Using permaculture ethics and 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 and reusing materials... without spending heaps of money.
The completed sphere made from scrap polypipe and recovered bolts
My friend Dylan spoke to me of making of making a sphere from polypipe, as a project for kids at the upcoming fete at his local primary school. He discovered the video below that explained how to do it, so we spent the day (my birthday) working on it. My best birthday yet!
We soon realised that the project was a bit beyond the abilities of a primary school student.
The key bits of information that we gleaned from this video was: using the soccer ball as a guide, the calculations for the lengths that we needed and the quantities of lengths.
A soccer ball (football) is made up of 20 hexagons and 12 polygons, all of the stitching is the same length. We called this length 'Normal' (N). The diameter of the sphere is about 5 x N. We wanted to make a 2m high sphere so N = 400mm.
We needed 90 lengths of polypipe at 450mm, 25mm extra at each end to give us room to drill a hole. We wondered if we would need to include the star shapes within the polygons (P) and hexagons (H) as was done on the video clip for a large dome, so we thought that we would leave this for later. After all, the soccer ball didn't use them. We recorded the lengths of the 'stars' anyway, just in case.
N (400mm) x 90 lengths 20 hexagons and 12 polygons in a sphere on a soccer ball
6 triangles in a Hexagon, 5 in a Polygon.
H = 20 x 6 = 120. P = 12 x 5 = 60
P (400mm x 0.8696 = 348mm) x 60 lengths
H (400mm x 1.0224 = 409mm) x 120 lengths
Dylan cuts short lengths of discarded 25mm polypipe where it is kinked
A jig is set up to cut the polypipe to the correct length (N + 50mm = 400mm)
A jig is set up to drill a hole that is centred and 25mm from the end of the pipe
Our jig for drilling the second hole of the polypipe at 400mm (N), with a coach bolt with it's top cut off to hold the pipe at one end.
Polygons and hexagons made up using the the soccer ball (football) as the guide
The construction got too complicated to work on the ground so we hung it up in a tree
The completed 'sphere', like a flat balloon without the triangle shapes for support
If we had thought about it more we would have realised that the sphere wouldn't hold it's shape without the triangle shape for support. A triangle is the most stable form, it holds its shape. So we needed to make up the stars to fill in the gaps.
We started with the hexagons, and with each one we added the sphere became more stable. It required some pressure to add 6 pieces of polypipe to a single bolt, which was fine when we were assembling the stars on the workbench. It was a much greater challenge when fixing them to the sphere. The joins needed to be on the ground so that we could stand on them, the job would be much easier with some sort of compression tool.
When calculating the length for the polygon stars I neglected to add the 50mm to our 348mm (P), so they were all too short. We continued with the H stars and found that the sphere held it's shape without the P stars, and also gave us access to the inside of the sphere. I'm sure that the sphere would be more stable with the extra support, but it's fine without it.
Six pieces of polypipe fixed together with a single bolt to make a six pointed 'star' -
Dylan fixing the first of 20 'stars' within the hexagons, each making 6 triangles that gives the sphere strength
The project took the entire day, and was quite exhausting. Great fun. We'd like to make another, using a home made tool to help compress the joins. Thinking about it we could probably use 3 pieces at twice the length (H) with a hole in the middle for the stars in the hexagons, which would make the job a bit easier. Amazing what you can make from bit's of other peoples waste, just for the fun of it.
Principle 11: Use edges and value the marginal I collected a large pile of concrete which had been sitting out the front for a number of years. It had become habitat for snails mainly. Originally the concrete blocks were footpaths from around the original house, so they hadn't traveled far. This material is more commonly known as 'urbanite', and is used in some pretty creative ways . I've been thinking about creating a space for an outdoor kitchen for some time now, and figured that I really needed a paved area in between the shed and cellar to set it up. The urbanite seemed like the perfect answer, allowing me to clean up around the front and create a great space round the back. My mate Dylan suggested that I make up a form and mortar mix to set the concrete block pieces onto. Seemed like a good idea to me, so after thinking about it for a few months and with summer just about to start, I decided to get stuck into it. After clearing the space I set up a
Principle 12: Creatively use and respond to change I'm one for trying out different things, and I like to see what we can get away with before committing to something bigger and 'better'. Fridges and freezers are one of the biggest energy consumers in the household - usually behind heating / cooling and hot water systems. Our upright freezer to fridge conversion in action We've trialed a number of fridge systems here before settling on the upright freezer conversion. First we used an old 150lt bar fridge that used around 670Wh per day Then we bought a 150lt chest freezer (using around 466Wh per day) for preserving bulk food - with the idea of a possible conversion. Our bar fridge died two weeks later so we used ice from our freezer to create a 'ice box bar fridge' We then tried a smaller old Engel fridge (about 50lt) that I had in the Kombi that used about 420Wh per day. After not being entirely satisfied with any of the above I finally decided
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 tan
One of my neighbours did a half dome out of polypipe. Covered in bird net, it makes a brilliant vegie patch.