Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Permaculture and natural building

The rains are coming to an end and building will start again soon!

Permaculture has been an inspiration for our natural building project, 'Permaculture' sounds like such a strange term that it can be off putting. I have read up on the subject and recently did a two day 'introduction to permaculture' course which has helped in my understanding of what it really is.

Permaculture is a way of living which observes and recreates natures patterns, working with nature rather than against it. It is often used in relation to farming but the principles and ethics apply to every situation, it is a framework for positive action. In the design of our home we have tried to think of the permaculture principles, once we are living in our home, we will apply these to our plot. 

Permaculture Ethics: People care, Earth care, Fair share.

The Permaculture principles in relation to the construction of our house:

Observe and interact

Before starting anything on the the plot we spent time camping and walking around to try and get to know her! We had originally wanted to have the house amongst the trees but this would have meant destroying the very thing we wanted to be enjoying, so we decided to build it just on the tree line in an open area which had been cleared as a field a couple of years before. 

 Catch and store energy

We have tried to position and design the house to best use the sun to be warm in winter and cool in summer. The thick earthen walls will provide ‘thermal mass’ they absorb the suns heat, or the winter cold and as the temperature changes they regulate, releasing the warmth or the cold they have stored. 

 Obtain a yield

We will be catching rain water and storing in tanks, for the garden from the thatched roof, a metal roof from the shed and other structures will catch rain water for washing and other household uses. Eventually building underwater cisterns to collect more water. 

Apply self regulation and accept feedback

There will be rain water collection which will be enough for part of the year the rest of the time we will collect borehole water which at present is 1km away, not having water pumped into the house will be a challenge but from experience we use far less when this is the case. Only using what is essential.

Use and value renewable resources and services

We will have solar panels to charge batteries and for lights, we will run a small 12v fridge from this also. These will be our only electrical needs.

Produce no waste

All grey water will be used on fruit trees, and at a later date a filtration system to use it on other crops. We will have a compost toilet, which uses no water, after the composting process is complete the compost will be used on crops.

Design from patterns to details

The round shape of the house and the internal forms are far more organic than angles, this is very soothing to be surrounded by these shapes.

Integrate rather than segregate

The design of the house has been done to also fit into the rural home designs around us matching the round earthen walls and thatched roof. Living in a place surrounded by nature having an earthen house blends into our surroundings. 

Use small slow solutions

We have tried to design the house for our needs and keep it as small as we can and be comfortable, we would like to create outdoor spaces that are comfortable to spend time in as we spend a lot of our time outside.

Creatively use and respond to change

In a place where anything can happen anytime we have to be able to adapt, this includes this project. We will see as it evolves if certain things need to be changed.

Use edges and value the marginal

The site we chose is on the edge of where people live and the wildlife area. We wanted to live in this area for several reasons, there is conflict with wildlife entering into the areas where people live, those on the edge feel the effects far more. We hope to be able to 'turn the problem into the solution' at least try out different ways to change this. 

Use and value diversity

We will be apply and trying methods and materials to the house which will be a living test, using grass straw rather than wheat straw as it is what is locally available. Using smashed glass bottles for the floor base instead of gravel. Seeing how these and other materials react in this environment with the threat of insects... If some things don't work, we will learn from this!