Category Archives: Articles

Articles written by Ann or Gord

If they could speak…


I spent the day bringing bad news to the shooting stars…you know those incredibly beautiful delicate spring flowers that thrive in a healthy Garry Oak ecosystem.

They are at their most vulnerable time, having just gone through the winter, pushed their leaves out through the wet earth and leaf litter, with their flower buds just days away from opening in a most amazing display.

This morning I was out carefully excavating a few native plants for the living roof on the new chicken coop. Plants that have poked through on our few paths that venture into the relatively untouched areas that we share with all the others. The neighbours, good people who we are quite friendly with decided it was time to fix their fence on a point of their land that juts into the land we love and call home. There is no reason for this fence other than to mark their territory.

So the trampling began, with this elderly couple, their three grandsons, and my dad. I tried to respectfully explain that these beautiful flowers were very vulnerable and are part of an endangered ecosystem. No one cared!…the fence needed to be fixed…it was unfortunate they said. I tried to dig some up, while the feet were squishing and twisting around me, but ending up leaving in tears. I went and sat with the chickens; they surrounded me and began to preen their feathers.

I later went back to the damaged site. The flowers spoke to me. They said their leaves were damaged and separated from their bulbs; they were hungry and knew that they would not flower this year to reproduce. They also wondered if they could manage the energy to send out new leaves; they were already tired after working so hard to make their leaves and flowers.

One of the younger smaller and more vulnerable bulbs asked about the possibility of a class action lawsuit to sue for damages. I sadly explained that under our laws they had no rights and could not sue. The elder bulb then spoke up with a wisdom passed down from bulb to bulb over 1,000,000 years and said, “Corporations have rights, why don’t we all get together and form a legal entity so that we have rights, and then we can sue”. We have simple needs for food and water and a tiny bit of land. Initially all the bulbs thought this was a brilliant idea and asked me to help. I sadly had to inform them that Shooting Star bulbs cannot own shares of a corporation. Their species has no value to humans and unless they can figure out a way to convince the entire human population that other forms of life are equal and have rights they will have no future.

I left the bulbs to mull this over and last I heard they are spreading the word underground through an extensive mycelium network. Fungi are the internet of the others. The mycelium have agreed to share resources through a mycorrhizal symbiotic relationship they have with the trees to hopefully give the shooting stars enough food to survive. In the meantime the fungi are spreading the word.

The others are sending out the message to all living creatures that they need to fight back. they will no longer be stepped upon by our excessively heavy footprint.

I have agreed to help them out on the human front, so please let me know when the fungi message has reached the land where you live.

Ann Baird, BSc Biology

Dodecatheon hendersonii (shooting star)

My thoughts after the BC Assessment ruling meeting


I went before the appeal board last week and gave an in depth presentation that was very well received.  The bottom line is that BC Assessment has done a good job assessing the fair market value of the home ($370,000).  Their mandate IS NOT TAXATION, but simply the valuation of the home…

John Horgan visited Gord and I last week on the day before my appeal.  We had a lovely three hour chat about many things.  He agreed that this taxation was wrong but that changes would have to come from legislation in the ministry of finance.  He said that this would be a difficult push at this point because, face it, there not too many people in this position.   It comes back to the chicken and egg argument.

The appeal panel also agreed that this seems to be unfair and is effectively a dis-incentive.  They said the solution may be something like the farm tax credit.  They also had some vision in saying that in a perfect world all homes would have solar roofs and there wouldn’t need to be special treatment.

So, that’s where I’m at.  I may take it to the next appeal which will be recorded for public record…and thus perhaps get the media involved.  (the first appeal was private with NO record) other than my own memory.

