The Environment

Hobbits and Modern Housing

I’m not 100% sure which way to view this take on eco-housing.
I StumbledUpon this last night and was quite taken with the similarity to a hobbit hole from Lord of the Rings.

I cannot truthfully say that this would be my choice of living accomodation, but I am impressed with the dedication and inspiration that this family has shown in deciding to build and live in this home.

Hobbit Hole or Way of The Future – you decide.

Then again, after my apparent need to hog 8 global hectares worth of space just to exist, perhaps I shouldn’t view it as something only a ’60s hippy would aspire to.

Actually, I think not, but I also think that there are better ways of living that don’t involve burrowing into a local hillside and living under a roof of grass. There are many sources of inspiration for adapting and improving existing buildings, and for creating new buildings that don’t necessarily sacrifice comfort and design for the greater cause.

So, while I was thinking about this lovely little British Hobbit Hole, I did a bit of Googling and came across some interesting / scary statistics.

According to the Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation Authority (EECA) :

  • Home heating, water heating and running appliances takes 12% of New Zealand’s total energy use. That’s NZ$ 1.1 billion.
  • Heating, due to lack of insulation (regulations only came into effect in 1978, and how many of us live in 1909 villas!?), costs 20-30% of household energy bills.
  • 60-70% of our energy comes from our Hydro-electric schemes, but 23-30% comes from gas or coal.

According to the Worldwatch Institute website:

  • 55% of the wood cut for non-fuel uses is for construction
  • 40% of the world’s materials and energy is used by buildings
  • 30% of newly-built or -renovated buildings suffer from “sick building syndrome,” exposing occupants to stale or mold- and chemical-laden air

On the whole, not so encouraging. But there are positive stories, and positive actions that cost little (or nothing) to implement. I’ll bring you a few of those over the next few weeks. In the meantime, I wouldn’t want you to go away thinking that my 8 global hectares was any indication of my non-greeny-ness. Here are a few things that we have done, or do, to reduce our footprint:

  • When we purchase a new appliance we balance the functionality with the energy efficiency rating it has.
  • We recycle glass, plastic and paper waste (the council is about to change their collection scheme – not too sure if the 240 lt wheelie bins are going to work, but at least things can be stored cleanly outside rather than in our kitchen.)
  • We replaced all of our old lightbulbs with the compact fluorescent lightbulb equivalents years ago now. (When they weren’t 5 for $10 !! Aargh.)
  • We often eat meatless meals. See the Gastronomy section of this blog for ideas.
    (I know. For carnivores who enjoy their steaks, this can seem like a sacrifice too far.)
  • We installed a heat exchange unit as our primary heating device just before last winter – so no more gas or wood fires in this house.
  • When we outgrow our clothes and shoes, but they are still in reasonable condition, they are bagged up and sent to the local St Vincent de Paul shop down the road.
  • And I have, in the past, used the Freecycle network to pass on unwanted items. Although in recent times, our front verge seems to do an excellent impersonation of the Freecycle network. A broken heater, a set of drawers, and from up our driveway – our old washing machine, have all been claimed by random people. It’s almost like having our own personal rubbish collection agency. Truly one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.

So what are you doing? If you have ideas to share, feel free to leave a comment.

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