Using permaculture ethics & design principles to transform an old energy guzzling bungalow into a showcase of sustainable design. It's about energy cycling, building community, self-reliance,creatively using & reusing materials... all without spending heaps of money.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The 'outside-in' ceiling

Principle Two: Catch and store energy


Using corrugated iron as a ceiling lining is a bit unusual. We used it because: we like the effect, it's quick and easy to install, it can be reused or recycled, requires no painting and has a very long low maintenance life. It took two days to install, with three of us on the first day and four on the second. The sheets in the living room were 7.2m long and required props to help hold in place while it was being fixed.
Because there is no more room in the ceiling space I installed wiring for a future (possible) solar PV system - allowing the wiring to be concealed. The 2 x 4mm SDI cable was fitted into conduit to protect it from vermin, should they find their way into the ceiling (hope not). It would have been good to have made larger box beams (400mm instead of 300mm wide) to allow for larger air cavity.
Two layers of R2.5 polyester batts (the most we could fit) were installed into the ceiling cavity as we attached the corrugated iron ceiling. Each layer was fitted in a different direction so the there would be minimal gaps. I read that 5% gaps in insulation can result in a 50% reduction in performance, so it's important to fit them properly. Along with the foil we have a total of R6.0 insulation in the ceiling - well above the current standards for this climate. This will help store the energy of the sun that is captured in the thermal mass of the concrete slab and the future wood stove when we need it. It will also help keep excess heat out.
The final effect is pretty schmick, and bounces light around the room more evenly. The acoustics are better than I would have thought; sound does reflect off the ceiling but is absorbed into the wooden walls and heavy floor of the living space.


Polyester insulation. 35 bags used in the ceiling (except bathroom which is still under construction).

Installing insulation into the bedroom ceiling cavity as each galvanised iron sheet is fixed. Two layers of R2.5 batts that criss-cross each other to avoid gaps.

Dylan installing insulation into the living room ceiling cavity before last galvanised iron sheet is fixed. Packing tape used to hold up insulation batts. Props (in background) used to help hold up sheets while screwing into place.

Living room / kitchen ceiling. Sun-facing (north) windows to left.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Water, water everywhere

Principle 12: Creatively use and respond to change

I was glad that I was on site when the big rains came down on the 7th of March. Alterations in the landscape from earthworks on the building site caused some flooding and I was busy with the shovel diverting water away from the building. The gutters couldn't cope with the intensity of the rain and overflowed at times. The design using the corrugated iron overhang, with LVL (Laminated Veneer Lumber) and gutters attached meant that no water could overflow into the eaves and flood the house.
The cellar had a significant amount of water in it, about 500mm deep. I don't think that this was because water flowed into it from ground level, but rather because it soaked in through a hole in sump and gaps in the brickwork motar.


Heavy rain, gutters overflowing. Temporary earthworks to divert water away from the building.


Water tank overflowing from the overflow pipe and the inlet. This can undermine the foundations of the tank and cause it to split.


Wetland in flood


Gutters overflowing


Road and drain outside house completely submerged. Whitehead creek in full flow for the first time in many years.



Cellar with about 500mm of water inside. Borrowed petrol transfer pump used to remove water.

Once the cellar dried out I mixed up mortar with Boncrete (waterproofing glue) to fill gaps and the hole in the sump. The cellar has remained dry since, but we haven't had any more heavy rains. Be interesting to see what happens when it does...
I drained the wetland by reducing the level of the overflow. This can easily be changed back by putting back a small amount of soil. It give me greater flexibility on how wet the wetland can be.
Changes were made to the overflow of the water tanks. The cellar tank now has a pipe that overflows into the equilising line that links the two tanks. This allows the cellar tank to be operated independently and will act as a back up water supply with it's own small head for gravity feed. It will also be used for hand watering of plants.
The main tank now has a larger overflow that has temporarily been set up to spill over some milled red gum. The original overflow has been blocked off with silicon and a block of wood cut for the purpose. I'm still thinking about how best to use the overflow water. Perhaps set up a pond of sorts? Or maybe just feed it into the wetland?


Wetland after big rain with overflow channel deepened


Overflow pipe installed on cellar tank which feeds into equalising line / other tank. 25mm line runs to transfer pump which will be housed in the cellar. Water can be drawn from either tank independently.


Abdallah House as viewed from north west corner, showing simplified downpipes to water tank

Temporary overflow pipe from main tank

Sunday, March 14, 2010

More lining

Principle Six: Produce no waste

The lining has been quite a labour intensive process, especially when reusing secondhand materials. I love the effect, a brand new building with built-in character. I've spent about 112 hours all up on the weatherboard (and plywood) lining, while it takes a lot of time the $ cost isn't huge. All weatherboards used have been recovered from the original house that was deconstructed. Plywood was purchased in bulk, is made in New Zealand and FSC certified.


Weatherboard lining above north windows on exterior

 Gap above top board covered with recycled flywire for fire resistant design and to deter insect access.

Weatherboard lining using up offcuts

Weatherboard and plywood lining along hallway, lights yet to be fitted above doorways which will help make a feature of the wall

Removing the paint filled inner grove from an old weatherboard using a chisel so that the boards sit nicely above one another
Flat weatherboard lining around toilet and bathroom doors. Trim around doors recovered from original building.

Testing timber treatments

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