Learning doesn’t stop at the school doorway. A wealth of knowledge is available to us today from both traditional forms of information and the newer internet-based information sources.
It is equally true for those interested in green building and renewable energy. It is up to each of us to search and distill what we find.
Books are still being published, and they continue to provide a relevant level of detail, in spite of rapid technology changes.
There are books dealing with specific subjects such as alternative house construction, building for those with chemical sensitivities, water catchment, solar hot water and photovoltaics (PV).
Almost anything related to green building and energy can be found in books, and many of them are available through the Gabriola Island’s New Society Publishers and Solar Energy International of Colorado.
There are also periodicals, many of which can be seen on news stands and in bookstores.
Some, such as Mother Jones and Popular Mechanics, cover renewable energy and green building in a more cursory manner but may still be of interest.
Building magazines such as Fine Homebuilding include articles about green building technologies.
The long-standing bi-monthly Home Power magazine is for those interested in more detailed information on renewable energy systems. It features practical information on solar PV, solar thermal, wind power generation and micro-hydro power generation.
Articles range from home-built heat exchangers to off-grid appliances to electric motorcycles.
Solar Today is the official publication of the American Solar Energy Society and generally discusses renewable energy at a broader level, although with an American perspective. It includes articles on more specific topics such as efficient cars and passive solar construction.
SAB Magazine is a Canadian publication that focuses on new building commercial construction with a green orientation. Its partner magazine, SAB Homes, focuses on residential construction.
Solplan is a quarterly newsletter published by an architect in Vancouver. It focuses on advanced building technologies and changes to Canadian building codes.
The most intense publication for green building is Environmental Building News, a bi-monthly U.S. newsletter available in paper or online. It runs no ads, which means it has a high subscription cost, but it provides unbiased well-researched information and analysis of new techniques and products.
BuildingGreen, the home company, publishes Green Spec Directory, which provides information on green products.
It also has detailed reports on building materials.
Canadian Building Green Council and its affiliate provincial bodies focus on green building, with provincial and national conferences held annually.
It also administers the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program in Canada, through which a person can receive accreditation.
Websites operated by industry associations such as CanWEA (Canadian Wind Energy Association) and CanSIA (the Canadian Solar Industries Association) are of some interest, but websites from commercial companies can be more educational, although it might be necessary to read a number of them.
The website of NRCan (Natural Resources Canada) has detailed information on a variety of subjects.
The Canadian Association of Re-newable Energies contains alternate energy links.
The website planetfriendly.net takes visitors to a long list of information sources on sustainable living.
Information about events, programs and courses under the general rubric of “environmental” is available through umbrella groups in each province.
Information on all provincial bodies is available through the Canada Environmental Network.
As well, British Columbia and Ontario have sustainable energy associations.
In-depth technical training may be available locally, through long distance education, online or at specific locations.
Solar Energy International is devoted to renewable energy education. Its programs include solar electric, solar thermal, wind power, small hydropower generation and renewable energy.
Some courses are held online, but many are also held away from the organization’s home base in Colorado, including in developing countries such as Haiti.
The Sustainable Building Advisor Program provides intensive learning for people with significant financial investment. It runs two days a month over nine months and provides successful graduates with a certificate.
Renewable energy fairs and workshops have long been popular in the United States and are becoming more common in Canada.
Examples include the recent second edition of the Green and Sustainable Energy Housing Forum and Fair in Moose Jaw, Sask., and an upcoming open house at Cut Knife’s Pedersen’s Apiaries.
Socializing with like-minded people can be educational, helpful and invigorating. Events such as Green Drinks, which takes place monthly in many cities around the world, can provide socializing opportunities.
In this case, it is not the drinks that are green (as in St. Patrick’s day) but rather the conversation that goes along with the drinks.
The internet provides a broad variety of information about sustainable building and renewable energy, and only repetitive searching can reveal its depth.
As with all things internet, there is the cautionary note: sometimes opinions are prejudices or are based on minimal experience and not fact. Separating the wheat from the chaff requires sampling and screening. That being said, an incredible amount of useful information is available online.
For those without internet savvy or access, remember that libraries are still in operation and reference librarians are willing to help people find things on the shelves or online.
Will Oddie is a renewable energy, sustainable building consultant with a lifetime interest in energy conservation. To contact Oddie, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.