a similar line but otherwise, it’s a neglected market in Canada.
Yet, the concept is popular in the U.S. where stores that carry only green products flourish.
McGee and Moore decided to form the store after Moore (and wife Dominica) returned from years of working with the International Centre for Sustainable Cities, a non-governmental organization working with international cities and communities sharing their integrated long-term planning and technologies and strategies for sustainability.
Moore and his wife worked in Poland, China, and the United Kingdom (University of Manchester) where they saw many new ideas for sustainable products and living.
He pointed to Dutch-made Marmoleum, stocked in tiles or planks, which can be placed on a floor and clicked into place.
In Europe, when you buy an apartment you often just buy the shell, he said, and upon leaving the old place, everything such as flooring and cabinets – even the toilet – can be dismantled and taken away.
Moore showed how Marmoleum’s tongue-and-grooved profile snaps together so tightly, only close scrutiny reveals a line.
Bamboo has been used for a variety of products such as flooring, countertops and even comes in sheets for use in cabinet design.
Moore said there has been a shift in manufacturers of green items today.
They realize that to become mainstream they need to provide more choices.
Companies such as YOLO Colorhouse paints, designed by two U.S. women, one an artist and the other a designer, have brought forward a designer line of non-toxic, interior and exterior paints.
But, as Moore points out, they have gone further, providing a chart that shows compatibility of colors for 50 main colors and for $6, an architect or paint contractor can take away a poster sized swatch to see how the color places on the wall.
They also provide a YOLO Sprout Collection for use in facilities used by children.
Moore acknowledged that building with green materials can be more expensive, but if there is an extra cost it translates into enhanced value that today’s consumer is looking for in healthier children, lifestyles and in energy efficiency plus resale value.
The irony of the higher cost of green products is not lost on Moore.
Maybe if a product is toxic, we should be charging a premium for it. Look at the problems today with asbestos, he said.
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