We are living in ‘the future’. What was once science fiction is now our reality – and yet still no hoverboard?! Luckily, a lot of other awe inspiring technology has been developed and much of it has become apart of our lives and changed the world. However, with all of this new and exciting stuff, we can lose sight of what the planet is going be like 100 years from now.
Social action involving green energy and sustainability is on the rise. More and more people are attaching solar panels to their roof, setting up water tanks in their gardens and generally doing their bit for the environment so it is safe to say eco-friendly D.I.Y projects are a popular trend.
But could we be doing more? Architect and Project Manager, Dominique Hage has begun a project to prove that there are creative ways to increase your positive impact on the environment, whilst still looking extremely cool.
We spoke with Dom about her sustainable housing project, as well as her mission to inform D.I.Y enthusiasts and future designers about the feasible ways they can build smarter and greener.
Where did the idea for your current project come from?
This project started off with a request for a fibre cement beach shack. But as we went into the design process, the explorations into sustainability started to influence the way we thought and the project kind of morphed into something more experimental than we had originally planned on. I basically did a heap of research looking for a primary building material that we could use. As part of the project I had tried to do a comparison of a selection of different and commonly used sustainable interventions; from rainwater tanks to various building materials. The aim was to see what was suitable for a holiday house and for our budget. So we started looking at insulated concrete forms but the use of polystyrene was an element we didn’t like. That led us to Hempcrete which is actually nothing new, in fact it’s been around for hundreds of years. Hempcrete is a really incredible product that has so many physical and construction benefits – it is super strong, amazing for insulation, completely breathable, termite resistant, affordable (the list goes on). It hardens by sequestering carbon dioxide out of the air, and continues to do this for the entirety of its life span. The problem then became finding someone else who could (or would) use it – because there aren’t many! Luckily enough, some friends of mine who are great builders in Sydney said they would be keen.
What techniques are you using in comparison to traditional building and design techniques and how do they compare in terms of strength etc?
I utilised passive solar design methods to shield the house from the northern sun and get heaps of beautiful afternoon light. A big contributor to the thermal mass was the green cement mix we had made by Hanson cement. We have a rainwater tank, and a greywater irrigation system. Aside from this we’re using lime based paints, natural oils on the timbers, native planting in the garden, and raw brass tapware – all locally sourced.
What 3 tips could you offer people considering a similar approach to building and design?
1- Find a builder who is willing to try new things, someone who will get on board with the vision of the project. Once you’ve found someone like this: get them involved as early as possible!
2- Lot’s and lot’s of research: people tend to be really happy to help out, so I ended up being constantly on the phone with hempcrete builders in other areas, and various manufacturers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if they sound dumb or rudimentary – you will not learn otherwise. Solid research also means that you are more likely to find a local, less toxic or ‘lower emission’ product to use instead of the standard – it may take more time but the rewards are totally worth it.
3- You don’t have to be an expert to be sustainable: Don’t worry about being a hypocrite, or that not everything in your build is ‘sustainable’ or ‘green’. Just have a think and see what is feasible for your project and most importantly the dreaded budget. The biggest thing for me is just looking at your site and designing to that – where is the sun, where is the shade, the wind, the noise etc.
Worx Tools agrees with Dominique and encourages everyone thinking about property development or home renovation to give green a go!