Gorgeous Green House

The Renovation Journey of a 1940’s ‘Traditional’ to 2015 ‘Contemporary, Green & Gorgeous’


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Fool-Hardy Plants for a Resilient Garden

Halleria Lucida (tree fuscia)  Bird and bee magnet.  Large shrub perfect for small garden, sun or slightly shady

Halleria Lucida (Tree Fuscia) Bird and bee magnet. Large shrub perfect for small garden, sun or slightly shady

Our local Botanical Society recently hosted a presentation with the above title.  Wally Menne inspired us with wonderful images of our local toughies and reminded us of the importance of gardening with ecology in mind.

Scadoxux puniceua (Snake Lilly)  Loves shade but also tolerates sun.  Loved by bees as you can see!

Scadoxux puniceua (Snake Lilly) Loves shade but also tolerates sun. Loved by bees as you can see!

I was walking around my beautiful garden and took these pics of my own Fool-Hardy plants (currently flowering) to share with you.

Wherever you are on the planet your local or naturally occurring plants will always thrive best in your garden as they are adapted to your local conditions.  You will also be contributing to sustaining life in your local eco-system and draw a greater abundance of birds, butterflies, insects, reptiles and mammals into your garden.

I hope you enjoy these images of some the the resilient plant for coastal dwellers in KZN South Africa.  I’ve added info for best planting conditions for people wanting to plant them in my area.

Anesellia africana (Leapoard orchid)  growing in a fallen stump just in front of   the verhanda - what a joy it will be.  Loves to be in the bough of  trees.

Anesellia africana (Leapoard orchid) growing in a fallen stump just in front of the verhanda – what a joy it will be. Loves to be in the bough of trees.

Gorgeous daisies that come in all colours and love full sun.

Gorgeous daisies that come in all shades of pink to red and love full sun.

Leonotis leonorus.  Sunbird heaven for sun

Leonotis leonorus. Sunbird heaven for sun

All these plants and 100’s more will

be available at the Indigenous Plant Fair

plant fair

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Green Concrete: an oxymoron? (plus pics of our polystyrene process)

DSC00073There is no doubt that concrete is a filthy substance to produce. Worldwide, it is the most widely-used construction material with over ten billion tons produced annually and it carries a massive CO2 burden – in total about 7% of global CO2 emissions come from concrete production.

On ‘round one’ of the Gorgeous Green House design we were rather shocked to learn how many truckloads of concrete would need to go into the building.  We began looking at alternatives:

Fly-ash concrete is readily available in many countries. Fly-ash is a waste material – the inorganic residue – that remains after pulverized coal is burned in coal-burning power plants. Disposing of it can be a problem. Fortunately, the construction industry has discovered that fly-ash can produce a superior concrete with excellent finishing characteristics.

Recycled aggregates and lightweight aggregates can replace the usual sand and gravel in some concrete applications. This can consist of crushed concrete, brick, or crushed glass. Lightweight concrete is made by using expanded volcanic materials – pumice and perlite, for example – to replace some of the usual stone aggregate.  Volcanic materials also add some thermal insulation value to the concrete. Unfortunately this is not yet available to us in South Africa.

There are also interesting products in R & D using for example waste products from oil refinement with huge CO2 emission reductions in the production process. Not yet available.

Traditional alternatives such as timber construction could also be considered.

So what did we do?

Polystyrene ready to go

Polystyrene ready to go

Firstly, we lost as many flat could roofs as we could to be replaced with timber trusses and metal sheeting.

A much larger percentage of concrete to be used though, is in the slab between the floors, the off-shutter wall and supporting the roof garden so we turned our attention here.  The roof garden was non-negotiable as the structural support required doesn’t provide any options.  We could have put timber flooring in elsewhere but it would be heavily treated for termites, noisy and aesthetically not in keeping with the contemporary design of the house.

The awesome British show Grand Designs provided inspiration.  Polystyrene is being used in conjunction with cement to reduce the volumes required.  Timber formwork is fiddly to make and a lot of it cannot be reused. Using polystyrene in place of timber effectively kills two birds with one stone: it acts as formwork to mould the concrete and is then left in place to provide insulation.

First phase off-shutter wall

First phase off-shutter wall

Polystyrene beads can also be added to a concrete mix but our engineer was not happy with the structural support this process would provide.

So our green guilt is somewhat reduced and we are also reminding ourselves that concrete lasts. This is the stuff the Romans and Egyptians built their empires with!  It’s impermeable to air and wind-driven rain. And concrete is inedible, so bugs and vermin can’t gnaw at it. A building with exterior concrete walls can also be energy-efficient, especially in climates that have daily temperature fluctuations. Even though concrete provides little insulation, it creates thermal mass that can store warmth or cold, reducing indoor temperature fluctuation.

Polystyrene in situ waiting for pour

Polystyrene in situ waiting for pour

Check out our polystyrene process and stage one of the off-shutter wall.  Concrete is being poured on Monday 05-08 Another significant milestone achieved. Very exciting!

A reminder of the end goal :  living within biodiversity

A reminder of the end goal : living within biodiversity