Gorgeous Green House

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


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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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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

DSC02460

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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Gorgeous Green House Featured in Green Home Magazine

Cover Green home magWe are thrilled that our green message is being picked up by other publications.  Thank you Green Home Magazine for sharing our story.  They have shared an electronic version.  Click here  and go to p.12 to see what a wonderful job they have done!

Green home mag p.12


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The Indigenous Gardener Magazine Covers the Gorgeous Green Roof

logo2Six pages of gorgeous images and step-by-step guidelines to create a living roof.  The Indigenous Gardener Magazine has done a wonderful job.  Be inspired!  Enjoy!

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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 (part 2)

Pond at front door in.  This is a vitally important element  as it will be stocked with Tilapia fish whose waste will feed the plants on the vertical garden behind.

Pond at front door in. This is a vitally important element as it will be stocked with Tilapia fish whose waste will feed the plants on the vertical garden behind.

Master bathroom mosaic/tiling done in double shower. Very happy!

Master bathroom mosaic/tiling done in double shower. Very happy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The original outbuilding (now demolished) had huge concrete sink outside, presumable for doing laundry in.  It is now re-invented as the mint planter under the tap - perfect!

The original outbuilding (now demolished) had huge concrete sink outside, presumable for doing laundry in. It is now re-invented as the mint planter under the tap – perfect!

 

Solar geyser in!  Fantastic.  This is such an easy energy/money saver  (minimum 40% on your electricity bills) so a win all round.  Please visi

Solar geyser in! Fantastic. This is such an easy energy/money saver (minimum 40% on your electricity bills) so a win all round. Please visit this post to see why we didn’t go the heat pump route

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Induction geyser  in!  Visit this post if you are curious as to why and induction geyser when we have also installed a solar geyser.

Induction geyser in! Visit this post if you are curious as to why and induction geyser when we have also installed a solar geyser.

 

My first Knipfophia of Autumn.  Will it turn into a red hot poker?  Time will tell as I have no idea which one it is.

My first Knipfophia of Autumn. Will it turn into a red hot poker? Time will tell as I have no idea which one it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, another yellow beauty, not commonly found:  Agrolubioum tomentosum.

And finally, another yellow beauty, not commonly found: Agrolubioum tomentosum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, our enormous pit that will house the water harvesting system.  This HUGE project is so exciting and the technology so amazing it will get a post all of its own.  Suffice to say its 9m X 3m X 2.5m deep and has taken weeks to build.  Happy to report that not a grain off soil went off site, its it the roof garden and being spread around the property.  Watch this space!

And finally, our enormous pit that will house the water harvesting system. This HUGE project is so exciting and the technology so amazing it will get a post all of its own. Suffice to say its 9m X 3m X 2.5m deep and has taken weeks to build. Happy to report that not a grain off soil went off site, its it the roof garden and being spread around the property. Watch this space!


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Photo Update

With 5 working days to go until move in day, nerves are a little stretched.  One can’t help noticing that there is still no sign of any part of the kitchen, a toilet, tap, shower rose and one or two other rather important things that one gets used to. We must live in faith though that it will all come together and in the meantime this post will celebrate what has been happening at the Gorgeous Green House.

Owl House

Owl House

We are very excited to have installed the owl house.  You may think the design looks a little ‘open’ and are wondering why it is not in a tree.  We wish to attract Spotted Eagle Owls as we know they fly in our area and according to the experts they want to nest where they will have 360 degree clear views.  We’ve installed ours in the roof garden so we can lie in bed and watch all the action.  Just waiting for a broody pair to move in. Click here for designs for this and Barn Owl houses.  Very easy to make. I’ll allow the photos to tell the story of the updates.

First grenadilla flower.  Fruit next - yum!

First grenadilla flower. Fruit next – yum!

Re-cycling old doors. They are solid oregan so will be gorgeous when sanded down

Re-cycling old doors. They are solid Oregon so will be gorgeous when sanded down

Ditto recycling of doors for new braai (bargeque) cupboard

Ditto recycling of doors for new braai (bargeque) cupboard

Rockery constructed out of rocks and boulders on site.  White stuff to kill grass and weeds will be cut open for planted.

