Q&A

The adjective “green” is ambiguous when used in reference to the planning, design, and development process. VERT’s approach is rooted in an appreciation of the unique needs of every person, and their innate desire for change. All of our work is driven by a commitment to making tomorrow better without compromising our quality of life today – a commitment to sustainable living.

VERT’s projects are:

  • Low-Impact – they minimize effects of construction
  • High-Efficiency – they use resources efficiently
  • Integrated – they become a part of the systems at play around them
  • Durable – they stand the test of time
  • Adaptable – they have the potential to serve multiple uses
  • Nontoxic – they protect your health and that of our environment
  • Beautiful – they invite your attention and instill a desire to preserve them
  • Functional – they work
  • Relevant – they are important and serve your individual needs

VERT successfully applies these tenets of “green design” while respecting your interest in challenging conventional planning, design, and development practices.

There are many shades of green in the forest. We can help them all grow.

VERT is aware of how rising energy costs erode your disposable income.  We offer you design solutions that significantly reduce your demand on energy.

An energy efficient home design has advantages:

  • Lower energy bills – you can reduce yourenergy costs to zero over the course of a year, and insulate yourself from fluctuating energy prices
  • More reliable energy sources – you can have greater peace of mind in knowing that your home will continue functioning even during public-grid blackout situations

Our Net Zero Energy homes integrate high-performance, energy-efficient passive solar design with commercially available on-site renewable energy systems such as solar water heating, solar electricity and ground-source heat. They are designed to produce as much energy annually as they consume annually. Connected to the electricity grid, these homes draw power only as needed – and can sell excess power back into the system.

VERT works to:

  • Interpret your goals
  • Define your constraints
  • Refine your needs
  • Provide you with options
  • Represent your vision
  • Save you time and money
  • Protect your health and that of our environment
  • Ensure your satisfaction
How long do you have? Although we can work within extremely short timelines, our experience has demonstrated that clients often benefit from periods of reflection built into the project timeline. Some wines are ready to be drunk right away. Others can benefit from the passing of time.

We would be happy to talk to you about the external constraints (most often associated with regulatory approvals and climate) that may restrict the development process in a given jurisdiction.

Development is sustainable when it “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. This understanding was first established in the 1987 Brundtland Report, prepared for the United Nations’ World Commission on Environment and Development.

VERT believes the world should continue to change – in a sustainable way. In a sustainable future we value economy, ecology, and society equally. Only through sustainable actions can we provide the best outcomes possible for humans and other living things, both now and into the indefinite future.

For buildings, land and communities, sustainable means living in a way that leaves the world still livable for future generations.  Currently climate change, species extinction, and a host of other environmental problems are already leaving a very different world to our grandchildren that the one that we know.

Consider that:

  • Canada is the fourth-largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions per capita within Kyoto Protocol participating countries (1).
  • 17% of the energy consumed in Canada is used to operate our homes. Every time we use energy from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, we produce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Housing accounts for 16% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions (2).
  • Individual Canadians contribute 5 tonnes of CO2 per person each year: household heating, cooling, lighting and appliances represent half of these emissions. The other half of Canadians’ personal GHG emissions comes from travel related to housing location and lifestyle (3).
  1. Canada’s Third National Report on Climate Change 2001.
  2. Natural Resources Canada. Energy Use Data Handbook; Residential Sector, Table 2: Secondary Energy Use and GHG Emissions by End-Use.
  3. Ibid.
Green building rating systems provide benchmarks that assist us in measuring building performance and other important characteristics of development (or redevelopment) projects.  The best rating systems are evaluate the outcome, not the approach – and are audited by a neutral third party.

One does not necessarily need to have their building certified in order to create a green building.  Although the certification process can help focus the design process and provide additional oversight during construction.

VERT projects typically measure their green building performance using LEED and Passive House certification standards while striving to meet the Living Building Challenge.

