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Backyard picnic to review design concepts

Sitting on the patch of ground that is quite likely to be our new living room was an ideal way to discuss options for the green home design.  The three of us gathered on the property for a general chat about different possibilities for the design and to make sure that everyone was in agreement.  While we sat there, it was a pleasure to watch the native birds gather in the nearby trees and to get a feel for the local environment.

The first ‘big idea’ discussed was realigning the house on the block to be more of a diagonal, running along one of the easements.  This would give us more space inside the house and be a better orientation with regards to the surrounds.  We felt this was a better option than fighting the natural flow of the block.  Another major topic was using timbercrete as a combination of feature material, structural component and thermal mass.  David had samples of timbercrete which were made into different sized blocks.  It really does have a similar appearance to sandstone or limestone, but is not as dense.  The blocks have character through their combination of materials – some even have a distinctive surface effects from small pieces of wood shavings showing up.  Apparently, you can add pigments to the mixture to make different coloured bricks which might be worth considering as features in a wall.

Other ideas discussed included different options for cladding on the walls, optimum use of glass throughout the house (ways to get light to flow through from the north facing rooms to rooms at the back of the house), location of carports (easy access but not crowding the main structure) and providing a small room as an airlock at the main entrance.  Things are starting to take shape as David interprets our ideas for what spaces are important to us and uses his creativity to turn our musings into sketches.

Meanwhile, inside the existing house

Our friend Jack is kindly helping us get ready for the move into Chez D’ump by fixing a bunch of things that would otherwise make life uncomfortable.  Fixing problems with the existing windows was only the starting point as the more he does, the more things he finds need doing.

David and his crew are going to spend a few days there in March taking care of some bigger issues.  We have decided to replace the existing electric hot water service (unknown age and uncertain efficiency) with an on-demand gas hot water heater for the duration of our stay.  Pumping all the electricity into a tank of water just didn’t seem to be a good idea.  A basic kitchen upgrade was also called for as the current benches are too low and narrow.  Don’t expect to see photos of Caesar stone benchtops – going to be made from off-cuts that David has in his shed.  Of course, one crucial task for the electrician is installing a 15A circuit we can use to charge our Nissan LEAF.  Not much use having an EV if you can’t safely plug it into the grid!

The work done by Jack and David will get us a long way towards making the old house comfortable enough to get through the planning & building time for the new house.  Our contribution is going to be stripping out carpet and painting the interior.  This painting job is going to be one where it’s all about coverage and not concern with cutting in the edges.  A few slips of the roller and brush aren’t going to worry us as we simply want to seal with walls/ceiling.

All in all, I suspect the house is going to be an urban equivalent to a 1960’s holiday house, slightly rough around the edges but alright to live in.  Nobody is going to complain too much if there are some marks on the floor, dints in the benchtops or non-matching colours in the paint scheme.


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