Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Flywheel - Budget - American Greenbacks

This information was forwarded to me by Laurie Baird of Okanagan

The Cupboard is almost bare

For the first time in its history, the U.S. Federal Reserve is effectively giving away money
· TSX +262.28pts (Reuters) TSX index surged more than 3% in a broad rally after the U.S. Federal Reserve cut its target for overnight interest rates to a record low range of zero to 0.25% and said it would do everything it can to chase away the economic gloom.

· DOW +359.61pts

· Dollar +2.02c to $83.21US. as sentiment toward the US dollar darkened with the Fed’s gloomy announcement that it will stop at nothing to flood the financial system with greenbacks

· Oil -$.91 to $44.51US per barrel.

· Gold +$6.30 to $841.70US per ounce Canadian bond prices

The net worth of Canadian households fell by about $191 billion in the third quarter, and it's likely to have gotten worse as stock prices tumbled in the current three-month period. Bank of Montreal economist Doug Porter said that, although people don't tend to adjust their consumer spending in direct relation to their net worth, a decline in net worth will negatively impact the economy as ordinary Canadians tighten their wallets.

"As the stock market continued to weaken, it became obvious that it would have an effect, not just on consumer behaviour but also on business behaviour,'' Porter said in an interview. "I do think it was the intense financial market turmoil we saw over the fall that really played a big role in tipping the global economy into a full-fledged recession.''

Fed tries to steer economy out of long recession

Alia McMullen, National Post For the first time in its history, the U.S. Federal Reserve is effectively giving away money.

The central bank took the unprecedented step yesterday of slashing its benchmark interest rate to an extraordinarily low range of zero to a quarter per cent on Tuesday in an attempt to prevent the world's largest economy from suffering a long and painful recession.

"This is an historic move and it will go down in the annals of Fed history as the most aggressive attempt ever to reverse a deep recession, prevent deflation and spur financial-market re-normalization," said Sherry Cooper, the chief economist at BMO Capital Markets.

Stock indexes surged on the Fed action, with the Dow Jones industrial average up 4.2% to 8,924.14 and the S&P500 up 5.1% at 913.18. This helped to boost the S&P/TSX Composite Index 3.1% to 8,724.11.

The move had immediate benefits for fixed mortgage rates, with the long-term bond rates on which they are set tumbling on the Fed's signal that it would keep interest rates at an exceptionally low level for some time.

The Fed cut the Federal Funds Rate, at which the banks lend to each other, from 1% to a range of 0% to 0.25%. The reduction surpasses the previous low of half a per cent set during the Second World War, a sign of just how serious the current U.S. recession is.

"With every layoff announcement and stock market decline, consumer confidence drops," Ms. Cooper said. "It will take a mighty effort by central banks and government authorities to drag the global economy out of this ditch, but with the stimulus we are likely to see in coming months [from central banks and governments], the economy will hopefully bottom around midyear 2009 followed by a sluggish recovery in the second half and moderate growth in 2010."

But with no more room to cut rates, the Fed will embark on a new strategy to stimulate the economy by pulling "all available tools" out of its box. For the first time in its 95-year history, the Fed plans to buy debt from mortgage insurers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as mortgage-backed securities to help reduce mortgage rates. It also plans to provide additional funds for households, homeowners and small businesses.

For now, the Fed's efforts appear to be working. Yields on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac 30-year fixed mortgage bonds as well as government 10-year and 30-year Treasuries -- which have a direct impact on fixed mortgage rates -- declined to record lows on Tuesday. These rates had been surging, despite official interest rate cuts, because investors had been looking for a safe haven to park their money and ride out the financial crisis.

Michael Englund, the chief economist at Action Economics in Boulder, Colo., said the Fed's plan to purchase mortgage-backed securities and possibly government Treasuries as well as their pledge to keep interest rates low would continue to put downward pressure on fixed mortgage rates and eventually help to stimulate the U.S. housing market.

However, problems in the U.S. economy stretch further than the deep housing slump. Economists expect the Fed to also begin to print money in an effort to prevent consumer prices from falling into a dangerous downward spiral. This alternative method of boosting the flow of money in the economy is known as quantitative easing, a strategy developed by the Bank of Japan during its lost decade of zero interest rates and price deflation.

Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at MFR in New York, said the Fed was clearly trying to fight off deflation, which is a persistent decline in consumer prices that comes hand in hand with job losses, wage cuts and a devaluation of money.

"The action taken [Tuesday] and the quantitative easing moves to come speak volumes about just how petrified policymakers are that the economy is in danger of sliding into a deflationary spiral that would be disastrous considering the highly leveraged condition of the economy," said.

The risk of deflation was evident just hours before the Fed's announcement. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that consumer prices for November fell a record 1.7% from the previous month, taking the annual rate to the 43-year low of 1.1% equalled in 1986 and 2002.

Mr. Shapiro expects the Fed to ultimately beat inflation, but he had a very pessimistic outlook for the U.S. economy. He predicted the economy to remain in a recession that could possibly extend past 2010.

Laurie Baird


1405 A Richter St, Kelowna, BC, V1Y 2L9

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Flywheel - Built Green

Ken Kunka of Flywheel Building Solutions has just passed the Built Green Training Course and looks forward to working towards certification as a Certified Energy Advisor this November.

For more information on Built Green Canada go to

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Flywheel - Okanagan - Green Education Events

Here are some local workshops and lectures coming up in our area over the next few months

Pathway to a Living Future - Presented by Casciadia Thompson Okanagan Chapter
September 10th - Kelowna
Click here to learn more or Register
Guest Speaker Jason McLennan, CEO, Cascadia Region Green Building Council
Jason was recently featured in the July edition of Dwell Magazine on the topic of eco-toilets

Built-Green Course - hosted by the Canadian Home Builders Association of BC
Aug 21/22nd - Kamloops
Click here for Class information

Greening the Buidling Code - Are You Ready for the September - by the HomeOwner Protection Office (HPO)
September workshops
Click here in case you missed the summer workshops

"Greening the Building Code" - Hosted by Building Officials Association of BC (BOABC)
September 11 - Kelowna
September 10 - Kamloops
Click here for more info.

Introduction to Energy Modelling - Lighthouse - Sustainable Building Centre
Click here for more info
Oct 22, 2008, 12-5pm, Lake Okanagan Resort, 2751 Westside Road, Kelowna

Building Energy Simulation Software - Lighthouse - Sustainable Building Centre
Click here for more info
Oct 23-24, 2008, 8am-5pm, Lake Okanagan Resort, 2751 Westside Road, Kelowna

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Flywheel - Solar Village in South Korea

Article found on
Donggwang is a completely energy independent village located on the western half of Jeju-do island, the largest of South Korea’s semi-tropical southern islands. The picturesque island is also home to Halla Mountain, a volcano that rises from the center of the island, and is the tallest mountain in South Korea.

Large beds of photovoltaic panels can be found on each of the 40 houses in Donggwang generating all the power necessary for the village to run. Even the local elementary school runs on free electric energy from the sun. In 2004, the government paid for 70% of the installation fees to help create the state-of-the-art renewable energy village.
Choo Chan Lee a resident of Donggwang and former successful grocery store owner in New York describes what he likes best about his chosen place of retirement,

“In Jeju we don’t have many factories, so the air is very nice. Very nice environment. The motto is a clean city - clean island. They’re trying to do this solar and then the windmills. My favorite part of living in Jeju is the fresh air. The clean air.” (Ecoworldly)

Donggwang sets an incredible example of the potential for clean renewable energy systems in an area of the world that is typically overshadowed by China’s excessive pollution.

Village’s such as Donggwang and a town in Missouri that is running on 100% wind power are no longer distant goals, but a reality, and a direction we must actively pursue in order to balance our existence on this Earth.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

FLYWHEEL Building Solutions works with you, the HOMEOWNER

Are you planning on buying, building or renovating in the Okanagan?

How much time and money are you willing to waste?

Time is one of the most important factors in any building project and Flywheel Building Solutions helps you minimize time wasted and maximize the work done in a creative and professional manner.

Flywheel supports you through the planning and growth of your project by focusing on the key areas of: Code, Design and Build. You have a goal, a dream, a vision; Flywheel can help you achieve that goal with attention to detail from the planning phase to completion, we keep your project on track and on time.

