Whether you’re thinking of becoming an owner-builder or retrofitting your home, you might be wondering which building materials will ensure an effective, beautiful and natural home. Some important factors to consider are: which resources are available to you locally (both on your property and in your area); cost of materials; thermal properties sought – passive solar design, thermal mass and insulation – and how these interact with each other; embodied energy involved; and the ease of material construction. With an introduction to these factors, you will be better equipped to begin choosing the materials that best suit your climate and house design.
I was asked recently what brought me to the place I am in today: the editor of a permaculture magazine, living in the country on a property with an evolving permaculture design, teaching permaculture, growing food, eating well and trying to bring up my kids to understand and respect the planet.
Several years ago I coined the term ‘frugal hedonism’, partly railing against the assumption – of more mainstream friends – that a life of gleaning, gardening, hitchhiking and op shopping was part of a grey and dismal martyrdom endured for the planet’s sake. But I knew my days were rich with sensory indulgence and diverse pleasures.
It was a younger Phil Gall, writing for Source in 1971, who set out into Victoria’s East Gippsland to report on a monumental natural farming conference. He came back with a prophetic glimpse into holistic agriculture that informs his design work today.
Most of our household energy requirements come in the form of space heating, water heating or cooking, with these making up a large percentage of our monthly bill. Rocket stoves are an example of appropriate technology which can cover all of those needs, cost you next to nothing to build, and just a few sticks to run.
In 1988 Bill Mollison stood on top of a swale at Crystal Waters Eco Village and declared: ‘Permaculturists want to be property developers’. While the job description for a property developer might conjure up images of housing market bubbles, and terribly-designed boxes squeezed onto ever-diminishing parcels of urban land, in many ways Bill was on the money. The desire for a patch of one’s own has led many a permie down the garden path of property ownership. But what if there was a way to create a living out of ethically and sustainably developing land for the future.
aterials. Making Boomerang Bags with your community is a great way to participate in a national initiative on a local level.
The vast majority of gardening books, and nurseries, will tell you to buy grafted fruit and nut trees. Although grafted trees play an important role in permaculture systems, in many cases seedling trees may be a better option. Fruit and nut trees grown from seed are tough, need minimal water and are resistant to many diseases. And they’re free.
If you’ve studied, read or participated in any permaculture- related activities in Australia (or far beyond), then you’ll be aware of Melliodora, the outstanding domestic-scale permaculture demonstration site situated in the village of Hepburn, Victoria.
This is a pretty easy project that would suit a beginner, though it will be easier if you already have some sewing experience.