Hammer & Hand: Best Prectices Guide

Sam Hagerman and Daniel Thomas, the visionary owners of the design-build firm Hammer and Hand based in Portland Oregon, have taken the bold step of sharing the company’s manual of best building practices. Yes, these are details that are for a milder wetter cliemate, but still hold gems for Ontario.

“We’re launching this section of our site in the spirit of collaboration,” co-owner Sam Hagerman wrote. “The details contained within have been developed through extensive in-the-dirt experience and informed by our building science training and research. They’re details that we have found combine durability, performance, and constructability in our Pacific Northwest climate.” writes Scott Gibson of GBA.

Click on the link below to have a look at this marvelous set of beautifully illustrated instructions for all to use, adapt and improve.

Thanks you Hammer and Hand, your generosity will help us build significantly better buildings!



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Design Meets Boots was Awesome!

On October 8th, BGG hosted a networking session for architects and builders to come together and share their insights and experience with the audience of just over 50 of the most cutting edge architects, builders and building consultants south western Ontario has to offer. It was like the brain trust for the future of high performance building and we were humbled and honoured to hear them talk!

At the core of the event was an invitation to all high performance building practitioners to come together to accelerate design and construction practices that make our buildings more resilient, healthy and less of a burden on the environment. Ultimately, its about increasing profitability of building high performance by learning and doing what’s right.

Of course it wasn’t all work, the beer, sparkling wine and nibbles were an equally powerful draw that allowed these esteemed professionals to swap war stories and start collaborative relationships that help these vital SMEs to burgeon.

The evening kicked of with Passive House builder Ed Marion of Passive House Ontario. Based out of Oakville, Ontario, Ed proves time and again that powerful envelope design means you can have a “furnace-less room” and live comfortably with air source heat pumps.



Hot on Ed’s heels was Steven Gray of Greening Homes who’s probably produced the most air tight retrofit of a solid masonry home in Canada. Congrats to Greening Homes on the amazing detailing.



Architect Tom Knezic gave an incredibly insightful review of Solares’ Deep Energy Retrofit of a double brick 100 year old home in Toronto. With charm and wit, Tom closed by giving his honest assessment of what he’d do differently next time – it was good to hear.



Architect Terrell Wong closed the night with her David and Goliath battle with Toronto City Hall. Even with the precedent set by the city building a straw bale building in High Park, it seems no one else would get a permit… until David came to town…


Again, we can’t thank our two event sponsors enough; if we have seen far it is because we have stood on your shoulders! Thank you Solares Architecture and Passive Buildings Canada:

PBC Clear Logo Solares Transparent


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Joel Pett

Thank you Joel Pitt:


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Canada Sweeping Carbon Under the Carpet

Reading on the international scene today that Canada has a new Carbon Capture Sequestration plant in Saskatchewan and sadly, it justifies the burning of coal and dumping the CO2 underground. The Guardian’s Suzanne Goldberg reviews this Rube Golberg experimental contraption and unfortunately doesn’t pull too many punches. For instance, it would be interesting to learn how much carbon was spend digging the hole in the earth to “store” the carbon without it leaking for a millennia.

If the $1.3 billion was spend on conservation in Saskatchewan I wonder if the contraption in question would still be necessary.

Click to read more:

Boundary Dam CCS power plant in Canada

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More Bon Mots from Dr. Joe on Insulating Solid Masonry

Compulsory Reading if you’re a Renovator of Heritage or Solid Masonry buildings!


Dr. Lstiburek does another great job in describing the pitfalls of renovating old masonry building in his latest posting “Tailor Made” on the Building Science Corp webs site. This time with glossy pictures and for the record, if I had to choose, I’d take Allison Redford over the Ford cabal any day.

Of course, Toronto is a “Cold Climate” and “Moderately Rainy” which doesn’t make it ideal for retrofitting on the inside all the time – but the good Doctor has some sensible advice. Note too that most Toronto homes are only double brick and that the main floor joist are not fire-cut as in Figure 4, but rather as below and rest on a mudsill.

Joists on Mudsill w Stone Found (Custom)



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Thousands Take to Toronto Streets for People’s Climate March

In a show of unity with Ban Ki-moon , thousands of people took to the streets of Toronto to urge political action on Climate Change. CNN gets it right by quoting a prominent scientist urging action “If even a small fraction of Arctic sea floor carbon is released to the atmosphere, we’re f’d.

On the ground floor, the march was very polite, civil and conspicuously absent were the media. No CBC, no Toronto Star, no Globe and mail. Stunning how such an important issue can make people plunk their heads in the sand.

Citizen's Climate March Toronto

Curiously, the median age was about mid 40′s with a surprising number in the 60+ crowd. The old have nothing to lose, yet were there in force, whereas the young college and university students were conspicuously absent. Perhaps they were all in New York?

Thank you to all those concerned people who took the time this past Sunday, your words and actions are not in vain.





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Energiewende; the Death Knell of Utilities?

An important piece to read in the New York Times written by Sun and Wind Alter Global Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind” is a tale of two scenes; one devastating for big utilities, the other a hopeful sign that the times are changing. And energiewende, the transition to renewables, is upsetting a lot of traditional, dogmatic thinking about sustainability.

Here’s one of the key excerpts from that article:

 ”Electric utility executives all over the world are watching nervously as technologies they once dismissed as irrelevant begin to threaten their long-established business plans. Fights are erupting across the United States over the future rules for renewable power. Many poor countries, once intent on building coal-fired power plants to bring electricity to their people, are discussing whether they might leapfrog the fossil age and build clean grids from the outset.

A reckoning is at hand, and nowhere is that clearer than in Germany. Even as the country sets records nearly every month for renewable power production, the changes have devastated its utility companies, whose profits from power generation have collapsed.”

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We Made the GBA “Bloggers We Like” BlogRoll!

Just got wind that Green Building Advisor, the venerable online magazine,  has added us to their coveted “Bloggers We Like” BlogRoll! Couldn’t ask for better news on a Friday afternoon!

We’re rubbing shoulders with some pretty tall people in the high performance building sector. We’re honoured and look forward to keeping up the good work! Check out the talent and willingness to share on these great blogs: