Living in a Sustainable House?

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Deblah
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Living in a Sustainable House?

Post: #263940 Deblah
Wed Jul 11, 2012 8:43 pm

Hey All!

Im currently doing my masters dissertation at Cardiff University (my course was on sustainability), and my dissertation is about sustainable/eco houses. What Im looking to find out is why people choose to live in a sustainable house and how it then affects their behaviours.

It would be really great if you guys could join in (if you live or have lived in a 'sustainable house') and have a discussion about:
1. why you made the choice to live in a sustainable type house
2. what made the house sustainable
ie high levels of insulation, recycling facilities, location
3. whether you do any other environmentally friendly activities, and whether this is facilitated by your house, or whether you chose your house because it meant you could take part in these activities

I would really appreciate any responses! though, please do bear in mind that I might use some of what you say within my dissertation (without names etc) so dont write anything you wouldnt want made public..

Im really enjoying the site, and want to thank everyone for the kind and generous welcome!
Deblah

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Re: Living in a Sustainable House?

Post: #263957 Zech
Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:59 am

My immediate reaction to this is to wonder whether I could be included in your study, which quickly leads on to wondering what you mean by a "sustainable house"? My house needs a bit of maintenance from time to time, but it's stood here for 200 years and will probably manage another 200, so it's sustaining itself pretty well.

Looking at your examples, I guess you're referring to my lifestyle in the house, but in that case, where do I draw the line between house-related and other activities? Insulation and heating seem fairly obviously house-related, as it's the house that's being heated, whereas recycling doesn't feel to me like a feature of my house (except when I'm recycling old floorboards into shelves, or something like that).

As you've done a course on sustainability, you probably have fairly well developed ideas on what you mean by this, but it doesn't come across in your questions. If you're interested in what other people mean by the terms, it might be a good idea, before you start asking people, "Do you live in a sustainable house?" to take a step back and invite discussion on what a "sustainable house" might be.

A related concept that you've probably already come across is "passivhaus" which is all about energy consumption (or lack of it). You won't find many people who live in a truly passivhaus, but I suspect that those who do will be only too happy to talk to you about it at great length!

If you're interested in the building side of things, you might want to check out the green building forum, but they can get rather technical over there.

Good luck with your project :flower:
---
Rachel

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Deblah
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Re: Living in a Sustainable House?

Post: #263960 Deblah
Thu Jul 12, 2012 10:24 am

Sorry for being a bit vague - I was trying to invite discussion without getting too involved. But youre right Zech, I do need to explain some bits!

A discussion (by anyone) of what or how they would define a 'sustainable house' would be really useful!

I suppose that Im using quite a lax definition of anyone who has 'gone above' what is required in terms of having an environmentally friendly house. So anyone who has built their house to standards above those require by the government (so now it is mandatory for houses to be built to code level 3, so those with houses at level 4,5 or 6. Or someone who built to BREEM excellent when they only needed good). Or anyone who lives in this type of house (you dont have to have built it). Or anyone who has retro fitted (with insulation, double glazing, renewable energy source) their house to such an extent that it has become a lot more environmental, and/or has a significant carbon reduction.

With regards to the behaviours/activities, they dont have to be linked to the house, Im just trying to get an idea of what people do, so if you grow your own food, have energy saving lightbulbs, walk everywhere or recycle - just say!
Then a sentence or two to say whether the location, facilities of the house etc have made these activities easier, whether you chose the house because you could do these activities, whether you moved there for other reasons and the facilities were just a happy surprise, or whether there is no link between your house and your activities at all!

But dont forget to mention why you moved there, if sustainability didnt come into it at all, thats fine, just explain that!

Thanks again, Im really interested in what you all have to say - any further questions just shout out :icon_smile:

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Re: Living in a Sustainable House?

Post: #263964 demi
Thu Jul 12, 2012 11:13 am

We are in the prosess of rennovating our house at the moment. We live in Macedonia and the house has been in my husbands family since it was built 200 years ago. We will inherit it when my husbands grandmother ( who still lives here ) passes away. We moved here as i fell in love with the place and both my husband ( whos' degree is in sustainable agriculture ) and myself wanted to be self-sufficent and work for ourselves instead of an employer, and this was the best place to do it.

The walls are stone built, 1 meter thick on the ground floor and just over 1/2 meter on the second floor. We've just replaced the whole roof and laid new insulation in the loft. My husband then went up and put lots of wooden boards on top of the beams, over the new insulation, and put old linolium flooring, recycled from the house, on top of that for extra insluation.
The new stair case steps are made from thick wooden boards 'reclaimed' from the garden shed which had been used for something else priviously. And the kitchen shelves i found arround the old house and sanded and painted them all so they matched.

We've just had the hot water soler pannel installed and now have almost constant 'free' hot water!