Rockery constructed out of rocks and boulders on site. White stuff to kill grass and weeds will be cut open for planting.

Another pathway.  It is so exciting to cut back the overgrown garden and discover these beautiful old stone walls.  By placing the path next to it and can be really appreciated.

Another pathway. It is so exciting to cut back the overgrown garden and discover these beautiful old stone walls. By placing the path next to it , it can be really appreciated.

New butternut on its way

New butternut on its way

 

Turraea floribunda being devoured by hungry caterpillars.  I'm guessing (hoping) its the Pseudaphelia apollonaris Apollo Moth as it is its larval food.

Turraea floribunda being devoured by hungry caterpillars. I’m guessing (hoping) its the Pseudaphelia apollonaris (Apollo Moth) as it is its larval food.

 

Tiling done in outbuilding bathroom. Happy here as well!

Tiling done in outbuilding bathroom. Very happy!

Clementine tree planted for my daughter.  Its here favourite fruit!

Clementine tree planted for my daughter. Its her favourite fruit!

Masses of brick paving was on site and we are re purposing it as flower bed edging.

Masses of brick paving was on site and we are re purposing it as flower bed edging.

Pool and reed beds in.  Just awaiting fibre-glass and we can fill and plant.  Can't wait.

Pool and reed beds in. Just awaiting fibre-glass and we can fill and plant. Can’t wait.

Dombeya tillacea

Dombeya tillacea

Deck infrastsructure going in. More to come on this as we are using a wonderful product made with re-cycled plastic.

Deck infrastsructure going in. More to come on this as we are using a wonderful product made with re-cycled plastic.

Garden dotted with these beautiful old walls, many in  dire state.

Garden dotted with these beautiful old walls, many in dire state.

Acquiring new skills, very pleased with my restoration work here!

Acquiring new skills, very pleased with my restoration work here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Green Roof Dream Actualized

Pic courtesy Geoff Nichols

Pic courtesy Geoff Nichols

Imagine our cities with birds and butterflies flitting from building to building. Imagine views from tall buildings that include roof tops full of plants, rich with life and colour and the sound of birdsong and insects. This is starting to happening all over the planet. People are seeking alternatives to the alienating and sterile world of concrete, without moving to the countryside.  Roof gardens provide all of this and much, much more!

I have dreamed of creating my own green roof for so long it hardly seems real that it is now in.  This post is about the benefits of green roofs and quite a detailed ‘How To’ guide for those who wish to do the same. Early inspiration came from the Green Roof Pilot Project (GRPP) at eThekwini which is testing various options that provide healthier urban environments.  This project among others has shown that these living roofs (as they are also called) naturally increase biodiversity and are aesthetically beautiful, but there are numerous other good reasons to seriously consider installing one:dog house roof garden

  • They insulate the house, reducing the amount of cooling and heating required
  • They lower the amount of storm water run-off
  • Improve air quality through the reduction of air borne pollutants, including harmful carbon monoxide.
  • They absorb chemicals and heavy metals from rainwater
  • There are positive climate change impacts via absorption of carbon dioxide and the release of oxygen during photosynthesis.
  • They help insulate for sound
  • They reduce maintenance cost of roofs and increase its lifespan by two to three times.
  • Can assist in the alleviation of food security issues.
  • Provide fire resistance
  • Offer electromagnetic insulation.

There are broadly two options for installation.  One way to go is planting in trays.  I have used the direct method which involves placing the shallow amount of growing medium on top of various protective and drainage layers which I will show step by step.

Before you start though it is imperative to ensure a structural engineer has confirmed that your roof can take the extra load (or if you are building from scratch engineer into the design).

Layer 1:  Waterproofing

Layer 1: Waterproofing

We began by installing a serious waterproofing product called ExtruBit ® .  This stuff looks a bit like wet suit material is flexible and really tough. A company called Bertrade did the installation which involved heat sealing the overlap areas. No mean feat in Durban’s hot and humid February.