This is harder to quantify in simple terms since it includes not only heating, cooling and ventilation but also lighting, plug loads and appliances… there is no limit for these in the building code therefore there is no minimum baseline to measure against. A Passive House does require the use of ENERGY STAR appliances and lighting along with heat recovery ventilation equipment that must not only be the most efficient available. A Passive House is a relatively easy building to convert into a net-zero-energy building with the addition of renewable energy production system (e.g. photovoltaic panels). (i.e. Passive House standard = 120 kWh / m2 of living area per year, or less)
Call us! Alternatively, you may wish to review the information accessible through our links page, or read what others are saying about us through our media page. (Vert Design is not responsible for the content of any external sites.)

If you are interested in having VERT speak to your group about our firm, our projects, or our approach to design please contact us.

The term Vert was chosen since it acts as a double entendre (i.e. a term with two meanings).  Vert refers to the colour green (i.e. vert in French) and to the idea of vertical movement (i.e. upward growth).  Both pronunciations – /vɚt/ in english and /vεːʀ/ in french – are commonly used.
VERT works hard to provide you with the best return possible for your investment in green design. The outcomes we facilitate:

  • Save you money now and in the future – by configuring available construction technology intelligently we maximize resource and energy efficiency, ultimately lowering your operating costs
  • Make your life more comfortable – by tailoring solutions to your specific needs we help you adapt your environment to suit your unique lifestyle, ultimately increasing functionality
  • Bring you and your environment better health – by integrating locally sourced, non-toxic, sustainably-produced, and recycled materials into your project, ultimately minimizing our global impacts
  • Improve your life and the lives of future generations – by helping you make sense of the structures and community around you we encourage action, ultimately making positive places now – for later
VERT is conscious of the affects poor health can have on your quality of life (not to mention your earning potential).  By investing in a VERT healthy home you are preparing yourself for a lifetime better health.

A healthy home design has advantages:

  • Healthier living – by building homes using non-toxic materials and finishes we promote our better health
  • Greater comfort – by maintaining steadier temperatures due to an energy-efficient building envelope, and by providing ample natural lighting and improved acoustics we create a better living environment.
The VERT design process is focused on developing an understanding of your needs and responding to them. We listen, we look, we touch, we taste, and we smell – then we act. The quality of our work is dependent upon our ability to interpret your input. Through a series of consultations we explore all aspects of the project together. When appropriate our consultations engage other stakeholders to benefit from their perspective. These stakeholders might include including future owners or users, community groups, regulatory officials, and politicians. Ultimately, we ensure that you maintain a leadership role throughout the design process.

Once we have a clear understanding of your needs and the systems at play in your project environment, our responsibility is to develop options for your consideration. VERT is a multi-disciplinary firm that integrates conventionally independent professions to devise holistic solutions. We consult with all members of the project team (i.e. client, designers, engineers, ecologists, suppliers, contractors, community leaders) as early as possible so that we can move through the process as a unified group, with clear lines of communication, an established timeline, and a defined goal.

VERT applies new technology and traditional tools during your design’s development. The options we present you draw heavily on information that you have provided, while representing our professional expertise, and demonstrating our creative confidence. Instead of resorting to a conventional catalogue of components, we develop custom solutions that serve your unique needs. We facilitate your design experience by clearly outlining the advantages and disadvantages associated with every option we present so you can make decisions with assurance. Your options will always integrate with the systems at play in the project environment.

The VERT process ensures that you realize your project objectives. We are sensitive to the time and financial constraints ubiquitous in development. Our expertise is in helping our clients manage the relationship between those two factors, the built form, and the world around it. It is imperative that oversight exists in any development project. We inspect all construction to ensure that your design is built as we have specified, thereby giving you insurance that you are getting what you are paying for.

A detailed outline of the phases involved in a green home design process are available by clicking here.

Our fees reflect the scope of work you require, and are tailored to suit the unique characteristics of each project to ensure that you are getting the best value for your money. Typical billing structure options available to you might include a flat fee, an hourly rate, or a percentage of your project’s construction value. We would be pleased to meet with you to review your needs and discuss the value of our services without obligation. At your request we are happy to provide a proposal outlining our services and fees.


