Gorgeous Green House

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


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We Won!!

gghggh_email_signatureCongratualtions to Chen Segnelli and the team on winning the AfrisSam-SAIA Sustainable Architecture Award.  Awards are wonderful for recognizing achievement but they also generate further media interest which keeps increasing our awareness and consciousness of the importance of building with more thought and sensitivity.  Come on everyone, what about thinking about your Christmas bonus and investing in just one thing that can make a difference to the way you live and is kind to our struggling planet. Thank you to all the friends and blog followers who have supported and sustained us on this journey!

 

 

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House and Leisure, Sunday Times and Top Billing

This months House and Leisure feature the Gorgeous Green House in its ‘Sustainability Supplement’.  You’ll need to flip to the end to find us on p.162.  Glynis Horning has described our journey well.  Pity the photos that were selected don’t link in a cohesive way to the copy.  Not sure what sustainability/green message there is in our bed image and where is the eco pool, veggie garden, bee hive….?  (sigh, Sally took so many amazing photos).  However, the vertical and roof garden do look spectacular and hopefully that will draw people in.  (Scroll to end for image of vertical garden).
Sunday Times

This Sunday the Sunday Times are doing an ‘Eco’ feature. It will be interesting to so how they present our home and lifestyle.

Lastly, for followers outside of South Africa and those of you who may have missed the Top Billing TV coverage, here are the first 7 minutes of the show:

https://www.youtube.com/embed/t4iThlXZVzs“>http://

House and Leisure image


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Top Billing Visits the Gorgeous Green House

The Gorgeous Green House  will be making her TV debut this Thursday 16 July via the very glamorous No.1 South African magazine programme Top Billing. ( 07:30 p.m. on SABC 3). For those outside of SA there will be a shorter segment on You Tube – will advise when I know.

This 3 day process was absolutely fascinating. At times it was nerve wracking, and at times tedious (“take 43”!).  It was also overwhelming and humbling as I know how the intro goes:

Good evening and a very warm welcome to Top Billing. Tonight we come to you from the Gorgeous Green house in Durban, the culmination of one couple’s desire to ‘live more gently on the planet’. It’s quite fitting as this Saturday is Mandela Day, a day to remember that everyone can help to make the world a better place.

This was how we experienced the overall process:

Day 1:  Lorna interviews Jane, Caitlin (daughter), Chen (architect) and James (vertical garden designer) about the house

Jane extolling the virtues of the eco kitchen

Jane extolling the virtues of the eco kitchen

Interviewd In the lounge: "no we didn't get in an interior designer, the garden is the decoration:.

Interviewd In the lounge: “no we didn’t get in an interior designer, the garden is the decoration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James, Jane and Lorna explaining how the vertical garden works

James, Jane and Lorna explaining how the vertical garden works

Walking, talking and shooting, eeks!

Walking, talking and shooting, eeks!

Day 2:  Lorna arrives in elegant evening gown, make-up artist in tow, to do all the ‘links’ that appear between the different segments of the show

Sparkling Lorna Maseko

Sparkling Lorna Maseko

Lorna next to the pool

Lorna next to the pool

Lorna verandaLorna bedroomDay 3: The director and team return with a drone to take aerial images!

Thanks Top Billing for this wonderful opportunity to get our “living green’ message out to such a wide and diverse audience.

Awesome team: Adrian (director).Lucky (Technician),Mfundo (Camera)

Awesome team: Lucky (Technician),Mfundo (Camera), Adrian (Director)

Setting up the drone

Setting up the drone

Away it goes!

Away it goes!


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Wonderful Professional Images of the Gorgeous Green House

Our architects Sagnelli Associate Architects are entering our project into the  AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture.   The exceptionally talented Grant Pitcher has been commissioned to take the photos for entry.

http://www.grantpitcher.co.za/architectural-photography/the-gorgeous-greenhouse/

My favourite is this one. It is a birds eye view shows off the solar technology, roof garden and eco-pool from a vantage point not seen before.

gorgeous green house

Good luck Chen Sagnelli and team for the competition!


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Gorgeous Green House Complete!!

Party House!

Perfect Party House!

This post is somewhat later than it should be but I have the best excuse!  We’ve been sharing this beautiful space with our overseas family (10 in all) for 6 weeks and have been incredibly busy chilling, having lots of fun and feasts and just joyfully hanging out.

A good test for a home is a lot of visitors for a protracted amount of time and I am thrilled to report that the GGH works beautifully. The kitchen and open space living area flows brilliantly and dozens of meals were seamlessly put together without bodies bumping into each other.

Thanks to our super efficient solar system we were blissfully unaware that Eskom (SA’s only power utility) gifted South Africans with numerous power outages during this time. We remained switched on, connected and cooking!

The natural swimming pool coped with the daily invasion of overheated, sunscreen coated humans and the fish, shrimp crabs, plants and birds seem no worse for wear for sharing ‘their’ space with us.

The large covered veranda is perfect for our African climate.  It coped with many for several big celebrations (including Christmas Day) and all meals were enjoyed al fresco. This has been our first chance to soak up the beautiful garden within which, to date, we’ve enjoyed whilst hard at labour rather than relaxation!

The veggie garden, although not properly planted as yet, provided an abundance of deliciousness and a foretelling of how are food lives will be in ‘normal’ mode.

In celebration of the finishing of the house I thought it would be fun to document the journey with ‘before’, ‘during’ and ‘now’ images.  At the beginning of this journey I wrote on my ‘About’ page that part of OUR MISSION was to provide:

inspiration, information and motivation to others to follow suit.  We wish to de-bunk myths such as ‘green is ugly’…….

I also shared in one of my early posts:

Several years ago when I started talking about my dream of building a ‘green house’ a friend said “oh I saw one of those … a kind of hobbit house…really ugly”.  So the first misconception to clear up is that green design has nothing to do with the aesthetics of the house!  Whatever your taste (hobbit-like or otherwise) one can incorporate green design principles.  Essentially it means building in harmony with the natural environment and cooperating instead of fighting with the regional climate. 

Now we are at the end of the project (at least the building part) I do so hope that these images represent a realization of that early goal.  I look forward to your feedback.

Front View 'Before'

Front View ‘Before’

Front View During

Front View ‘During’

Front View 'Now'

Front View ‘Now’

Back View LHS 'Before'

Back View LHS ‘Before’

Back View LHS During

Back View LHS During

Back View LHS 'Now'

Back View LHS ‘Now’

 

Entertainment/barbecue Area 'Before'

Entertainment/barbecue Area ‘Before’

Entertainment/barbecue Area 'Now"

Entertainment/barbecue Area ‘Now”

Pool 'Before'

Pool ‘Before’

At the commence of the build the pool became a pond.

At the commence of the build the pool became a pond.

Reshaping The Pool Area

Reshaping The Pool Area

Constructing the Reed Beds to Filter the Pool

Constructing the Reed Beds to Filter the Pool

Finished result. A beautiful green and healthy place for us to play and relax for years to come.  Click HERE for more details.

Finished result. A beautiful green and healthy place for us to play and relax for years to come. Click HERE for more details.

Old Garage Wall

Old Garage Wall

Old Garage Wall Becomes Backdrop for Vertical Garden

Old Garage Wall Becomes Backdrop for Vertical Garden.  Click HERE for more information.

Mid Way Through Planting Process

Mid Way Through Planting Process

Planting Just Completed

Planting Just Completed

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Old Garage Wall Today!

 

 

Old Roof Above Kitchen and Lounge

Old Roof Above Kitchen and Lounge

Flat roof replaces old pitched roof providing foundation for roof garden which is off the master bedroom.

Flat roof replaces old pitched roof providing foundation for roof garden which is off the master bedroom.

Layers of Geotextile (white) then Flow Cell mats.

Layers of Geotextile (white) then Flow Cell mats.

Early stages of planting

Early Stages of Planting

Roof Garden 'Now'

Roof Garden ‘Now’. Click HERE for more information

 

Outside Dinning Area Before

Outside Dinning Area ‘Before’

Outside Dinning Area 'Now'

Outside Dinning Area ‘Now’

Old Outbuilding with Lemon Tree foreground

Old Outbuilding with Lemon Tree foreground

New Veggie Garden with Lemon Tree Still Pride of Place

New Veggie Garden with Lemon Tree Still Pride of Place

 

 

Back View 'Before'

Back View ‘Before’

Back View 'Now'

Back View ‘Now’

Original Store Room and Washing Line Area

Original Store Room and Washing Line Area

Storeroom now a Granny Flat and Washline Screened off with Recycled Plastic Fence

Storeroom now a Granny Flat and Washline Screened off with Recycled Plastic Fence

Area Outside Kitchen 'Before'

Area Outside Kitchen ‘Before’

Outside Kitchen Area 'now'

Outside Kitchen Area ‘now’


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Architects Come to Visit: photo competition

Chen Sagnelli

Chen Sagnelli

We recently hosted a group of enthusiastic architects from Sagnelli Associate Architects.  They were challenged by Chen Sagnelli to take photos of any elements of the project they were inspired by. These they then presented to the team.

Ian Rall was the winner and its easy to see why. His images are beautiful and arty and the Gorgeous Green House looks incredible.  There were lots of lovely pics so I’ve included a cross section of some of the others.  It was really fun having them and hopefully they will be inspired to discuss with their clients the opportunities in going green without compromising on aesthetics in any way. Enjoy!

IMG_2296 (Copy)

Ian Rall

Ian Rall

Ian Rall

Ian Rall

Ian Rall

Ian Rall

Ian Rall

Ian Rall

 

Chantal Robertson

Chantal Robertson

Dhiagan Chetty

Dhiagan Chetty

IMG_1892 (Copy)

Dhiagan Chetty

Chen Sagnelli

Chen Sagnelli

Chen Sagnelli

Chen Sagnelli

Chen Sagnelli

Chen Sagnelli

Chantal Robertson

Chantal Robertson

Chantal Robertson

Chantal Robertson

Chantal Robertson

Chantal Robertson

image (9) (Copy)

Chantal Robertson

Chantal Robertson

Chantal Robertson

Chantal Robertson

Chantal Robertson


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Daily News Covers The Gorgeous Green House

daily_news

Today the Daily News published the third article on the most Gorgeous Green House on the planet!

Click HERE to read the on line version.

Thank you Lindsay Ord and Marilyn Bernard for getting this information to a wider audience. Fingers crossed it will inspire and motivate others to look at some greening options in their own home.


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Photo Update

The build seems to have accelerated, or maybe its just because we are starting to get to the best bits.  The most exciting installation, so far, is the vertical garden.  I’m going to be really mean though, and not show you a single picture yet because it is so magnificent, and the landscape artist James Halle is so talented, it has to have its very own post with lots of elaboration.  Watch this space!

Floating staircase

Floating staircase

The shuttering has come off the ‘floating’ staircase, and although this is not a green aspect of the build it is so beautiful I just need to show it off!

The interior painting has commenced.  There are loads of eco-friendly paints on the market these days.  They are much lower in volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) which basically means toxic stuff our bodies don’t like.  Confirm this with your paint supplier though because you won’t automatically get a low

Low VOC paint primer

Low VOC paint primer

VOC paint as there are still mixed perceptions about its efficacy.  Rest assured, they are equally effective and no more expensive than traditional.

veggie box

Mesh lining veggie box

The veggie garden now has 3/5 veggie boxes installed.  We are using a plastic timber product. These recycled planks are now widely available.  They are 100% recycled plastic so get great green points.  We lined the base with chicken mesh too keep out the moles.  Galvanized rods secure the sides from bowing out. This stuff will last forever, looks attractive, is easy to install and cheaper than recycled brick options which we had considered

3/5 Veggies Boxes Installed

3/5 Veggies Boxes Installed

Trichocladus crinatus

Trichocladus crinatus

I was really excited to see my Trichocladus crinitus (Black Witch-hazel) in flower. This small indigenous tree is quite rare and the petal form delicate and unusual.

Insualation Made From Recycled Plastic Bottles

Insualation Made From Recycled Plastic Bottles

There are lots of eco-friendly options for insulation these days.  We’ve gone with a product made from recycled plastic bottles.  The recycled newspaper product was a close contender.  The team on site report that the green stuff is really great to work with as it doesn’t shed prickly bits like the more traditional pink products.

 

Off Shutter Concrete

Off Shutter Concrete

The off-shutter concrete wall has had its first of two buffs and polishes.  It looks fabulous. I love the industrial /contemporary aesthetic and the honesty of the material.  Its a great ‘hard’ contrast to the green abundance of the garden.  Very happy with how its turned out.

Erythrina humeana

Erythrina humeana

The Erythrina humeana (Dwarf Coral Tree) are exquisite at the moment.  A really showy splash of red at the bottom of the garden.    