In the winter we use wood burning stoves for heating and we have an orchard which supplys quite a lot of sustainable wood for burning, but we also buy in big logs. Just now we have been burning all the old wood from the house, all the old rotten beams ect, but that will run out probably by next winter so its not sustainable, but I suoppose it comes under recycling.
We are buying a new wood burning stove for the kitchen to cook on which has a back boiler to heat the water in the winter for 'free' ( my favourate word! :lol: ).

We have a well for water, although its not in use at the moment as it needs cleaned out and dug down a bit more to get to the clean water, but that is on our to do list by next year.

We have a car but dont use it often. We live in the center and either walk or bike to get arround the town. My husband cycles everyday back and forward to our smallholding on the outskirts of the town, about 5km away from our house in the center.

We are growing our own fruit and veg and keeping chickens for meat and eggs. Planning on getting milking goats in the future so we can produce all our own dairy too. And we will be investing in a poly tunnel soon so we can extend the growing season and maintain crops throught the winter. We also grow our own chicken feed so we dont have to buy it in, and we have some more land, which isnt in use at the moment, but we will use it for growing alfalfa and hay for the dairy goats in the future.

We also have another building on the smallholding which we will be converting into a summer house so we can stay there to tend to the farm over the summer. There is not mains electricity, sewage, or drinking water there. Its completly cut off, so we intend to make that house completly sustainable and energy independant. But thats another project for futhger down the line.
Tim Minchin - The Good Book
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'If you just close your eyes and block your ears, to the acumulated knowlage of the last 2000 years,
then morally guess what your off the hook, and thank Christ you only have to read one book'

Deblah
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Re: Living in a Sustainable House?

Post: #263969 Deblah
Thu Jul 12, 2012 12:01 pm

ahh thats brilliant, thanks Demi.

I dont want to put words in your mouth, so what would you say was the main reason for moving there - was it to become self sufficient?

Also the link between the house and your behaviours, would you say the house has facilitated your sustainable behaviours? (ie has it made doing these things like growing your own food, walking places and using renewable energy sources - log burner - easier?) and was this something you decided to do after you moved in, or did you move in there with the idea that you would?

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Re: Living in a Sustainable House?

Post: #263970 Thomzo
Thu Jul 12, 2012 1:04 pm

Hi Deblah
I'm also doing a degree in sustainability at the moment, with the OU. Perhaps you could reciprocate by looking at my rainwater harvesting project please? I'll post the link in a minute

I originally moved from Bristol to Swindon so that I could stop commuting to work by car and walk instead. I have moved house since but a major criteria for choosing this house was that I wanted a big garden so that I could grow my own fruit and veg.

Since moving here, I've installed a log burner - which I could only do because the house had a suitable chimney. I've also had cavity wall insulation fitted - again the house allowed me to do this as it has suitable cavities, my neighbour's house doesn't so they can't. I don't buy wood, I get all the wood I need from my own and my neighbours' gardens and from skipwood (pallets etc) that people give me.

I can now keep chickens, as the garden is big enough.

Another criteria when choosing this house was that it had to be within walking distance of shops and on a bus route into town. In fact, it's within walking distance of the town centre so it has helped me to cut down on my car use considerably.

I wouldn't say that being self-sufficient was the main reason for being here, the house had other features that my ex partner and I wanted, but it was certainly a major consideration.

On the other hand, the house stops me from doing more things that I'd like to do. I'd love to have a wood-fired oven/central heating/water heating system but there isn't a chimney in the kitchen (the previous owners removed it) and the floor isn't strong enough to take the weight.

I've been investigating pv panels for my roof. Despite the fact that it faces due south, the roof is an awkward shape and I could only get a tiny system onto it at the moment so I'm waiting until something more efficient comes along.

I'd love to use rainwater to flush the toilets and wash clothes but that would mean re-plumbing the entire house which simply isn't cost effective.

Lastly, this house has lots of 'extra' space. I have a laundry room, a conservatory, a large garage, a big workshop in the garden and a potting shed on the side of the house. These allow me to do things like dry fruit and herbs, make potions (toiletries etc), start seedlings, hatch chicks, do DIY projects, save things that might be useful etc without cluttering up the house and getting in a mess. I really appreciate how much of an advantage that is when you're trying to be self-sufficient.

I hope that's helpful. Good luck with the dissertation and feel free to ask any questions.

Cheers

Zoe
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Check out my blog at http://designedbyzoe.blogspot.com/
http://www.thomzo.co.uk

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Re: Living in a Sustainable House?

Post: #263971 Thomzo
Thu Jul 12, 2012 1:11 pm

Hi

Here is the link to my rainwater harvesting project.

http://www.selfsufficientish.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=26443

Cheers

Zoe
Think globally, shop locally
Check out my blog at http://designedbyzoe.blogspot.com/
http://www.thomzo.co.uk

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Re: Living in a Sustainable House?

Post: #263992 Zech
Thu Jul 12, 2012 4:40 pm

Thanks for the clarification, Deblah. I don't really know those codes, but as far as I understand it, they're mainly about energy efficiency. In that case my house is not sustainable - it's an old stone house with poor insulation (which I must improve before the next winter). On the other hand, we did move here in order to live a more self-sufficient lifestyle.

