Showing posts from 2009

Northern light

Principle 3: Obtain a yield
Principle 2: Catch and store energy

When I went to check out the second-hand water tank that I was looking to buy I came across a large window on the site.  It was made from Western Red Cedar, a soft timber that is naturally resistant to decay. The panes and doors were in good condion, but the supporting frame was not, as it had been stacked straight on the ground and left out in the weather for years. The glass was single glazed (probably laminated) and it had a double sliding doors. I thought that it might be useful as the northern window and asked a friend what I should offer for it. I offered A$300 and paid A$400. I thought it was a good deal - and it came with two sliding fly screen doors (Principle 3). It would cost about A$5000 or more new.

 Second-hand windows I purchased for A$400

It took four guys to lift the thing and load it onto the tri-axle trailer. When we got it to the site we decided to separate the panels and make up a new frame. It was als…

Plumbed in

Principle 5: Use and value renewable resources and services

The plumbing rough-in happens before the floor goes down (preferably), which is easier and cheaper to do. It starts with the 'waste water' pipes. During the process I got to thinking about how to make best reuse of water before it went down the sewer.

There are three types of reused water that I will have on site. Greywater (laundry and bathroom), dark greywater (kitchen) and blackwater (toilet).
Greywater is ideal to use in subsurface irrigation systems, but there is a lot to consider when designing these types of systems. By ensuring that we don't put any nasties into the water in the first place we know that anything that we reuse wont be damaging to the environment, or us. Kitchen water (dark greywater) is not ideal for sub-surface irrigation as it contains food particles, fats and soaps that can block pipes and clog the soil. This water can be filtered through a wormfarm to produce a rich liquid fertiliser.Bla…

Wetland works

Principle 7: Design from patterns to details

The concept of catching and storing water in the front yard wetland worked well from the start, but it needed some fine tuning. When the rains came back to fill up the depression I could see where high and low points were, so I leveled them out. Having a level area gives the water a greater surface area to soak into the ground. Ideally the water would soak in within 12 hours.

 Wetland tinkering, leveling out and building up / defining edges
Wetland during downpour
Water run-off from laneway entering wetland and overflowing
The water took longer than anticipated to soak into the ground, about a week. I think that it was taking a long time because the soil was in poor condition and compacted. As the life comes back to the soil I would expect quicker water infiltration.
One of the problems when water takes so long to soak in is that mosquitos get a chance to breed. Adult mossies take 5-14 days to emerge (depending on the species & temperature)…


Principle 4: Apply self-regulation and accept feedback

I believe that I have had a pretty good run when it comes to vandalism. The house was empty for about six months before I really started working on the site. During that time the house was broken into once and the place was smashed up a bit. A glass pane broken, some walls and cupboards damaged, a door broken... I reported it to the police and spoke to my neighbours. I also left a note for any unwelcomed guests, suggesting that they find something else to do, and that the property was being watched.

Kitchen cupboard kicked in and wall damaged by vandals in November 2008

I have made an effort to greet people as they walk past, and speak to people who show an interest in what were are doing here. There has been some fantasitc feedback - 99% of it positive. Since I have been on site regularly, and engaging with the locals, nothing has been damaged and nothing stolen.
After the cladding went up I noticed a couple of plums thrown against…

Creative Cladding

Principle 11: Use edges and value the marginal

Rather than just use the most simple method to clad the house, that being single sheets, we decided to create some interesting shapes that flow around the building. Recycled battens were used to create a space between the cladding and the reflective foil (as per the roof), and give us a surface to screw to. The line of the curve follows the edges of window and door frames where practical, which was easier to do and also connects the design with the elements that it surrounds.

The window frames were painted before we installed the cladding, so that I didn't need to mask it later on. Just trying to be one step ahead...

Corrugated iron was the material of choice here because of its durability and low maintenance requirements. By running the iron vertically we could work the design on a more horizontal plane, while reducing the need of ongoing maintenance to clean dust from the surface. Using brand-new corrugated iron was not neccessary, …

Cellar / Tank Stand / Cool Cupboard

Principle 2: Catch and Store Energy
The construction of the cellar has been a long process, and is one of the stand out features of the building. There have been lots of enquiries as to what its purpose is from passers-by.

After the slab was poured for the roof of the cellar we began working on a stairway made from bricks. A wall on either side of the stairs was built up first, which was then filled in with a compacted sand base and mortar to lay each step. The steps were built inside the walls to prevent the walls being pushed inward. Reinforced concrete was then poured into the gap between the outer brick wall and the earth for added support.

Quentin levels ground before beginning construction of the stairway to the cellar

Quentin works on the stairs for the cellar

Construction of stairs using bricks on a compacted sand and mortar base

Cellar stairs under construction as viewed from inside

Brick stairway for cellar with reinforced concrete poured for added support one on either side of t…

Termite deterrents

Principle 6: Produce no waste
As discussed in an earlier post, I consider termites to be the greatest threat to the house. I've done further investigation and applied some of my discoveries. I'm not sure how this will proceed through council, but Peter (the architect / builder) sent this letter to council to help address their concerns:

Termite Management
-->Richard Telford chooses NOT to have chemicals in/around his home.
Chemicals for termite prevention remain questionable to health safety, and are not permanent. They require intermittent further applications, and this creates problems. The Termite Management approach for this house is a visual inspection and physical barrier regime, as provided for in the BCA Part - Acceptable Construction Practice. A clear and permanent NOTICE identifying the termite risk and management requirement is to be placed on the completed building. This location is TBA (Building Inspector may advise). The Termite Management System incl…

Making the most of the situation...

Principle 12: Creatively use and respond to change

Our society wastes so much. I'd written about an opportunity that I'd missed out on in December last year when a house was being demolished and I couldn't get access to the site. Houses get demolished quite regularly in our society and most of the material gets smashed up and sent to landfill. It seems that it's 'uneconomic' to deconstruct and reuse materials, but I proved that wrong in the deconstruction of the original building on site - it works on a small scale. Going through all of the red tape to access the site is another matter entirely.

Before I decided to buy the house in Seymour I was involved with a group of people interested in collectively buying the "Town and Country Hotel" which was erected in 1865 as the "Canadian Hotel". The original verandah was removed and replaced in 1939, giving it an art deco feel. It backs onto the gorgeous Goulburn River, with its magestic Red Gums a…

Getting floored

Principle 2: Catch and store energy
Principle 3: Obtain a yeild

Baltic pine floorboards recovered from the original building were put aside for use in the two bedrooms. Baltic pine is quite soft, and damages easily, making it inappropriate for high traffic areas. I figured that I would have enough boards for both bedrooms as the boards covered two rooms about the same size and the original kitchen (now a study / 3rd bedroom). It turned out that it was a very close call with all useable boards used.

For the remainding rooms in the building we decided on recycled hardwood floorboards. The timber is a lot more durable, easier to work with and fairly cheap (at around $3.10 per lineal metre when bought in bulk). Being narrower though, 105mm instread of 150mm, they can take quite a while to install. Each room took about 16-20 hours to install (including insulation).

I planned to have insulation under the floor because of heat losses in winter of 10-20%, as well as heat gains in summer. The …