Cheol Joon Baek
Fourth Pig is a non-profit co-op that does green contracting in Toronto and the surrounding area. We're a small company, so I do diverse things, including a lot of renovation work that involves framing and insulating.
I took the sustainable building design and construction course through Fleming College, graduating in 2007. It's a five-month certificate program, and then I went on to become a carpenter apprentice.
I've always thought the trades would be a great and practical way to support my artistic interests. I co-founded a screen-printing company but I was getting a chemical sensitivity from working with the emulsions, inks and cleaners, so I wanted to work with natural materials.
The Fleming program was great in that it gave me a good start with the hands-on tool experience. It was an education in all different types of sustainable methodology: renewable energy options, natural materials, how to apply them in a home building context and thinking about integrated design and building science. How does a building need to breathe? How is it going to be transformed throughout its life and the life cycle of products?
The biggest revelation for me came from thinking about a building in its entirety and its whole life cycle. If you're building with things that are never going to decompose when you renovate, everything will go to landfill. You might have a super-insulated house, but if it's impossible to renovate, then you're basically creating a gigantic garbage dump.
The best part of my job is being able to use natural materials in the city. We finished a straw bale addition to a home in the Oakwood-Eglinton area at the end of last year, the first-ever straw bale house in downtown Toronto.
The worst part is doing things that compromise my green ideology, like working on homes that are too large for the number of people who live in them.
Eco-carpentry is for people who are interested in the trades but want to go against the grain. Doing things innovatively right now might involve challenging companies, challenging old-timers or even starting your own company.