Cool cupboard completed

Principle 7: Design from patterns to details

The cool cupboard project has been a very long one. While it demonstrates most of the permaculture design principles I thought that I'd focus on 'Design from Patterns to Details' because it really was the way in which the project evolved and was finally completed.
The design was inspired by the cool cupboard that I saw at Melliodora, the home of David Holmgren and Su Dennett. David includes a section about the design of his cupboard in his eBook about the property. Since then I've seen other designs that use the same principles including a pantry in an old house near Sheparton that had a mesh covered hole in the floor and one that was covered up in the ceiling and 'Adelaide House' in Alice Spings which I visited in 2004 and wrote this short report on for my Permaculture Diploma:

My cupboard is based more on David Holmgren's design, with a few differences. It draws air through the cellar (with a water tank above) and has a longer duct (about 10m) with a larger diameter (400mm). The advantages that I see with these changes is that the air being drawn through will be pre-cooled and help ventilate the cellar in the process. The larger diameter pipe should allow for unimpeded air flow that can be restricted if necessary. The main disadvantage that I can see is that warm air will be drawn into the cellar during summer - so some tinkering will be required.

Jobs often progress when there is a need for them. The wire baskets were put in early so we had somewhere to store food. Next was the shelves in the pantry next to the unfinished cool cupboard and a couple of doors. After that the need diminished...

Cool cupboard wire baskets positioned in cupboard, pantry on left.

Pantry cupboard made with second hand ex-army doors, shelves made from recycled kitchen cupboards and an old bed frame.
19 months later...
The main reason that the project was delayed for so long was because of the challenging nature of working with secondhand material and performing cabinetry with little experience. I spent a great deal of time looking and thinking about how to progress, with some advice and half a day mucking around with my mate Peter I was on the right track and I got stuck into it again. The job was finished off in a few weeks.

Pantry and cool cupboard door hinges re-set so that they are flush to door spine.

A 'face' built within the cool cupboard to give the doors something to butt up and attach to. See ceiling flue (blocked) on top right.
Cool cupboard flue, cap made from a single small sheet of recovered galvanised steel. Fly wire used to prevent insect intrusion. It could be extended and/or painted black to help it draw harder.

Looking down towards duct at base of cupboard. A rubbish bin lid was used to close off duct before it was put in use.

Close up of duct that leads to the cellar with wire mesh covered with fly wire used to prevent insect penetration and food stuffs falling into it.

Ex-Army doors repaired and fitted into place

Top of pantry sealed off with old weather boards and smaller gaps sealed up from within. Wooden frame oiled and varnished, doors painted and latches fixed.

Finally foam weather strips fixed to face where doors fix to 'seal' the doors and force air to be drawn from cool duct to the cellar and not warm air from within the house.

Old handles cleaned up and reused, paint removed from hinges and pine cover strips added for aesthetics.
We are now in late autumn and the weather is getting cold. The cool cupboard has been maintaining temperatures between 13-16 degrees C, with it being cooler closer to the bottom. Inside temperatures have been significantly warmer, so you can really notice the cool air when you open the cupboard. We had our first big frost last night and temperature in the cupboard got down to 10 degrees C.
With outside temperatures not getting above 15 degrees at this time of year I am considering the addition of vents that draw air from directly under the house, closing off the main duct, as air from underground maintains a temperature of around 14 degrees. This is a suggestion that David Holmgren made in his cool cupboard as a 'possible design improvement'.


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