Bancroft's Riverside Park Project: building the sustainable way!

By Victoria Koppin

For some people, the idea of building, renovating or even changing the layout of their living space is very intimidating. To others, like me, it’s a challenge - with the opportunity to renew, to be creative and learn new skills, to research and experiment with new methods and materials, to discover innovative ways to beat the budget blues - always striving for the perfect balance of form and function. I married the right guy - Don Koppin is the guy to help with my ongoing building and renovating wish list, but our busy lives leave little time for exciting personal projects. We do try to use new ideas for the items we can check off our list each season, as well as in our clients’ projects.

Our main goals are always energy efficiency, sustainability and environmental friendliness, and we love to see a blend of new technology, proven tradition and budget-minded, practical application – a perfect melding of form and function.  For the past few months, we have been excited and inspired by a new building, the Riverside Project, being constructed here in Bancroft.  We toured it again this week, and came home filled with more ideas for our projects. Sponsored by Bancroft Community Transit, on York River waterfront property donated by the Town of Bancroft, this interesting, natural and beautiful building is a testament to the creativity and innovative skills of the Sir Sanford Fleming Sustainable Building course students - and the trusted guidance of their instructors Pat Marcotte and Eric Lewis. The building, to be finished in the next few weeks, will be used as a concession stand and recreational equipment rental outlet, operated by community youth. 

The structure is straw bale and well-insulated timber frame construction. Local logs have been used in a variety of ways - vertically for supports, in short lengths for stackwall construction (a dead elm from the property), in long pine slices, donated by an impressed visitor, and in the crafting of live-edge serving counters.  The craft of “tadelakt” finishing – an ancient tradition used in the riads of Morocco, was used in one room. (After applying a naturally-dyed lime, the surface is rubbed with olive soap and then polished over several weeks using a smooth stone – for a finish as soft as silk). An upcycled bicycle wheel and twigs have been used to create a window from one room to another, and there’s even a small wall section made with imbedded pop cans!  

Beautiful solid birch doors were purchased at the Habitat for Humanity Restore at a fraction of the cost of new ones. Rooms are kept bright by the installation of sun tubes – a product we and our clients love for the inexpensive, total transformation they can bring to a dingy room.

A variety of shingle designs and board-and-batten siding have been used, both from local suppliers, treated with an environmentally-friendly, low-maintenance product that will allow natural aging . The students learned how to build outside walls from local stone, how to mix lime for mortar and plaster and how to create a full range of natural colours for the finish coat. They even built a solar collector!  See their Facebook page at Riverside Park Project and 2 YouTube videos created for the project (below).

We applaud this initiative, and the efforts made by the Town of Bancroft,  Bancroft Community Transit (Bringing Communities Together) and Sir Sanford Fleming College for offering students such an important opportunity to create and learn as participants in the Sustainable Building Program.