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.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

In the (local) news

Principle 8: Integrate rather than segregate

We were in the news twice this week, local acknowledgement for our achievements at the GreenSmart awards and for running a tour for the Seymour Garden Club.

There is something deeply rewarding about being recognised for our efforts, especially locally - by the people that we bump into around town. When I met the postie at our mail box the other day he asked me how we went at the awards in Sydney, we had a bit of a chat about what we were doing. It lit up my day. Nice to know that people care, reminding me that we are all human, not just strangers going about our business.

Something that I have found when appearing in the local news is that there always seems to be something in the article that's NQR (not quite right).

I didn't realise that our house was so clean!?! The owner-builder function - a BBQ.
After reading this my neighbour asked if we had a daughter... Kai is our son.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Outdoor rooms

Principle 12: Creatively use and respond to change

I'm in the process of reading The Permaculture Handbook by Peter Bane. In it he discusses the benefits of outdoor rooms, which our carport has become. In the book Peter states "especially valuable are outdoor rooms lying between the connecting buildings" (our carport links the house to the cellar and workshop). He also mentions that "a most important outdoor room is the... Summer Kitchen", which has got me thinking more about an idea that's been brewing of an outside sink to wash vegies, it may now become a preparation area for preserving - incorporating a permanent home made rocket stove.

I've just finished painting the box beams that were showing signs of weathering. My father recommended that I give them an undercoat before painting them with a colour, which I did, even though the paint can said that I didn't have to. I'm very happy with the end result, creating a welcoming outdoor space that can be used rain, hail or shine.

The carport's roles include:
  • entertaining and eating area
  • education space (where I begin talks and tours)
  • space for fixing, repairing and making larger items
  • kids play and project space
  • parking the car
  • Black Markets - local food swap / exchange
  • temporary storage area
Taken after completing the paving, but before painting the box beams

Dad said "make sure you give it an undercoat before you paint it", so I did

The finished box beams, with two coats of acrylic paint

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

2012 GreenSmart Award finalist x2

Principle 10: Use and value diversity

Richard and Peter with the certificates at yet another owner-build collaboration in Tallarook
"Owner-Building is an important part of the building industry, and has many benefits beyond the experience and possible cost savings. In recent years, both the banking industry and the building industry associations have made it tougher for Owner-Builders. This is regrettable for Australia."
- Peter Lockyer GreenSmart professional, architect and builder.

When Peter Lockyer suggested that we enter Abdallah House into the HIA GreenSmart Awards, I laughed. Not just because the HIA represents the industrial housing system - which is the opposite angle of where we are coming from, but because of the really tight deadline that we had to make the submission - two days! Frankly, I felt that the effort would be a waste of time  - I was wrong.

In the rush that followed we put together a half-decent submission. The award would only recognise Peter, being a member of HIA GreenSmart, while I am not. Still, we made our submission pointing out that the project was a collaboration. When our submission was received we got this message from one of the co-ordinators "The home looks, and obviously is, amazing!", which gave us a bit of a lift.

A month later we were informed that we were finalists in the Custom Built Homes and Resource Efficiency categories, the only two that we entered. We were invited to the Awards at Chouder Bay on Sydney Harbour. While initially Peter was keen and I wasn't, it was I who went with my partner Kunie. A trip to Sydney for lunch, the least sustainable thing that I've done since I started the project.

'Sergeants Mess', for a business attire function
As neither of us own a suit, this was the best we could come up with. Photo: Maureen Corbett
Making the most of our long journey we caught the ferry across to Manly to check out the sunset and beach

In a strange coincidence we bumped into Maureen Corbett (our energy assessor) and her partner in Circular Quay. I had a couple of spare tickets for the function and managed to wangle them in. We certainly looked out of place, it was quite amusing.

While we didn't win any awards, we did have quite an adventure. When you look at the competition that we were up against (and the money that they spent) it's pretty amazing the we got as far as we did on a shoestring. See the winners for the Custom Built Homes and Resource Efficiency

Getting into the awards pushed us to open the house up for the Sustainable House Day, and submit some info to the local newspapers. This article appeared in the North Central Review a couple of days before the Awards, in which Abdallah House is declared as a "landmark in sustainability and clean living". Wow.
North Central Review - 4th September 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sustainable House Day tour feedback

Principle 4: Apply self-regulation and accept feedback

I was pleased with the turn out that we got on the 2012 SHD with 39 signed in visitors, our biggest yet. It kept Peter Lockyer (builder / architect) and myself (Richard Telford - owner builder) busy for six hours straight. As part of the day we were asked to get visitors to sign in and include their postcode. I decided to map the information that I collected so that I could visualise where people where coming from who visited our house. Most of the visitors came from towns directly south of us, Tallarook, Broadford, Kilmore and Wallan - within the Mitchell Shire. We had some from Melbourne, Heathcote and even a woman from Castlemaine. What was interesting was that there were only a couple of people from Seymour who turned up.

A big part of what I wanted to do with this project is to inspire and empower people to become more self-reliant. Here are some of the comments that we got in our visitors book on the day:
  • Thank you for your generosity in allowing us to see your wonderfully inspiring property. - Deborah
  • Thank you for letting us into your home. It is very inspiring to see what you have done and what we can do if we put our mind to it. - Colleen & Natalie
  • Thank you very much for letting us into your home. You have done wonderfully well turning your vision into reality. - Dean, Wendy, Hazel, Astrid & Isaiah
  • Thank you so much for sharing this amazing project. This is what the world needs to pursue, less commercial consumption and more sustainable living. Well done, an inspiration." James
Seems like I'm achieving what I set out to by the feedback that I've been getting.

A look at where our visitors came from to visit the house in Seymour
The following day we had another tour of about 12 guests with the Seymour Garden Club, which was planned months in advance as bad weather had delayed an earlier visit, making for a busy couple of days. I really enjoyed the visit from this group, with quite a few seniors who always have interesting stories to share over a cup of juice and homemade sweets, especially in relation to living with less energy and waste. I also enjoy chatting with familiar faces and people who we will continue to see into the future. The lovely card and hand made boomerang key rings (always come back?) were a lovely gesture and appreciated : ).
Unfortunately I forgot to put out my visitors book, but the feedback that I got was overwhelming positive. I did overhear one man say, "doesn't it give you a sense of hope seeing this..."

The following day we had another tour, this time the Seymour Garden Club. Photo: Kunie

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

deconstruct -> reconstruct

Principle 6: Produce no waste

I was reminded recently of a little clip that I made of the original house being deconstructed and thought that I'd revisit and revitalise it, getting permission from Charlie Jones for the use of his song "No Such Thing as Waste"

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