Today I took the one of many first steps, I have officially registered my home/project with the International Living Future Institute – Living Building Challenge.
How ironic that a mortal kombat phrase would serve so fitting a title for this post, but in a sense it feels like our struggle to reach a balanced existence has become a mortal combat scenario to save ourselves from utter annihilation – a very grim picture to paint but it does work as a motivation point sometimes especially when I look at my children and wonder about the world they will grow up in and even more what world my grandchildren will grow up in. I know it will be green, beautiful, and teaming with life – “you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one”.
Last night I held a party at my house, it was stupendous to see the number of friends and friends of friends that came out to enjoy good eats, libation and company. It was my opportunity to share this website, my blog and just a very tiny hint of a thought at what I was planning on doing within my life and my home over the next 5 years. There was a rush of such warmth and feelings of support from everyone.
I was asked by several people what I was planning on doing and honestly I am not one who likes to discuss what I am doing until I have a really firm idea or understanding of at least 90% of it – because I know I will likely change things here and there as I learn or discover more in the process. Sometimes this can make it appear as if I am not doing what I originally set out to do, but in actuality I always end of doing what I set out to do – its just the details in between that change in order to achieve that goal. So please keep that in mind as I verbalize some of what I plan to do.
My home is a ranch style 4-bedroom home, 2 bath with 2 car garage. I plan on splitting the home into two distinct living units:
- the garage will be a complete mental confection of my dreams and desires for natural building and living within the confines of the existing structure, this will be my living space and ultimately my place of business. My living area will also include the existing 60×8 foot green house sun room, front garden and rear garden/yard.
- the main home will be a modern conversion, it will employ at first many modern energy saving conveniences and will operate and appear as any other typical western home with a few behind the scene advantages to gain additional energy savings. This space shall include primarily just the house, some attic storage, and a moderate amount of physical space outside the house for storage.
Once the spaces have been developed and I can start tracking their energy usage, operational characteristics and have documented the systems utilized – then I will begin implementing different strategic methods and operational changes to the areas if they are not balanced. The main home will be largely a test bed for my research and technologies that will hopefully help modern people integrate better into the natural world without having to compromise conveniences. My home will be earthen, simple and very basic, just as I would prefer.
As to the actual systems, design guidelines, and other detailed aspects of the project you’ll just have to keep posted to learn more as they develop. Also, I will on occasion be having different workshops that may or may not directly pertain to the ongoing work here at the house, I hope you can join.
Special thanks to all my friends who gave me a huge boost of encouragement last night, it made a big difference.
As part of my goal to eliminate natural gas usage, this weekend I removed my natural gas fired forced air furnace and associated duct work. The heating system was replaced with oil filled electric heaters located in the bedrooms each 1500W operating at low, with one 1500W in the entertainment room operating at high and low depending on the ambient temperature needs.
If you are not already aware of my goals for 2012, one of them is to eliminate natural gas usage. I have several appliances that are currently using natural gas – clothes dryer, water heater, and forced air furnace. Around August of 2011 I replaced my dryer with an electric dryer – removing one gas fired appliance from the list. This weekend I removed another, the gas fired forced air furnace. I hope to have the water heater replaced within the next few months, but that is going to take a bit more work to incorporate the change properly.
I replaced the forced air furnace system with oil filled electric radiant heaters, which are located in each of the bedrooms and one in the entertainment room. The front living/dining area and the kitchen do not have any heaters – they are supported from the excess heat from the bedroom units along with any heat from cooking. I tested the electric heater system for several months during the coldest days here and found it to be highly functional and comfortable. The change in system has several advantages aside from not using natural gas. One of those advantages is offered in selective controlled heating of space – I can isolate individual rooms and heat or not heat as needed reducing my overall energy usage. For example during the week there is only one bedroom that is in need of heating and the other two are not, which translates into significant energy savings over time – my forced air furnace would have attempted to heat the entire home even if only one rooms was needed. Second, the electric oil filled heaters are more efficient at using the energy to heat than the forced air furnace – air is a poor method for conducting heat and so it is one of the most inefficient methods for heating a home. Third, I can feel good about the energy I use since I purchase wind energy from the utility at this point.
To help give a snap shot at a small portion of the overall vision, specifically in relation to heating I can tell you that the electric oil filled heaters are just a stop gap. The final arrangement will consist of a radiant heating element that allows selective methods for heating depending on the most abundant and available fuel source, which will be discussed in more detail as the projects are taken on so keep tuned in.
So here we are at the beginning of a new year and with that carries the start of new projects and new discoveries. So here are few things that I have in mind for this coming year and I will discuss more about these in later posts as the occur.
- Stop garbage service.
- Get off Natural Gas
- Retrofit existing home to be more sustainable.
- Retrofit garage with natural building techniques.
- Finish greenhouse/sunroom
- Fully develop garden – front and rear
- Build fence around property
- Install solar water heater panels
- Harvest and dry a winters worth of food
- Develop sustainable business non-profit
- Take grey water system to next stage.
- Install rain water collection system
- Plumb home for rain water usage
- Install solar light tubes
- Wood fired Jacuzzi/Sauna combination