"We put your building projects into gear!"

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Greywater is Greenwater

Grey water, also spelled graywater, is wastewater generated from processes such as showering, bathing and laundry. Greywater gets its name from its cloudy appearance and from its status as being neither fresh (white water from groundwater or potable water), nor heavily polluted (blackwater). Greywater can be used for internal use for toilets and or for irrigation use. There are also programs for rainwater recycling.

As Greywater recycling is soon becoming a necessity and a mandatory requirement in many countries (see links below). Canada has been slow in developing and adopting a grey water standard. With the changes to the 2006 BC Building Code, local jurisdictions can make rulings to allow for grey water systems as an alternative solution. Kelowna is one municipality who has allowed the use of Brac Systems - Grey Water Recycling

When recently speaking with local BRAC representative Blair Gautschi, he stated that more people are becoming aware of the growing water problems facing us in the Okanagan (The Okanagan could double in population by the year 2020). However there has been much resistance in establishing a valley wide grey water program because of a lack of urgency due to our seemingly abundant fresh water supply, a resistance to change and the risk of liability if something goes wrong. The Canadian government has recently prepared a draft grey water recycling standard and hopefully more jurisdictions will take the initiative to introduce recycling programs in their areas.

For more information on BRAC or Grey Water recycling contact:

Blair Gautschi, Master Plumber
Excel Ventures, BRAC Systems Inc.
250 212 9750

Suggested Links to review

Australia -

Video on Middle East water crisis -

Grey water info -

Grey water codes -

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

FLYWHEEL Building Solutions - Alternative Building Practices - Rammed Earth

When thinking about an article on alternative building practices I instantly thought of Nicholas Hill and Grant Tweter of Solum Rammed Earth Homes. Rammed earth (RE), also known as pisé de terre or simply pisé, is a type of construction material. RE has been used for centuries to build dwellings and monuments in many parts of the world.

Many ancient buildings stand today as a testament to the durability of this natural and environmentally sustainable building material.It is an age-old building method that has seen a revival in recent years as people seek low-impact building materials and natural building methods.

Modern RE is much improved with technological advancements in the equipment used to test, mix, form and compact the material. Structural RE walls which are engineered to meet or exceed the regional climatic conditions and code requirements. Local soils that have been carefully tested for strength and appearance are mixed with a small amount (5-10%) of Portland cement and water. Layers are placed in special forms and mechanically compacted into stone-like walls. In colder climates a high R-value insulation is embedded within the core of the wall creating a warm, high-mass interior.

The result is a healthy, beautiful, natural looking structure that uses very little energy to heat or cool, will last an extremely long time, and will require much less maintenance than other buildings.Solum

Rammed Earth is a member of the Canadian Home Builders Association and provides full sub-contracting services for all applications of stabilized rammed earth (SRE) work throughout the Okanagan Valley. With over 5 years combined experience, Solum directors have experience spanning residential, commercial, civil, and landscape applications. Solum maintains a competitive advantage by owning all the necessary unique equipment to efficiently carry out SRE projects, including a custom earth blending machine. Nicholas calls it a green concrete process.Some of the many benefits to using Rammed Earth construction are:BUILD GREEN Reduce the embodied energy in building a home by using local material as the main structural component; you are doing your part to offset CO2 emissionsENERGY EFFICIENT Effective R24+ insulation value and high thermal mass maintains ambient temperature levels saving you money over timeAESTHETICS Stand out with a naturally unique home that blends into the Okanagan landscapeMARKETING Differentiate your business and attract clientele by using innovative-rammed earth walls that are unique in appearance and offer unparalleled design flexibilityDURABILITY & LOW MAINTENANCE Free your time and moneyGOOD INDOOR AIR QUALITY Breathe easier with little to no toxic off-gassingFIRE RESISTANT Sleep easy knowing your walls are completely fire resistantSOUND PROOFING Relax in comfort with reduced noise pollution

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Flywheel Building Solutions -My Xeriscape Adventure

After spending money and time over the last three summers feeding, power raking and watering my front lawn to only see it go brown by July, I've decided that maintaining a green lawn is really not a good idea in the central Okanagan. This is especially true when you factor in the start of water metering in our local area in 2007. So I've decided to rip out my front yard and do something different. I thought I would put in rock garden but I've come across a relatively new idea called xeriscape.