The pool has a new rectangular shape and fits snugly into the space of the old.  The reed beds are almost complete. It’s going to be great fun planting them up.  I’ll be sharing much more information on how to install an eco pool.  Suffice to say at this stage that the plants will do all the filtering of the water and no harsh chemicals will be required.  The plants and water provide the foundation for the wetland eco-system and we look forward to the

New Rectangular shape to pool

New Rectangular shape to pool

Reed beds constructed

Reed beds constructed

bird, amphibian and insect life we will be attracting.

Next to the veggie garden we have two of the Baunia’s in flower at the same time.  Gorgeous!

Bauhinia natalensis

Bauhinia natalensis

Bauhinia tomentosa

Bauhinia tomentosa

The whirly gigs are on site. Prith and Eamonn are finding them quite amusing.  Definitely a first for them as they are usually found in industrial builds.  We are putting them in to draw and pull up the cool air that will pass over the pond outside and into the hallway.  The best way to reduce the need for air conditioning in this space.

Whirly gig

Whirly gig

So overall fantastic progress!  And still so many of the best bits to come:

  • Vertical Garden (as promised)
  • Roof Garden
  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Eco Pool
  • Veggie garden
  • Chickens
  • Bees
  • Worm farming
  • Grey water recycling
  • Solar system
  • Induction geysers
  • plus…plus… plus


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Photo Update

Not much of noteworthy greenness has been happening on the build in the last few weeks but I’ve been getting lots of requests for a photo update so here it is.  The final overall shape of the house is now really clear.  I’m most excited to be feeling the space of the roof garden.  It’s really easy to imagine it planted up and merging with the garden in the view beyond. The skylight will reduce the need for lighting in the lounge below (just visible behind the kids) and, looking up from the lounge, the plants that overhang will be lovely to look at.

Kids standing in roof garden which is off the master bedroom.

Kids standing in roof garden which is off the master bedroom.

There is another smaller roof garden around the outside shower off the master bathroom.  The slab is also in place here so its been fun to stand ‘in’ the shower.  Good thing the louvers are in the design or the neighbours RHS would be in for some interesting entertainment!

View from roof garden to master suite and outside shower slab for smaller roof garden

View from roof garden to master suite and outside shower area for smaller roof garden

Old garage roof is off and wall between it and the storeroom is down and its transforming into the granny flat

Garage transforming into granny flat. This wall will be the vertical garden

The old garage roof is off.  The wall between it and the storeroom is down and the two are rapidly transforming into the granny flat.  The wall in this view is to be the vertical garden.  This is going to be quite extraordinarily beautiful.  Watch this space as there are going to be lots of processes shared.   I’m really excited about this element of the build as it is going to ‘disappear’ this whole building from this view of the property. It is also going to extend the wildlife habitat of my space as I will be using only indigenous plants (species list to be shared).

Front of the house now at full height.  The large window is perfect in scale and will be a beautiful reflection point for the pond in front.

Front of the house now at full height. The large window is perfect in scale and will be a beautiful reflection point for the pond in front.

The Shuttering is off the veranda so we get a good feel for how cool and protected we will be here.

Squinting Bush Brown butterfly unperturbed by the building activity

Squinting Bush Brown butterfly unperturbed by the building activity

Looking forward to lots of  long lazy lunches with family and friends.

Shuttering is off the verhanda so we get a good feel for how cool and protected we will be here

Section of veranda


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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


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Gorgeous Green House Goes Mainstream Media!

daily_newsNews Flash!  

Gorgeous Green House has gone mainstream media.

Lindsey Ord from the Daily News is covering our progress and a series of articles are planned.  Please go to  http://www.iol.co.za/dailynews/lifestyle/the-green-house-effect-1.1530307#.UcmME_lTDiw  for the on-line version of the first.

So exciting to be getting all this good green info out there. Thanks Lindsey for helping us get to a wider audience.


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The Idiot’s Guide to SANS 10400. (Applicable to all new builds, not just green ones!)

Glandiolus dalenii flowering this month

Safety used to be the primary criteria for glazing. It’s got a lot more complicated!

Until very recently our building standards mainly focused on strength, stability, safety and the like.  Your windows could be as large (or small) as you liked, as long as you could show they wouldn’t kill people (too easily). You could put in as much lighting, heating and air conditioning as your heart desired and you could heat your water in any way you cared to (just about).  Rainwater that accumulated on your roof and other hard services as well as your waste water just needed to be routed into the municipal storm water systems.

