Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A sustainable eco-friendly house?

Building a house is by nature not very eco-friendly. Alot of new materials are required and the land is left scarred after all the excavation and site works. A pile of waste is created as well.
At one stage I looked longingly at strawbale or mudbrick building as a way of counteracting the huge level of consumption required in conventional building but Greg couldn't be convinced.
So within the confines of normal materials we really strived to build a house that has as small an impact as possible on the environment. Have we succeeded? Not as well as I would have liked.

Positive things:
  • No poisonous termite chemicals required ever due to the off the ground steel frame.
  • Small footprint ( 8mt x 12mt) means more land can be planted and less roofing materials are required to cover our living space because we went 2 storeys high.
  • Solar hot water should reduce our coal burning power consumption by around 30%.
  • Large water tank means we are self sufficient in water.
  • UV treated waste water means no chlorine or concentrated nutrient loads will ever leach into the soil and build up - and water is re-used on the garden.
  • Very energy efficient design means we'll use less power to heat and cool. Large eaves, minimal windows facing west, north facing verandah, low thermal mass roof and walls, high R value insulation & under floor ventilation all contribute to a design that suits the wet & humid, hot in summer, cool in winter climate of the subtropical rainforest.

Negative things:

  • We weren't able to use recycled windows due to the government requirement that a glazing certificate be provided ensuring adherence to Australian Standards - bugger!
  • Steel has a high embodied energy so was and 'environmentally expensive' choice - the trade off was that we have a termite barrier without toxic chemicals.
  • Clearing the block removed habitat for native animals & birds - we hope to replant and rectify this as much as we can.
  • Our decking (merbau) and framing (cypress) both come from non-sustainable forestry sources. The only thing I can say is that we will be living here for many years and caring for the timber so it never needs to be replaced but I really feel rotten about this point.

In the future, we hope to make our property more sustainable through the following:

  • Keep chickens (to be fed on kitchen scraps and other green waste)
  • Grow large amounts of our own vegies and fruit (and eggs of course)
  • Grow habitat for birds, native mammals and beneficial insects
  • Addition of grid connected solar power to supply all our power needs

Of course, we still have a house to build so I'd better go and help Greg with the tie-down rods!

5 comments:

meegan said...

And don't forget to add a huge pat on the back to you both for actually summing up enough courage to just get out there and give it a go!

No matter that the new place isn't quite as eco-friendly as you originally planned, you have succeeded anyway, just by trying :)

Del said...

Thanks Meegan! Your encouragement is appreciated.

Johnsen family said...

Well done you two! We really admire you both for your environmentally friendly approach to building. All we have done is change our light bulbs over to energy efficient ones... and I try and use the dryer less these days. Still - it all helps I guess!

Mojojohjo said...

Just popping in to say hello and see how the house is going. It looks awesome and I'm thrilled to see that you're doing it with the environment in mind. Lovely Jubly! Also where has your art page gone?

muneeb khatri said...

I liked your article and I hope you will have many entries or more find out