More Blank Slate

21 07 2008

We paid just $49,000 for that land. Amazing isn’t it? Just 6 years later, the owners of the land diagonally across from us are selling, and asking $368,000! They won’t get it. Still…… just goes to show how stupid real estate has got.

The criteria was to build a state of the art energy efficient house, so efficient it would need no heating, no cooling, and run pretty well on 100% solar power. I don’t want to have to rely on a failing Matrix to supply us with our hot water and power. No way.

I know how to do this now, I retrained in the 90’s, doing a tertiary course in Renewable Energy, and since acquired accreditation as an energy rating assessor. Trouble is, the land faces West and South, and such a house has to face North. Why face North? Because that’s how you have total control over the sun, because that’s where the sun is most of the time in much of the Southern Hemisphere. Align your house on an exact E-W axis, and you can totally control when the sun enters the house through windows, or not. Yeah, I’m a control freak!

Most people think the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Well it does, but only twice a year, at the equinoxes, March 21, and September 21. Any other time, and the sun follows paths similar to the figures above. So when you build on an E-W axis as above, the sun never shines on the front of the house in summer, but does so all day long in winter. That is called passive solar design, and it’s great because every square metre of glass the sun shines through is equivalent to having a 1000W bar heater on. This is useful in winter but appalling in summer, at least in the warm climate where the blank slate lives. All you have to do is exclude all E and W facing windows, and you’re in business.

How do you do without windows on E and W sides? Simple. Just build a long narrow house with its long sides facing N and S, and then build into the roof openings called Clerestory Windows. These windows allow evacuation of rising hot air in summer, but when closed keep warm air in all winter long. They also light rooms all year ’round, and even allow direct sunlight into the cooler southern side of the building in winter. Free heat! What more could you want?

Well…… there is more. Watch this space.




4 responses

22 03 2010
Prema Camp


Skimmed your news. A good read for me. I’m using Nature-Vel from Biosa for septic and will get AG version for compost. Found a distributor who had formerly brought EM into strong usage in India then switched products. For now my compost goes over the compound wall to field dogs, ants, etc. Will forward your blog to my neighbor Shami Shaligram who founded an NGO with an organic farm. I save water bottles for cow urine part of her Rishi Krishi nat. fertilizing.

Buffalo, bullock and cow patties get picked up, dried in stacks in the rural area I live in. The floors of some tin shed areas are dung. I’ve had an itch to spread dung but haven’t put on gloves yet and offered. Have to watch for parasites too. I’ve had twice. No fun.

My friend has grown 2,000 trees from cuttings for the land’s triple layer shade canopy and he’s currently waiting for 25 brass manure to arrive.

My memory is driving by silage bins in Maine when at my grandparents’ farm. An unforgettable odor.

That’s the first of that kind of toilet I’ve seen. Really interesting. Makes sense. I looked at every composting one on the internet but I’m on stone with no under-room so had to go with a high/low water flow in new home. Where I rent now I flush only when necessary.

Nice to see so much green. Living with green until my 60’s I’ve adjusted to tan, brown, ochre land in drought. Crackle leaves. Dry wind. I keep a collection of laminated photos to bring out when needed: maple sugaring with deep snow, sandy beach with kids’ sandcastle, farm daughters piling baled hay into back of truck.

About refrig. For only me I have a med-big fridge with 7 frozen water bottles that carry through power –outages up to 12 hrs. or longer. Others run theirs on inverters. I keep it simple. One fan, one light if needed, and my computer that is my work tool – that’s it on the inverter. In new house will need to run security lights on separate inverter.

Keeping things simple, I’m ordering a dhobi tub – that’s for washing laundry. It will be my outdoor bathtub as inside a ceramic is too expensive. I have a jali compound wall for safety. That means lower stone, then solid brick, then ventilated brick so I can bathe with relative privacy in a b-suit. Better than the 4 in. of water in a bucket my current bath is.

Broke my femur last Feb. and knowing everything is good I proceeded to discover months of “gifts” from the experience. Took 3 tickets to get out of India learning a lot about the govt., visas, and got to go to Mumbai twice and fly to Delhi once. Met a lot of either interesting or v. nice people. Staying open to what’s good helps. Back on 2 legs any amount of work is fine relative to the memory of 3 mos. housebound in 4 rms. in summer when most foreigners have left the community.

Interesting about sun angle. My Aussie friend here has his roof line coordinated with the sun’s angle. With the only tech in my family of one being me, I put in 9 in. v. tall windows on the south that reduce to even less glass, accepted I needed big east and west windows in kit/eating area due to cultural history but have a porch in front of the east one and a bay window that distances heat from the west. Four large lengths of green cloth go up as soon as I move in — roof or plinth to ground. The north windows are medium width and deep. West living room windows narrow. They open in with screens on magnets. Most Indian windows open out scraping skin and getting out of alignment for bolts in openings five minutes after installation. Architect had to “think on” figuring out getting them to open in as all windows, doors have security grills that can’t be pried off with crowbars.

Two of my slope roofs are 20 ft. high with short support walls. My bedroom has a wind tower with the opening to the south. South is our source of heat and monsoon rain. Also howling wind.

House feels big with a core allowing me to go room to room as if I’ve traveled yet overall footage is about 1200 with large and med-small bedrooms, kit/eating, shower rm, toilet rm, utility rm, inside stairs to sm. flat veranda that allows a space at stair top for meditation or in future grandkids to squeeze down mattresses.

Your blog’s a good read for me and I’ll look in again. Thanks to CM site. I wouldn’t have followed your CM id to your web but yr comments re. water caught my attention when alerted by Davos’ responding to my water infor. He first had my attention when I joined for his DD links plus thoughtful manner of offering helpful information in comments.

Mostly the investment infor. is not of use but the overall general direction of Am and global economy is and also specifics on sustainable-living.

Caring in India

9 07 2010

Good summary! I was thinking about how to integrate Clerestory windows into earthship designs, instead of using their ‘skylights’…. but looking at some of the inside temperatures you report in later posts, this non-bermed design seems very good as well!

I always thought having at least one earth-bermed side (south side in the souther hemisphre) would be most efficient in terms of climate control…

30 01 2017

Mike – ancient thread but you linked to it recently.
Our house, not built by us, is long and faces due E-W. Amazingly stupid. Worse, parts of it have cathedral ceilings. The roof gets so hot that the ceiling radiates heat downwards in the summer. Clerestory windows wouldn’t help. And, solar installers refuse to install to it because of how hard it is to hit the beams.

There’s a bit of retrofitting – shrubs on the west side, more insulation, a woodburning stove with lots of chimney inside the house, and a heavy theatre curtain to partition the insulated/heated part of the house from the cathedraled rest.

We’ve not had luck finding thermal window blinds in Australia.

Opinions besides ‘move’?

30 01 2017

Hmmm…… maybe you could ask George!

When you say it faces due E-W, I take it you mean it has a N-S axis..? I would tint the W windows, and even the E ones. Not sure what you mean by thermal window blinds…. thermal curtains are pretty easy to find, and fit pelmets too.

Is the roof insulated? I know it’s tricky to do that because of lack of space, but it would be worth doing even if it means lifting the roof to get in…..

Without seeing the house, I hope that helps?


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