This has all changed significantly under the recently released SANS (South African National Standards) 10400 regulations.  And lots of professionals in the building industry have been caught on the hop!  The domino effect has been delays in plans being approved, construction pushed out and in some instances halted, while everyone gets ‘up to speed’, certificated and educated.  It seems that our government’s invitations to consultative processes were largely ignored so the new standards were implemented with little fanfare.  It is only now that non-compliance is being identified by the authorities that architects, designers, builders and suppliers of goods and services to the industry are fast tracking their knowledge and skills.   These standards are not a South African invention.  In fact much of the science has been lifted from all the good work done in the rest of the world.  We are actually lagging far behind and currently only have 30 Green Star Rated buildings to brag about.  Our Green Building Council http://www.gbcsa.org.za has only been in existence since 2007.

So What is SANS 10400 all about? 

Before I go any further with this post I must get my disclaimer in!  I am not an expert on SANS 10400 and can only share the lessons I have learned with my own build.  The standards themselves are complicated and require lengthy calculations. I have no plan to get into the nitty gritties of such, nor will I address the standards in a comprehensive way.  My intention is to rather provide a general overview of what the key challenges are and offer some suggestions on navigating some of the worst bits.

As we are all aware we have an energy crisis in this country, because we’ve felt the pain of power cuts for protracted periods.  We also have a water crisis and infrastructure problems but we haven’t had rolling water outages (yet) or major life taking floods due to overburdened storm water systems so we are still somewhat complacent. By the way, these problems are not unique to SA, they are of concern all over the planet. So essentially, the new regulations have been implemented to mitigate these problems.

Basically, these regulations are forcing all new builds and alterations to be a lot greener than before.  Whether you are interested in building green or not, you won’t get your plans approved/passed until they achieve the minimum requirements.   SANS 10400 needs to be read in conjunction with SANS 204 and they cover everything about buildings from safety, glazing, lighting, ventilation structural design etc. etc.  I will be focusing on some of the issues contained in the Environmental Sustainability and Energy Usage sections (parts X and XA).

These standards may look very onerous but when one considers that 17% of our national energy is used in residential buildings and 10% in commercial ones it is clear that we need to be building a bit smarter.  It’s also quite sobering to learn that the buildings globally are responsible for a third of CO2 emissions either in their construction or lifespan.   The standards are also very complicated.  South Africa is divided into different climatic zones (not always with sound logic is seems) as Durban (annual temperature range 16°  – 28° C) and Mooi River ( 0.6°C  – 24.2°C)  are in the same zone.  There are different standards for different building use and even different calculations to be applied for rooms relating to the different directions they face.          

MY TOP TIPS

Qualified Professional

First and foremost you are going to need your intended architect and/or engineer to have been accredited by the Building Control Authority.  Do not assume this is already so.  Many professionals have attended various presentations etc. but unless you find their name on this website:  http://www.buildingcontrol.co.za/page34.html  they are not ‘deemed competent’ and your plans will not be approved.  If they are this far behind the starting blocks you are in for a protracted process of referrals (declined plans).  Best find someone who is qualified to do all the tricky calculations that are going to need to be done and generally up to speed on building green.

Windows

If your windows are large you may have to install fixed awnings

Glazing/fenestration/windows are always significant in building for reasons of comfort and aesthetics.  If yours represent more than 15% of your wall area things are going to get complicated because you will potentially take more energy off the grid to cool and heat your building.  Bottom line, you won’t be able to install standard single glazed windows.   To put in larger windows, calculations will have to be done to justify the fenestration plans.  These are based not only on the surface area but the type of glazing and framing proposed, your climactic zone etc. The overall aim is for your windows to let in as little heat as possible in summer (because you will then want to use air-conditioners) and let out as little heat in winter (because you will want to use heaters).  The directional of the window is also part of the calculation.  So basically, if you want big windows you may need to plan for some or all of the following to reduce your electricity draw :  Low E-glazing (film applied to the glass), double or even triple glazing to improve thermal performance, awnings, shuttering and wooden frames rather than aluminium.