More than 2500 scientific expert reviewers, 800 contributing authors, and 450 lead authors from over 130 countries think so.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report summarizes the work of the world’s top climate experts.  Its latest report “Climate Change 2007” makes for some sobering reading.  The report concludes unequivocably that the world is getting warmer, that the temperature is rising faster than ever, and that the change is as a result of human activities.

Carbon dioxide and other gases warm the surface of the planet naturally by trapping solar heat in the atmosphere. This is a good thing because it has kept our planet habitable. However, by burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil, and clearing forests, we have dramatically increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere and temperatures are rising.

The rapid increase of global temperature is creating an extreme environment that we are unfamiliar with. The changes to our world from global warming are obvious and drastic:

  • The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years. (1)
  • Malaria has spread to higher altitudes in places like the Colombian Andes, 7,000 feet above sea level. (2)
  • The flow of ice from glaciers in Greenland has more than doubled over the past decade. (3)
  • At least 279 species of plants and animals are already responding to global warming, moving closer to the poles. (4)

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that global warming will continue to create extreme weather events including intense storms, floods, heat waves, and droughts. If the warming continues, we can expect catastrophic consequences including:

  • Deaths from global warming will double in just 25 years – to 300,000 people a year. (5)
  • Global sea levels could rise by more than 20 feet with the loss of shelf ice in Greenland and Antarctica, devastating coastal areas worldwide. (6)
  • The Arctic Ocean could be ice free in summer by 2050. (7)
  • More than a million species worldwide could be driven to extinction by 2050. (8)
  1. Emanuel, K. 2005. Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years. Nature 436: 686-688.
  2. World Health Organization
  3. Krabill, W., E. Hanna, P. Huybrechts, W. Abdalati, J. Cappelen, B. Csatho, E. Frefick, S. Manizade, C. Martin, J, Sonntag, R. Swift, R. Thomas and J. Yungel. 2004. Greenland Ice Sheet: Increased coastal thinning. Geophysical Research Letters 31.
  4. Nature.
  5. World Health Organization
  6. Washington Post, “Debate on Climate Shifts to Issue of Irreparable Change,” Juliet Eilperin, January 29, 2006, Page A1.
  7. Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. 2004. Impacts of a Warming Arctic. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Also quoted in Time Magazine, Vicious Cycles, Missy Adams, March 26, 2006.
  8. Time Magazine, Feeling the Heat, David Bjerklie, March 26, 2006.


LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally-recognized green building certification system.  LEED provides a framework for selecting practical solutions for the  design, construction, operation and maintenance of buildings.

The LEED for Homes Rating System measures the overall performance of a home in eight categories:

  1. Innovation & Design Process (ID). Special design methods, unique regional credits, measures not currently addressed in the Rating System, and exemplary performance levels.
  2. Location & Linkages (LL). The placement of homes in socially and environmentally responsible ways in relation to the larger community.
  3. Sustainable Sites (SS). The use of the entire property so as to minimize the project’s impact on the site.
  4. Water Efficiency (WE). Water-efficient practices, both indoor and outdoor.
  5. Energy & Atmosphere (EA). Energy efficiency, particularly in the building envelope andheating and cooling design.
  6. Materials & Resources (MR). Efficient utilization of materials, selection of environmentallypreferable materials, and minimization of waste during construction.
  7. Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ). Improvement of indoor air quality by reducing the creation of and exposure to pollutants.
  8. Awareness & Education (AE). The education of the homeowner, tenant, and/or building manager about the operation and maintenance of the green features of a LEED® home. (from LEED Canada for Homes Rating System, 2009)


A Passive House uses about 10 – 20% of the energy required to heat a new home built to current minimum Building Code standards.  (i.e. Passive House standard = 15 kWh / m2 of living area per year, or less)
A Passive House must be five to ten times more air tight than a new home built to current minimum Building Code minimum standards.  (i.e. Passive House standard = 0.6 ACH, or less)
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