The next three layers provide the drainage and help ensure the soil won’t get into the full bores.  Pula Water supplied their amazing drainage mats (Flow-Cell ®) which are sandwiched by geotextile. This was a cinch to install, somewhat reminiscent of playing with Lego as you are rewarded with a very satisfying click as each mat slots into the other!  In addition to ensuring the water will drain

Layers 2 & 3: Geotextile (white) then Flow Cell mats.  Layer 4 on top is Geotextile

Layers 2 & 3: Geotextile (white) then Flow Cell mats.

away they are designed to do so slowly so plants have time to drink.

You are now ready for your soil mix.  My soil has come out of the ground being dug for the water harvesting tank. Not very nutritious so I have mixed it half/half with pine bark compost from Grovida.

Soil coming up on the conveyer

Soil coming up on the conveyer

In addition I have added bags of organic accelerator, agricultural lime and 2:3:2. Over and above general dispersal of the above, each largish plant hole received a handful of the extras to give a nutritional boost.Before we talk the about the most exciting bit which is obviously the plants I have to share with you the less interesting but vitally important info on how to deal with your full bores. This is the area you roof garden will ‘fall’ to (i.e. slope down to) and it is crucial that you have sufficient drainage or your garden will fill up and swim over the edge of it.  To help slow down the process in the event of heavy rain this is what you can do:

1.  Cut or drill holes/grooves into a section of pipe that is the diameter of your full  bore an height of your garden

1. Cut or drill holes/grooves into a section of pipe that is the diameter of your full bore and height of your garden.  Thanks Geoff!

1.  Source pipe the diameter of your fullbore and cut to height of soil

2. Position directly over full bore

2.  Surround the pipe with aprox. 500mm width of gravel encased by bidum

3. Surround the pipe with aprox. 500mm width of gravel encased by bidum

3.  Cover with rock

4. Cover with rocks

 
4. Plant around as you wish

5. Plant around as you wish

Choose your plant species carefully.  It goes without saying your locally indigenous/native plants must be selected and these should be water wise and heat tolerant. Plants that grow in cracks and crevices are ideal.  Bear in mind that the soil is shallow and will dry out quickly.  Plants should (in the main) also be low growing and wind resistant.  Ideally they should also be self seeding to replace themselves when stressed by heat and water fluctuations.

They beauty of using the correct plants means that after they have been established irrigation is seldom required.  Plan to utilize at least one of the many water harvesting options.  Gutters and grey water re-cycling are easily installed. (Detailed posts to follow).

Ecstatic me planting at last!

Ecstatic me planting at last!

For those of you in Durban South Africa here is a list of plants that will do well:

Aellanthus parvifolius, Aptenia cordifolia, Aloe maculata, Aloe cooperii, Bulbine abyssinica, Bulbine natalensis, Cissus quadrangularis, Cissus fragilis, Crassula multicava, 
Crassula hirta, Crassula ovata, Crassula obovata, Crassula perofliat, Crassula vaginata, Aloe rborescens, Aloe rupestris, Aloe thraskii, Aloe van belanii, Cotyledon orbiculata,Delosperma rogers   Hibisucs calphyllus, Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, Nymphoides thunbergiana, Portulacarai afra, Stafpelia ginantea, Vernonia capensis
Aloe van belanii, Crassula, Euphorbia, Venonia capensis

Aloe van belanii, Crassula, Euphorbia, Venonia capensis

more gorgeous hardy indigenous treasures.

Gorgeous hardy indigenous treasures.

I know this garden will give us much joy in the years to come.  I hope you’ve been inspired!

Small pond  awaiting planting to attract the kingfishers

Small pond awaiting planting to attract the kingfishers

What we will look like in a few months time (Pic Courtesy Geoff Nichols)

What we will look like in a few months time (Pic Courtesy Geoff Nichols)

P.S.  I know many of you are desperate for the post on the Vertical Garden.  The scaffolding is still in front of it and the minute it’s down I’ll be able to show you it in all its early splendor.  Here is a little glimpse of what is flowering at the moment.

Streptocarpus sp

Streptocarpus sp

Useful Reference:  Etekwini Guidelines Document


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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

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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