XERISCAPE comes from a combination of two words: "xeri" is derived from the Greek word "xeros" meaning dry; and "scape, meaning view or scene, together they mean "a dry scene."

The term Xeriscape was coined in Denver, Colorado in 1978. Xeriscaping is landscaping with slow-growing, drought tolerant plants, allowing a conservation of water and nutrients. Xeric landscapes are conscious attempts to develop plantings which are compatible with the natural environment. Xeriscape landscapes need not be just cactus and rock gardens. They can be green, beautiful landscapes in which plants are maintained with water-efficient practices, and heavy mulching. Xeriscaping is not the same as Zeroscaping. Zeroscaping is using a lot of rocks and a few sparse plants to create low-water-use landscaping. Xeriscapes use a wide variety of native and other water-efficient plants to create an oasis of colour, interest, diversity, and texture.Much to the dismay of my wife I am planning on starting this as soon as the ground is good to work this spring and hope to keep you posted on a regular basis. I would appreciate any advice or information you may have on the subject.

I've found these sites that may interest you.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Greener kitchens

If you have not noticed, kitchen renovations seems to be the hot topic covered by many renovation magazines and TV shows. Our last article spoke on the problems involved in choosing the right kitchen ventilation system for your cooking needs and the size of your home. This article will touch on the green ideas and suggested links and literature to check out as you move through the design process. As always feel free to contact us at if you require any further assistance is sourcing information or contacts.

Canadian Green Product Suppliers:

Suggested books and magazines:

May 2008 issue of Fine Homebuilding – currently on newsstands or visit

2007 Kitchen and Baths – Fine Homebuilding – still on some newsstands

Good Green Kitchens – Gibbs Smith, Publisher

Suggested web links:

Green Kitchen Renovations

Green Kitchen design

Home Recycling centers
- video

Green counter tops explained
- video

Worm composting

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Understanding Land Title Searches

In my 14 years in municipal inspections this has been one of the most misunderstood portions of the design and building process.

A title search is a process where someone searches the public records in the city or town where a piece of property is located. The searcher will go through the grantor and grantee indexes and examine the documents recorded in the land registry concerning that particular piece of property. This is usually performed by a lawyer, notorary, private search agency or in some cases can be provided by your local building authority.

During a title search, several key things are examined. For instance, mortgages, real estate taxes, liens for sewers, roadways, sidewalks, and other municipal improvements, federal taxes, government claims, legal judgments, foreclosures, condemnations, covenants, and easements and liens placed on title by previous contractors. Many municipalities are turning to registering notices on title in the event that work has been done without permits or that there are outstanding permit issues that have never been resolved and may have significant structural or safety issues.

(For specific information on Title Searches contact your lawyer or local building department (if they are not too busy) or drop us a line at )

All building departments require a copy a recent copy of a title search at the time of application. This is to ensure that there are no legal restrictions, which would inhibit the proposed construction, and to provide proof of ownership and ensure that in the case of a new subdivision that the lots have been registered with the Land Registry Office . Some also have private building scheme restrictions, which will limit the style and look of you new home, or addition and set time limits to completion. If you are building in a rural area, then it is important to review if there are limitations to where you can build do to septic system covenants. Many home additions or pool plans have been squashed due to septic field locations. When you factor in all restrictions it can seem like you are trying fit a square into a round hole.

There have been many instances that lots are pre-sold and then the permit applications are made but the lots have not been legally registered. This process can be lengthy and it is important that the lot purchaser inquires if and when the lots will be registered by the developer. There may be amendments to the original documents that may put further restrictions on the proposed plans. Permit applications have been delayed by months and have caused much grief for building authorities and owners.

Another big whammy for some home owners are covenants revolving around geotechnical (Okanagan Geology Mar 1) and environmental issues and as we continue to develop up the hillsides it will become more predominant as local jurisdications protect themselves against future legal action. These covenants may create a safe build area, which may be smaller than the zoning regulations, drainage and retaining requirements and in some cases will require a soils engineer for the foundation design and site reviews. This can create a significant increase in the cost of construction and limit your home or renovation design. For some reason this is a major item that is not explained very well to potential home buyers of hillside lots.

