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Sustainable House Day this Sunday

By 10 September 2008 25

14 September 2008

How much was your home heating bill this winter? Were you still rugged up at night and freezing when you got up in the morning despite the heater running flat out?

How would you feel about a home that you can get around in barefoot through winter, where you may only turn the heating on every few days, and never during a sunny day?

If you want to learn about things you can do to make your existing house more sustainable, or ideas to incorporate into a new home design, this Sunday is the day to do it.

Sustainable House Day features 13 homes in the Canberra and Queanbeyan areas open for inspection. You can preview the homes on the SHD website (including my place – “Harrison 1”).

Entry is $5 per person per house or $10 per family. Open times are 10am – 4pm.
There are also some schools open on Saturday 10am to 3pm and one office building – details on the website.

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25 Responses to Sustainable House Day this Sunday
#1
Aurelius1:57 pm, 10 Sep 08

Al, Were you involved in the design, or did you simply buy this one after it was done?

#2
timgee20071:58 pm, 10 Sep 08

I’d love a home in which I could get around in barefoot through winter and that only needed the heating turned on every few days (if at all). Problem is that I’ve spent all my dollars just getting a house, and paying it off, that there’s stuff all left for any energy efficiency improvements.
Sure, the Government will give you $500 – but only after you’ve spent $2,000. It’s a real pity, because that doesn’t go far in improving and insulating a ‘typical’ Canberra house. I’ve spent the last 12 months looking at options, and lemme tell you, energy efficiency doesn’t come cheap!
Looking at a 80-100sqm house, budget $1k roof batts, $2k cavity wall insulation, $600 underfloor (if possible), $500-$2k for decent window treatments or, assuming you want double-glazed windows, anywhere from $4k to $40k! Basic solar system about $2k, grey water system about $1-2k…ouch.
As I said, just indicative prices – sure others will have more experience with the pain of actual prices!

#3
timgee20071:59 pm, 10 Sep 08

And BTW, Gungahlin Al, your home looks awesome. Will def. come out and say g’day on Sunday.

#4
Gungahlin Al2:30 pm, 10 Sep 08

Cheers guys.

My wife and I designed it ourselves, and I built it in a simple 3D CAD program from Hardly Normals. That way we were able to do walk-through renderings, insert furniture with the same dimensions as items we liked in shops, and do some rudimentary shadow cast modelling. I was also able to print out elevations to construct a 3D physical model for further shadow modelling – you can see that model and the software on Sunday.

Timgee, the most expensive upgrade was glass – thermally improved frames and ComfortPlus Low-e laminated (not double glazed) glass added $11,000 over standard crappy Stegbar in builder’s quote. Endless Solar HWS about $4K less RECS, large 9K tank about $2K, greywater $2K with electronic switching from both bathrooms, honeycomb Duette blinds on most of the glass $10K.

The costs of these additionals are investments against future running costs. But they were in part paid for by not going the usual way of guest bedrooms (the kids rooms are big enough for queen beds) and formal dining room that’s never used.

One of the biggest improvements didn’t cost any more over brick veneereal – Hebel Powerpanel outer skin. Adds R2 to the insulation level and helps make it oh-so quiet. Likewise many of the other improvements are merely careful product selection.

But of course the biggest improvement of the lot was an east-west block with a design to take full advantage of that, while hiding from the sun in summer (an aspect we think Canberra people in their obsession with the winter cold often forget – but we’re from Qld).

#5
nicolae2:42 pm, 10 Sep 08

Looks like a great event.

As Timgee said, being really efficient with resources doesn’t come cheap. Of course, it costs nothing to turn the lights off, have a shorter shower and/or chuck the water on your garden and all that, but improving your infrastructure is where the dollars add up. We are in the process of installing a 5000L tank and connecting it to the roof and loo. The cost of all the components is about $2200 (tank, pump, water switch to switch between tank and mains if tank empty, filters) and the installion about the same cost again (and that’s with a house with plumbing that is already easily accessible). If you connect that size tank to the loo you get a $900 rebate in the ACT (rebate depends on tank size). Although in Canberra it doesn’t rain much I worked out that we should be able to collect enough water over a year to flush the loo about 3000 times.