Don’t be naive (like me) and believe that the ancient huge trees shading your property will get factored into the calculations.  I was feeling most upset that on one set of ‘referrals’ from council we were advised to install awnings on our very shaded outbuildings. I must confess to feeling rather foolish on taking pictures to council of the trees, cool and moist paving (close ups of moss included!) to have it pointed out that the next owner may just come and cut down the trees and therefore vegetation cannot feature in the calculations around fenestration. Makes sense from that perspective.

You would be very wise to also check that your intended fenestration supplier has had their product appropriately tested:   www.aaamsa.co.za  or www.saggga.co.za or www.safiera.co.za

Renewable Energy

Providing your own energy will not automatically allow you bigger windows.

Fascinatingly, many of the new standards have come into being because of our energy crises, but if your building plans show that you are making provision to make your own via wind turbines or photo voltaic systems (our plan) you will not automatically get Brownie Points that enable you to have for example bigger windows.  The evaluators at council do not have a formula that calculates a relaxation for you because you are generating your own energy.  You might get quite a shock to learn that you need to put in double glazing (double the price) and even lose some of the windows planned. In other words you have not met the category   Deemed-to-satisfy: This path to compliance is met by showing that various building features meet minimum requirements. These include glazing dimensions, insulation thickness and wall types.

To get special dispensation you will have to make a special case. Known as  Rational assessment: This path to compliance allows the use of additional calculations to show that a building, irrespective of glazing size and insulation thickness, uses less energy than either a value provided by the XA standard, or a reference building that complies with the deemed-to-satisfy requirements.  Phew!

Ok, so that jargon just means that if you live in Durban you need to get hold of an electrical engineer who will draw up a whole lot data showing your energy consumption, how much you will supply from your renewable sources and how much you may still need to draw from ESKOM.  Please note, that it must be an electrical engineer, not your architect or your PVC supplier or your favourite blogger’s calculations.  All of this will need to be notarised.    Apparently, however, in the rest of the country this may not be the case as the code only requires only that this “competent person” be qualified on the basis of their experience and training.  It is clear the implementation is not being applied consistently across the country!

Water Heating

Old fashioned electrical geysers are no longer an option. You will be required to install a greener alternative.  You will find some useful information on my posts of December and January on solar and induction geysers and heat pumps.

Water Use, Re-use and Disposal

Our storm water systems are under pressure. All new builds will be scrutinized for their water management plan

Because our storm water systems are under increasing pressure, water disposal on your property will be carefully scrutinized   Your roof area and all your hard surfaces will be measured and depending on the type soil in your area (soil type permitting) you will in all likelihood be required to install an engineer designed soak pit.  These can be very costly in addition to being detrimental to any plants you may have in the garden!

You might be skimming quickly over the paragraph above because you are patting yourself on the back for already making provision for massive volumes of rain water harvesting and storage.  This you are going to use in the loos and showers and washing machine.  In addition, you’ve planned to re-cycle your grey water to irrigate your organic veggies.   You’ve consulted a water expert fundi like Alex Holmes http://www.pulawater.co.za   who has drawn up charts and graphs to show rainfall and your water consumption and you know your excess is tiny.  Your green halo is shining. So you’re exempt right?  WRONG!!  The evaluators do not have rainwater harvesting in their formula so you will need to make a special case for yourself if you want reduce the size of your soak pit.  But do persevere.  Talk to the Storm Water custodians at your local council (not the plan evaluators), make a case and back it up with hard figures and fingers crossed.  There are many sustainable options that could be implemented.

Water management is such an important topic that is going to need its own post to do it justice so watch this space.

Building materials

Bricks/block, roofing, insulation, pipe lagging (yes apparently we need insulation for pipes in a city that never gets cold) etc. etc. must be carefully considered. Many of the materials you use will have associated energy related numbers that may or may not be acceptable.  There is a plethora of new products on the market.  Please be very wary of ‘Green Washing’.  Look for SA Bureau of Standards approval and other relevant ratings and or registrations.

I know that if you put together a competent team on your build and do your homework, you should be able to navigate these regulations with relative ease.

Gorgeous Green Architectural Design

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Several years ago when I started talking about my dream of building a ‘green house’ a friend said “oh I saw one of those … a kind of hobbit house…really ugly”  So the first misconception to clear up is that green design has nothing to do with the aesthetics of the house!  Whatever your taste (hobbit-like or otherwise) one can incorporate green design principles.  Essentially it means building in harmony with the natural environment and cooperating instead of fighting with the regional climate.  Green building takes a passive approach which requires less energy to run once the building is erected. It’s also know as bioclimatic design, eco-design, eco-friendly architecture, earth-friendly architecture, environmental architecture and natural architecture.