Please take to time to obtain a recent copy of your title and to understand what is registered against your title.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Okanagan Geology - Don't build your house upon the sand

"He shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it."

For anyone familiar with this ancient parable you will understand it is a practical example of what happens when you do not build your home upon a strong foundation.

The Okanagan valley is an area of Canada both unique in climate and geology. Ranging from sandy/gravel soils of Canada’s only desert in Osoyoos to the massive silt and sand deposits around Penticton to the ancient volcanic features of Mount Boucherie and Dilworth Mountain in the Kelowna area. These unique features have been a major focal point to attracting people to the valley. But it also causes unique problems for construction. Clay and high sulphate soils have caused severe damage to foundations in the central Okanagan while improper drainage has led to sink hole development in the areas around Penticton. The Okanagan valley is rich in mineral deposits including uranium, which has caused water quality issues in some communities. Several fault lines also cross the Okanagan valley. The Okanagan Fault line is recorded as one of BC’s largest earth structures. These fault lines have resulted in areas in additional code requirements for commercial foundations in the Kelowna area. It has also resulted in the Central Okanagan having high potential for Geothermal heat development. These unique issues only become more relevant as we continue to build in areas that we would have never even thought of developing 5 years ago. Money is a strong motivator to overcoming land issues. That is why I would recommend seeking out the services of professional geoscientist (geotechnical engineer) if you are building anything larger than a garage or adding

Geotechnical engineering is the branch of civil engineering concerned with the engineering behavior of earth materials. Geotechnical engineering includes investigating existing subsurface conditions and materials; assessing risks posed by site conditions; designing earthworks and structure foundations; and monitoring site conditions, earthwork and foundation construction.

A typical geotechnical engineering project begins with a site investigation of soil and bedrock on and below an area of interest to determine their engineering properties including how they will interact with, on or in a proposed construction. Site investigations are needed to gain an understanding of the area in or on which the engineering will take place. Investigations can include the assessment of the risk to humans, property and the environment from natural hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, sinkholes, soil liquefaction, debris flows and rock falls.

A geotechnical engineer then determines and designs the type of foundations, earthworks, and/or pavement subgrades required for the intended man-made structures to be built. Foundations are designed and constructed for structures of various sizes such as high-rise buildings, bridges, medium to large commercial buildings, and smaller structures where the soil conditions do not allow code-based design.

For more information on geoscience and work undertaken by a professional geoscientists, see the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists (APEGBC) website: or check out Wikipedia – Geotechnical Engineering.

If you are interested in leaning more about the Okanagan, I would suggest picking up a copy of Okanagan Geology British Columbia

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Building Changes in Foreign Lands

You may or may not be aware of the current provincial review called the "Modernization Strategy". Basically it is program that encompasses the major players in the building industry and it will compile recommendations to improve the quality of construction and inspections in BC.

However you may not be aware of the significant changes happening in other countries. New Zealand experienced many of the same "Leaky Condo" issues that we faced in BC. They went through an investigative and finger pointing period similar to our Barrett Commission ( and came up with pretty much the similar causes and suggestions as we did. However what they have done since that time can be viewed as a drastic change in the way they do business industry wide. While we have adopted the HPO program, which I believe has raised the construction bar; it has failed to address the main issue of having mandatory qualified people doing the work. That would range from the builders, trades, designers and inspectors.

It appears that the NZ Department of Building and Housing has taken it seriously and are requiring all the major players on a construction job to meet minimum levels of competency. They call it the Building Practitioners Scheme. It is stated "Occupational licensing is for people who take pride in their work; for the people who want to take responsibility, not just for the quality of their own work, but also for the work of the people they supervise".

By 2010, a licensed building practitioner will be required to carry out or supervise specific restricted work on homes and other buildings. There will be 13 licenses being introduced that will apply to designers, builders, site supervisors, construction managers and carpenters. Further licensing will incorporate skilled trades such as roofers, specialized structural components and building services.

For more information go to and click on Building.

Please let us know what you think of this type of licensing program.