A Little House at No. 18

The ins and outs and inbetweens of building a new house in Little Howard St, Fremantle

A Sustainable Little House

Sustainable House Day 2017.

Alice and Greg  are delighted to welcome you to view our house on Sustainable House Day 2017.

Last year was our first year participating in Sustainable House Day and we thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to share our journey and experience of building our own house with as many of our visitors as we could throughout the day.

The most common theme that came out of conversations last year is that most people want to adopt a more sustainable way of living and want to incorporate these technologies into their lives. Followed by the question … How can we do it?  Luckily the options are infinite! 

We believe firmly in the long term benefits of living smarter and with that we align ourselves closely with the aims of the Alternative Technology Association and thank them so much for their, and their members, assistance during our house building journey and for giving us the opportunity to share with you what we have learned and done.

Little House2


We invite you to come and share with us your experiences, knowledge and ideas or just come and have a sticky beak, open your eyes to the possibilities.  The world is a fast changing place and the demand to live more sustainably is growing quicker than ever.  

If you are thinking about building or renovating a house, buying a house, looking to value add or even just live in a house,    there is a countless number of sustainable solutions that make modern houses smarter, more satisfying to live in and most often cheaper in the long run.

Alice and Greg welcome you again to explore our blog and the story of our project so far and if you can make it on September 17th   2017,  we look forward to welcoming you to view our house on Sustainable House Day.   

If you choose to read on, let us take you back to the beginning. Well, 2012 anyhow…. 

A Sustainable Little House

At a time when it is socially acceptable to design and build a sustainable house , one of the conclusions we drew during the design process is that in 15 years time it’s probably going to be socially “expected”  to build a sustainable house.      In addition to this realization we both have an interest in living conservatively, being  self sufficient and the “practice what you preach” principle.

From day dot (whenever that was)  we wanted to build with natural and recycled materials.   So we set about planning a building that will hide nothing and just is what it is.   Climatically compassionate building ideas  and a range of  sustainable features  would enhance the comfort of  the house we want to live in.

Natural heating and  cooling, power consumption,  water usage, catchment and recycling of water were considered.  As were insulation, thermal masses and  passive climate control.  So we set about on our research and ended up with a plan.

  • Recycle as much of the old house as possible. Up-cycling of waste materials like bricks , timber, limestone footings, concrete slab, tiles and windows.  This means  less waste going to land fill and the satisfaction of having these materials incorporated into the new house.
  • Build with natural and re-cycled materials with minimal processing requirements and good thermal properties.
  • Insulate the building envelope well with above average insulation.  A long term investment that should pay itself off over time.  R4.1 stand-alone roof insulation using refrigeration panels within the cathedral ceiling,  Phenolic foam insulation within limestone  wall cavities and  double glazed windows with thermally broken window frames.
  • Under floor heating to 80% of floor areas using Hydronic water piping in polished concrete floors with the use of evacuated tubes (solar water heating).
  • A 1,000 L water “thermal store” to provide domestic hot water and Hydronic floor heating.
  • 22,500 L rainwater tank.
  • Dual plumbing system  (Black water and Grey water) to facilitate water recycling.
  • Slow combustion wood room heater with wet flue to heat water in thermal store in winter when solar collection levels may be insufficient.
  • Lighting with minimal energy consumption.  LED lighting as much as possible.
  • Smart wiring to assist with the management of power consumption and the control of ventilation  of living spaces and roof cavities.   We want a system that we can teach the house to regulate its own temperature.  We didn’t want an audio / visual system that manages an air conditioner and central heating from an i-phone.  Just a smartly designed  house with a bit of added intelligence.

So as you could probably conclude from the list above, we have set ourselves a rather large challenge.  We started researching and interviewing people in the industry to get an indication of the possibilities available.  To say the least, this was a very bold and steep learning curve.   The internet is a wonderful tool. (did you know that the average pool noodle provides better insulation values for hot water piping than the more expensive option that plumbing suppliers offer!!  And somebody has actually arrived at this conclusion through laboratory testing!).    It mainly taught us that everything we wanted to achieve was not impossible.  It also educated us that Perth (and Australia for that matter) are a little behind the rest of the world with such technologies.    (For example, did you know that it was only in mid 2011, some 12 months before we commenced construction that double glazed window panes started being produced in WA!!)    Not to be impeded by the geographical restrictions,  we continued our research in these “alternative technologies”  (that’s what they call them in Australia although the rest of the world have perfected the technology for the last 50 years or more)  and we read for many hours what we would have to do.

Part of the design process involved the engagement of an energy rating assessor.  We chose to engage Sid Thoo to shine an experienced light on our ideas.    Although we thought this was the normal path to take for designers and builders, we quickly learned that this is far from true.  It was Sid himself who commented at our first meeting that its unusual for people to seek this kind of advice so early in the design stage.   I don’t know, it just seemed logical to us!

Would you like to see our HERS (House Energy Rating Scheme) assessment?   You’ll find it here: HERS Assessment Summary

So that’s the intro in a nutshell for our sustainable little house.  As the project progresses, we will share with you our successes and failures of some of our ideas.   Plus we would like to share with you some of the more interesting  facets of our research and how we went about  implementing  them.

If you would like to read more about the specific energy efficiency or sustainability aspects of our home, check out the following links:

Beanies vs Umbrellas and Their Application to Ventilated Roof Galleries: An overview of how we are managing heat transfer in our cathedral ceiling. This type of ceiling can be notoriously hot but hopefully by using good insulation (R5.1) and actively venting the ceiling space we will keep the temperature inside the house down in summer.

Things of Wood: A little bit more detail on the roof insulation.

Things of Stone: Information on our wall insulation.

Upcycling…Is it old, or new or both?: Information on the parts of the house that we have been able to reclaim from our old house or reuse from other sources.

Cold Feet: Information on the hydronic heating (underfloor heating) system that we have installed and our plans to power it from renewable energy.

Let it rain: an overview of our rainwater tank.


3 thoughts on “A Sustainable Little House

  1. Pingback: Link Up Tueday | Lisa's Kansa Muse

  2. We are looking forward to the new posts! Very excited to see the kitchen finished and the garden maturing 🙂
    S & S x

    • Okay. Sorry for the delay but there is finally a picture of the kitchen floor and kitchen “mostly” finished. You’ll have to come back to Freo to experience the floor with all of your senses. Maybe when the garden has matured.

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