What is a living house? – Part 2

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The previous article outlined some of the design ideas that we use to design a Living House, and now we’re going to look at the functional elements.

A Productive Garden

We both preach and practice sustainable home agriculture, which has gone by many names over the centuries. It might be called a Cottage Garden, Kitchen Garden, Permaculture Farm, Food Forest, or (the term we use) a Victory Garden, but in the end, they are all the same thing. A functioning, mostly self-sustaining food garden which combines fruit, vegetable, herb, and flower plants and small animals to provide for the needs of a family and the local insects.

By maintaining a simple garden of mostly perennial plants, we can connect with our family and community as well as our environment. We can become more self-reliant and eat healthier food more regularly. We reduce our environmental footprint by bringing our food production home, and even have a positive impact by supporting our local ecosystem. We see this as fundamentally important to the creation of a healthy sustainable home and lifestyle.

Victory Gardeners

Responsible Water Use

Water harvesting really seems so simple at this point that it hardly seems worth mentioning, but it is massively valuable so here we are. There are many systems available to both harvest water, and reduce water waste, and we encourage everyone to use the most complete system they can. This could be just a small rainwater tank for the garden. It could be a large tank to feed some or all of the home’s taps, with or without filtration for drinking water. It could be all that plus composting toilets or black water reed beds if there’s space.

The water systems you use come down mostly to your comfort levels and preferences, but we always include large rainwater tanks in our designs. Whichever particular features end up in each home, a Living House will always utilize the most complete water management system possible. The integration of these water systems in a home is one of the most important enhancements to the long-term resilience of a building.

Basic Rainwater System (From YourHome)

Energy Generation and Use

We have the most rooftop solar per capita in the world in Australia, which is a great start. There is increasing pushback from the old dinosaurs of the coal industry though, so now is the time to double down and push our energy systems further. Battery systems aren’t quite financially viable yet, but there is no reason at all not to install as much PV capacity as possible in a modern home. This is important for a Living House because it’s one of the key elements to creating a self-sufficient and sustainable building. Being able to produce energy in a building which also maximises the benefits of that energy is the first best step to de-coupling from the coal grid.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to at least do the least harm to the world as they can, and whenever possible to improve it. In terms of energy, we think preparing for a clean energy future the best we can is vital at this point. With that in mind, power generation is always integrated into our Living House designs.

The nature of our design and specification means that all our homes are intended to maintain their temperature and use minimal active heating and cooling. We do this through super-insulation, passive solar design, and passive cooling, all of which we’ll go into much more detail on separately. This reduction in the need to actually use energy means even more benefits are gained form generating power.

Traditional Solar Array

Economic Freedom

In order to really support the people who call it home, a Living House needs to support the economic freedom of the people who live in it. Covid-19 made very clear how few people really need to commute to a physical workplace in our modern economy. This trend is just beginning and with advances in robotics, small scale manufacturing, AI, workplace culture, and the global economy itself, there will be increased opportunity to move away from traditional work patterns.

A small Living House will at the very least provide a good, dedicated space to work from home. This of course also is a perfect way to encourage online connectivity with remote family and friends, further supporting community connection.  

At a larger scale, in a multi- or extended family home, or in a village or community development, there are further options. Creation of workspaces for building and repairing machinery, homewares, furniture, electronics etc. allows families and small communities to make and maintain their own things. This localised economy helps to reduce climate impact, but more importantly, it creates stronger community ties and reduces everyone’s dependence on working just to survive. This is surely the most important, and most complex aspect of a Living House. We’ll get into much more detail on this in a dedicated series later.

A dedicated workspace

Hopefully we’ve managed to get some of these ideas across without too much jargon! These are just the basics of a lot of deep and complex ideas which guide our design philosophy, and we’re going to get into much more detail on everything as we go.

Until next time, be excellent to each other.

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