This post will focus on the design of the building itself, not the technology or specific materials to be used.  I will cover those aspects separately.

My house is in Durban South Africa.  We have an average of 320 days of sunshine a year. Temperatures range from 16 to 25º C in winter and  23 to 33º C in summer.  However, before you consider relocating, the warm Mozambique current flowing along our coast and summer rainfall means we also experience high humidity which can be quite debilitating from December to March.  So here is what we have briefed the architect to design into the house:

WINDOWS

We want light (lots of) but not direct sunlight which would heat up the house and require us to put in energy guzzling air-conditioners so one of the easiest things to do is install tinted windowsCross ventilation is also a vital consideration.  Windows were planned so that each room would have opening windows on opposite sides of the room.  The most challenging areas were the downstairs bedrooms which open onto the passage .  Tricky to get cross ventilation as you can see from the drawing below.

Bedrooms tricky for cross ventilation. Pond has low opening windows to draw in cool air

We did three things; firstly designed opening windows above the doors and small high windows (second floor not in view) that open up into the passage.  The passage windows slide sideways rather than level in our out so there are no unattractive or dangerous protrusions in to the passage.

Whirlybird

Secondly we have put whirly birds into the roof of the passageway to draw the warm air up and out of the house. These are fantastic low tech gadgets that are used a lot in factories but surprisingly not in residential properties.  The third thing we did was put opening windows at ground level next to the pond to draw in the cool air as it crosses the water.  Thanks for this great tip Greg Seymour greg@go-green-consult.com

OVERHANGS, EYEBROWS, FIXED LOUVRES AND TREES

Sun pouring into a building is a costly thing to mitigate. Passive solar cooling eliminates the need for air conditioning. The image at the top of the  page shows the house as it faces North.  In Durban this is the hottest elevation.  Fixed louvres will cut the sun’s strength considerably without blocking light.  The verandahs are wide so that even in winter when the sun is lower  it won’t penetrate into the house.  Elsewhere on the building are ‘eyebrows’ to shade windows.  Best of all (though not strictly a design feature) are trees and shrubs next to the building.  Many are deciduous so in summer they are full of leaves when most shade is wanted and in winter the drop their leaves when a bit more warmth is welcome.

CONCRETE AND ROOF GARDEN

Example of roof garden with plants I will also use

A study undertaken by Canadian researchers found that green roof habitats were very effective in reducing a building’s energy demands.   The results show that a conventional roof absorbs solar radiation during the day, creating a high daily energy demand for cooling internal air spaces. In  contrast, the growing medium and plants of a green roof habitat reduce the heat flow through  the roof by providing shading, insulation, and evaporative cooling (shown in green below). It was found that the green roof habitat reduced the daily energy demand for cooling by a whopping 95%!!  (If you’re interested in the tech stuff that’s from 19.3  kWh or 7,080 British Thermal Unit (BTU) per m2 for a building under a conventional roof to 0.9 kWh or 324 BTU per m2 for a building under a green roof habitat). Thermal mass is the term given to material (usually concrete or stone) which will absorb heat and prevent its entry into the home.  Although there are eco-negatives associated with concrete because  of it production processes judicious use can swing its rating into a green category.  In our house concrete (a lot)  has been required to build the base for the roof garden.  Its payoff though is immense at  many levels.  More to follow on the wider range of green roof benefits and how to actually construct your own.

ROOF DESIGN FOR SOLAR PANELS

Albizia shading area of roof originally allocated for roof panel

Ensure you plan carefully for the location of your solar panels.  We were quite ignorant of how many we needed (24!) and initially made provision for only 8 on a section that also gets much shade from an ancient and huge Albizia adianthifolia.  Our main roof was pitched – but the wrong way – which has led to delays with approval of plans as we’ve had to switch the pitch direction to accommodate the panels.  In Durban one cannot make changes during the build without the risk of inspectors shutting down construction while you wade through approval bureaucracy so best to get it right up front.  We’ve had expert help from Trevor Wheeler of  http://www.solarsunsa.co.za/  and I strongly advise you get your solar needs properly specified from a specialist before you submit your plans.  More posts to follow on the process of determining what your solar needs are.

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