Don Willems

New Nelson washroom ‘not just for hippies in the bush’

The new eco-friendly public washroom is now open at Art Gibbon Memorial Park in Rosemont

The new eco-friendly public washroom is now open at Art Gibbon Memorial Park in Rosemont.

The structure is built entirely from natural, and mostly locally sourced, materials. The 12-inch thick walls are made from clay and wood chips, sealed with natural plaster, and covered by a timber frame shelter to protect it from the elements.

On the roof, amid trays of sedum plants, a solar panel collects energy to power interior lights and heat water for the sink in the single bathroom stall. If the panel collects more energy than it needs, the excess can be sold back to the grid. Alternately, power from the grid can be used when the panel can’t store enough sunlight.

“Ultimately the building net-zero in its energy consumption,” explained Don Willems, structural engineer for the project.

He and others who worked on the structure offered tours of the finished product earlier this month. The way all of them talk about the project, you can tell building it was a labour of love.

Throughout last summer, a number of workshops were held for people interested in helping construct the building and learning about the green building materials being utilized.

“Frankly, we needed a lot of volunteer labour to get the project done,” Willems said.

Parts of the building process were quite labour intensive. The clay and wood chip bricks that insulate the walls, for example, had to be formed by hand, using a method pioneered by Joern Wingander (who has since found a brick press to speed up the process).

The hand-made bricks were only used in half the building, while a loose mixture of clay and mulch fill the rest of the exterior wall. A “truth window” was built where the two insulation types intersect, offering a peek at how different they look.

“The loose material was faster to install, but the bricks offer more thermal mass,” Willems explained. “We used two different methods to see how each of the hold up over time.”

Willems said the cost of building the washroom with natural materials cost the City “a little bit more” than what it would have spent on a traditional brick-and-mortar structure, but over time he expects that investment will pay for itself.

“The lifetime cost of running the building will be less. You don’t have to pay anything to heat it and if something happens to the building, it’s easy to repair,” Willems said.

“There’s a lot of people in this area experimenting with green building methods in their homes, and I think now having a public space built from natural materials will help people realize this is a very adequate building system. It’s not just for hippies living in the bush.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Posted

Castlegar council set to rule on three retail cannabis proposals

Residents have until Dec. 27 to comment on the business proposals

Nelson Boxing named province’s top club

The club won several awards while going 13-1 at provincials

Nelson council rejects review of mayor’s salary

Mayor Dooley proposed that $10,000 of his pay be put in trust and a review undertaken

Nelson-area man wants trapping laws changed after dog killed

Louis Seguin’s 10-month-old Australian shepherd died in a body-gripping trap last month

West Kootenay highways a mess as heavy snowfall continues

‘Roads are very icy, people have to be patient and have to slow down’

Man caught on camera allegedly trying to defraud ICBC

Auto-insurer warns B.C. drivers to record info after crashes

Senate delays start of sittings in new home, delaying start of broadcasts

The Senate and House of Commons are moving into temporary homes for the next decade as a result of long-planned and badly needed renovations to the Centre Block.

UK leader seeks EU lifeline after surviving confidence vote

EU leaders gather for a two-day summit, beginning Thursday, which will center on the Brexit negotiations.

French police try to catch attack suspect dead or alive

Local authorities increase death toll to three, including 13 wounded and five in serious condition

BCHL’ers blanked by Russia at World Junior A Challenge

Canada West loses battle of the unbeaten teams in the preliminary round

Second Canadian missing in China after questioning by authorities

Michael Spavor, founder of a non-profit that organizes cultural-exchange trips to North Korea, “is presently missing in China”

Cannabis gift ideas for this holiday season

Put the green in happy holidays, now that cannabis is legal in Canada

Warning issued as forecast calls for 20-foot waves in Tofino

Dangerous waves, strong currents and upper-shoreline flooding expected for Tofino-Ucluelet area

An 800-pound pig named Theodore needs a forever home, B.C. society says

‘Theodore is not destined to be somebody’s bacon’

Most Read