Ann

Ann’s notes for presentation to the BC Assessment Board


February 18, 2010

Notes for Property Assessment Review Panel

Area: 01 Jurisdiction: 361 Highlands (SD61) Roll: 15016.160

Re: 3295 Compton Road, Victoria, BC V9E 1C8

  • Comments to Doug Burkinshaw
    • I think he has done a great job trying to fairly assess the home.
    • It is wonderful that the earthen architectural style is properly valued
  • Brief introduction to Eco-Sense – see info sheet
    • Features (see printout)
    • Costs (see printout)
    • Living Building Challenge, $35K Vancity grant, Enormous publicity
    • Policy work with BCSEA, municipal and provincial governments
    • Met with MLA John Horgan yesterday – regular contact as he is the Energy critic for the BC Govt.
  • BC Assessment challenges for the Eco-Sense Home (a few areas but wish to spend most of our time discussing the energy systems within the appraisal). Brief discussion of some of the minor issues resulting from our assessment. Important to note: NO similar case studies or home exist for comparison
    • Thickness of mass wall system – Doug and I have worked through this issue to fairly assess our 2 foot thick mass wall system.
    • Ability to obtain a mortgage on this style of sustainable home
      • financing is possible but only at large interest rate premium
      • Does this reduce assessment of the home?
    • Home only has composting “Waterless” toilets.  There are two bathrooms but only one is plumbed for a flush toilet.  Does this reduce assessment of the home?  Should it?
  • Valuation of the sustainable energy (SE) systems. Easy to determine costs…difficult to assess their BC assessment value.

Read more HERE:  BC Assessment pres

Letter to BC Premier Gordon Campbell regarding Sustainable Energy Tax Disincentives


Dear Premier Campbell,

As the Olympics come to a close I would like to bring to your attention another global competition.  The race to be the GREENEST building.  The Living Building Challenge is a visionary building certification program well beyond LEED platinum.  With over 70 global projects registered and only four completed, the Eco-Sense Home in Victoria BC is leading the way.

Eco-Sense embodies the principals of the Living Building Challenge.  This multi-generation affordable near net zero family home incorporates the best of modern technologies into an innovative modern example of earthen architecture.  see www.eco-sense.ca

The Eco-Sense home has had over 100 media events including TV, magazines, radio, newspaper, documentaries, Royal BC Museum displays, and books.  Tours have included policy makers, politicians, engineers, government officials, architects, builders, climate scientists, community leaders, groups of bankers, groups of building officials and planners, as well as school groups and the public.

As you can imagine a project of this magnitude has encountered many policy barriers.  Ann and Gord Baird, through their achievements, have identified many barriers while working towards the solutions.

Energy Policy is at the forefront of the identified barriers and we would like to share what we have learned from the front line of actually walking the sustainability talk.  Below are the main barriers to Eco-Sense becoming the most sustainable code approved family home in North America.

  1. The BC Hydro Net metering program is very poor and is lagging behind.  Eco-Sense IS a NET PROVIDER of electricity to BC Hydro on an annual basis.  If BC Hydro had a better net metering program which paid the real cost of all the sustainable energy sold to the grid, many of the cost barriers to sustainable energy and fully net zero living would be overcome.  BC Hydro is WAY behind as they only pay 8.2 cents per kWhr.  Quite embarrassing for a province that wishes to lead the way towards sustainability.
    • better policy in this area would support a distributed grid, energy conservation, community pride, and local energy resiliency.
  2. Removal of all the current tax disincentives to solar PV. (Here are a few of them)
    • HST on solar technologies – sustainable energy should be exempt from HST
    • Electrical permit fees on entire solar installations – leads to very large permit fees for individuals installing solar systems
    • increase in municipal taxation because of property value increases due to BC Assessment of all future energy energy production
      • Eco-Sense pays an extra $400 per year in municipal taxes because we generate sustainable energy (works out to $10,000 over the 25 year life cycle of the system)
      • Our Sustainable energy systems comprise 21% of the total cost of our home.  (see PDF link below for complete cost breakdown of the Eco-Sense home)

We recently discussed this issue with the BC Assessment appeal board, the BC Sustainable Energy Association (BCSEA), and our MLA; everyone agrees that this is wrong.  Solution involves changing the legislation with the BC Minister of Finance.

The climate science dictates that policy MUST encourage the people and industry to take BIG steps to move rapidly towards sustainability.  Most of the current GHG reduction policy involves encouraging baby step.

Ann and Gord Baird of Eco-Sense strongly encourage the Campbell Government to take bold steps forward on Energy and Taxation Policy to create the future we all desire, for our children, our citizens, our beautiful province and to showcase for the planet that BC is truly a leader.  Just think, BC could have the first certified “Living Building Project” in the World.

Please see this PDF of the features of our home.

We would also like to extend an invitation for a private tour of our home.

Respectfully,

Ann and Gord Baird

Victoria, BC

Humanure: Used in food gardening


Check out page 15 of this “BC Organic Grower, Winter 2010.”  Seems that the compost tested at UBC was just fine for use in organic growing but was a bit lacking in N and P.  Our compost would be better as the style of composting collects and retains the N and we also add all the kitchen scraps which includes a few bones (adds P).

Read More  Use of Humanure on the Organic Farm