#6
Gungahlin Al3:00 pm, 10 Sep 08

I neglected to mention that due to the various limitations on sustainability incentives at ACT and federal levels, we received not a brass razoo in financial assistance for anything we did on our house…
Toss in the interest rate rises plus not having owned anything throughout the property boom period, and suffice to say getting this joint built has been “challenging” financially.

#7
Gerry-Built3:15 pm, 10 Sep 08

Gungahlin Al – wow! Should be more of this stuff happening…

It is amazing in this day and age that so few builders in the ACT are embracing these technologies. We bought a house/land package in Dunlop in 1999 – and had to argue with the builder (Quadran) and Architect (of the inappropriately named “New Age Architecture”) at every step of the ‘design’ process. For example, the builder wouldn’t even consider Hebel walls or Steel roof… Architect challenged us on nearly every single window of the 21 in the house! (…and he was recent Uni graduate and should’ve known better). I have a design background, and was relatively-well exposed to emerging technologies…

We did put in off-peak in-slab heating (at same cost as central heating offered by builder), a pergola designed to cut summer sunlight and a heap of north-facing glass (though standard windows due to $$$). We have solar cells being installed very soon (under $4000, from ‘Origin’)… (thankfully we built before the market went nuts).

Simple orientation of house and rooms is the biggest single thing (with no/limited cost) you can do at design stage! Care with materials and insulation follows… If building, find a builder who is prepared to discuss ideas – or better still, one that can offer ideas…

#8
nicolae3:24 pm, 10 Sep 08

Gungahlin Al – respect to you for putting money into choosing a house that doesn’t waste resources. I hope you congratulate yourself every time you walk in the door.

It’d be great if all the people who would love to do the same but can’t afford it were given a serious (not token) leg-up from the public wallet. Even if it was means-tested. After all, one private house’s insulation/solar power/double glazing etc. ultimately provides a public benefit.

#9
nicolae3:35 pm, 10 Sep 08

Also….Gungahlin Al – if you have time would you mind posting a bit of info about the design/construction of your reedbed for dealing with tank overflow/stormwater?

Like I said earlier, we are putting in a water tank. I don’t want to plumb the overflow pipe back into the stormwater drain but it is very hard to find info about how to deal with excess water overflowing from a tank without chucking it down the drain. A reedbed would also be a great way to cool the western side of the house. Thankyou!

#10
Gungahlin Al4:01 pm, 10 Sep 08

Will try to add some more description tomorrow but I have a deadline looming here today.
But yes – when you walk in after work and it is 22 degrees inside and the heating hasn’t been on in a week, you do congratulate yourself.
And yes – the fight to find a builder who will listen to you without you watching the contingency $$$$ getting added to the quote is the biggest battle in this town.

#11
nicolae4:13 pm, 10 Sep 08

Thankyou – that’d be fantastic. No rush. Good luck with the deadline.

#12
timgee20075:33 pm, 10 Sep 08

I too am amazed that the local building industry – and behind it, local government – hasn’t embraced energy efficiency nearly as quickly or widely as they should have. In my perfect world (and hint, here’s a tip for those running for office in a month), the government would subsidise energy efficiency measures through low-interest loans, not that different to the old HECS system. You’d be lent money to install, say, a solar energy unit, and each year, pay a small amount off the loan. And, here’s the good win-win bit – not only have you got clean/efficient energy in place, you could encourage people to become more considerate of their energy use if the surplus energy generated by their system could be put back into the power grid – and credit given for this (or paid towards the loan).
(In fact, I have a feeling this approach isn’t a wonderful timgee2007 idea, but actually implemented in some parts of Germany ages back – and those people that got in early are now getting a nice cheque from the power company every few months as they’ve paid off the initial loan for solar installation!)

#13
Tempestas9:02 pm, 10 Sep 08

Great to see the well thought through design. Maybe “Grand Designs” needs to be compulsory viewing for all builders.

Maybe we should start a “word of mouth” listing for builders and other tradies who are open to modern ideas and listen.

Thanks for the insight Al and might be there on the day.