A major part of that lifestyle is trying to grow our own fruit and veg (not very successfully this year, thanks to the weather), so the well established vegetable garden was a big factor in choosing the house.

As Zoe said, a lot of outbuilding space (which in our case is under the living space) was also a factor, though I never thought of that as an aspect of sustainability until she said it.

We installed a wood burning stove with back boiler to run the central heating and hot water (chimney already part of the house). We were lucky enough to be able to rescue an old stove that was taken out of the local hotel, though the rest of the system is brand new. We don't have our own source of wood, but I am planting a few ash trees (no need to buy - they come up on their own so just need moving to a convenient place) for coppicing to make a contribution to our fuel. We don't have space for more than that. I'm also planning on turning the old radiators into solar panels, but haven't quite geared myself up to starting that project yet. I'm very jealous of Demi's new solar panels!

I try to keep our electricity usage to a minimum. Although we both have laptops running much of the time, these use surprising little electricity, and we don't have a TV. The big consumers in this house are the shower and washing machine, but I hope to reduce their consumption when we have the solar panels. I very rarely use electric gadgets in the kitchen - e.g. all baking is mixed by hand - and the vacuum cleaner hardly ever sees light of day :lol:

Given the amount of rain that falls round here, it seems crazy not to use it, but all we have at the moment are a couple of water butts which we use for the garden (well, greenhouse - I can't remember the last time I needed to water outdoors) and car washing (my husband does this occasionally). We should use it for flushing the loo, but I'd really like to install a composting loo at some point and that puts me off investing in rainwater systems that we'll only be using (hopefully) for a few years until we get round to changing the system completely.

The house is within walking distance of the local shop, which saves us having to drive for the odd pint of milk, but we are in a village so 'big' shopping needs a drive to the nearest town. On the other hand, I hate shopping and do it as rarely as possible.

It's difficult to answer your question. The house itself isn't very sustainable, in the sense of being low-energy consuming, but we try to live as sustainably as possible in it. We moved specifically to switch to that kind of lifestyle, but it wasn't strictly necessary to move. We could have lived this lifestyle in our old house, but we hated it there. I gave up my job to try to be more self-sufficient, and that enabled us to move. I spend most of my time at home, cooking and gardening, and living in a nice place makes it possible to do that with sanity intact. The real reason we chose this house is that it's nice.
---
Rachel

Take nobody's word for it, especially not mine! If I offer you an ID of something based on a photo, please treat it as a guess, and a starting point for further investigations.

My blog: http://growingthingsandmakingthings.blogspot.com/

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demi
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Re: Living in a Sustainable House?

Post: #264025 demi
Fri Jul 13, 2012 4:02 pm

Deblah wrote:ahh thats brilliant, thanks Demi.

I dont want to put words in your mouth, so what would you say was the main reason for moving there - was it to become self sufficient?

Also the link between the house and your behaviours, would you say the house has facilitated your sustainable behaviours? (ie has it made doing these things like growing your own food, walking places and using renewable energy sources - log burner - easier?) and was this something you decided to do after you moved in, or did you move in there with the idea that you would?



We moved to this house because we are lucky enough to be in line to inherit it when my grandmother in law, who still lives here with us, passes away. So it was essentially a free house, in the sun, with oppertunities to buy more land close by for farming.

If we were to stay in Scotland in the UK, we would have to move down to England for my husband to get a proper job with his degree ( there's very little arable farming in Scotland, not enough sun ) and in doing so we would be cutting oursleves off from family and friends who we needed round us to help out with the kids when they were born.
Also we'd have to get proper jobs to get a morgage to buy a house which we would be paying off for the rest of our lives. That is, of course, assuming we were actually able to get a morgage with the state of the economey. And having full time jobs means less time together as a family and less time avalible for self-sufficency.

So comming here to this house seemed like the perfect oppertunity to best achieve the lifestyle we both desired.

The house has made it easy to be more sustainable, as it already has chimneys in every room for wood burning stoves for cooking and heating, most people cook/heat from wood as its cheaper then electricity and there is no mains gas in Macedonia. We got the hot water soler pannels installed which probably about 50 % of people have here, maybe more. We are right in the center so no need for the car. And as we have been restoring the house, we are conciously trying to make is as efficent as possible so it costs us less to sustain, and also we are reusing lots of things from the house to keep costs down. As nither of us are working, other than selling our fruit from the orchard, we need to keep costs to a minimun so making things as sustainable as possible is the obvious solution. Another main point about the house is that it comes with 2 stores on the ground floor on the street which we rent out and the money from the rents covers all the bills for the house, so in that sence the house finantially sustains itself, as long as we've got the rents comming in that is.
Tim Minchin - The Good Book
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kr1I3mBojc0

'If you just close your eyes and block your ears, to the acumulated knowlage of the last 2000 years,
then morally guess what your off the hook, and thank Christ you only have to read one book'


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