#14
Gungahlin Al11:57 pm, 10 Sep 08

On this topic, Gungahlin Community Council put in on ACTPLA’s Towards More Efficient Housing Issues Paper a couple of weeks ago. I’ve now posted the submission on our website.

On the reedbed Nic, yet to be constructed. We worked with a very good landscape designer named Jennie Curtis to put together our plans prior to the house being finished, so we could integrate aspects into the construction as needed. Jennie helped us incorporate everything we wanted into the landscape plans, including fruit trees, vege garden, full-size clothes hoist, large outdoor entertaining area, lawn for kids, biodiversity zone, buffering and shade to the south-west, and more.

The reedbed will take the (hopefully little) runoff from the street side and the only part of the roof that doesn’t go to the tank (about 2 sq m). fronting the street we’ll have to keep it shallow (backfilled with gravel and reeds, with open water limited to 300mm I think it is. Hopefully will attract some frogs. It will be along the kitchen frontage on the south side – so hopefully will provide some cooling in summer for the part that has to remain fairly open to the street for security reasons.

Grand designs = compulsory viewing here.

See you Sunday!

#15
nicolae9:38 am, 11 Sep 08

Thanks v much, Al. Reckon your house should have been on Grand Designs!

#16
BOZO10:05 am, 11 Sep 08

Congratulations on your house Al. I was asked to open my new home (Strine design E house completed March this year) for sustainable house day however with a couple of aging pets I wasn’t prepared to put them through the trauma. It is unfortunate that the cost of building a sustainable house is significantly more expensive than a “standard” home. I guess we will reap the rewards over time with much lower energy and water costs.

#17
Gungahlin Al12:55 pm, 11 Sep 08

Hah! It felt more like a Grand Designs episode than I would have preferred at times.
Been interested to chat with you Bozo about your experience with Strine…

#18
BOZO2:38 pm, 11 Sep 08

Al, certainly was an experience with Strine! Some good, some bad. I will try to make it to your place on Sunday and if you are free would be glad to have a chat with you.

#19
Gungahlin Al7:03 pm, 14 Sep 08

I don’t know how the other homes went, but I had just shy of 200 people through our place.

By far the feature of greatest interest was the hydronic heating. Branco will have to pay commission next year I think…And Classic, and Clockwork Kitchens, and EnviroFriendly…

I thought there would be a lot of “preaching to the converted” but many of the questions were fundamental ones. So clearly people are crying out for more information on how to do a better job with their homes. There is a message for government and candidates there I think.

One theme that was solid throughout is the frustration people are having with the builders they’ve been talking to. As my wife and I expressed in frustration numerous times through the construction process – “It shouldn’t be this hard!”
These days builders don’t actually build anything – they project manage subbies – and they’re not much good at that either.

So Canberra builders – why?
Any other business that had customers slapping down $400K would be fawning at their feet.

Why is it so bloody hard to deal with you?

#20
Thumper7:25 pm, 14 Sep 08

Wow, excellent turn up!

As for builders, yeah, they can be a pain. They always seem to know exactly what you want, even before you tell them. And even when you tell them, they still go off and do their own thing…

#21
I-filed8:41 pm, 14 Sep 08

What charity are the funds raised going to?

#22
Gungahlin Al9:06 pm, 14 Sep 08

The funds cover the advertising, website and other promotional expenses.
Wouldn’t imagine there’s much left over.

House hosts get $130 to cover cleaning costs – that’s all.
Great that rain last night – clay…

#23
Gungahlin Al10:53 am, 15 Sep 08

BTW apologies if you did get there and I didn’t get a chance to talk – felt like I barely came up for air all day. It was about a person every 2 minutes through the house.

#24
Aurelius11:08 am, 15 Sep 08

Having read this thread, and seen how much Al put into building his home responsibly, I have one thing to say:
GungahlinAl for Mayor!
Ditch that Sonic clown!

#25
Loquaciousness11:48 am, 15 Sep 08

Aurelius said :

Having read this thread, and seen how much Al put into building his home responsibly, I have one thing to say:
GungahlinAl for Mayor!
Ditch that Sonic clown!

He’d get my vote …

L

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