Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Hmm, so I haven't posted for more than six months. Too much to do, so little time. 

Part of what I've been up to in the last few months has been planning for our permablitz - see www.permablitz.net. And it actually happened! A huge crew of wonderful people came and transformed our grassy wilderness into landscaped paths and irrigated no dig gardens. Miraculous. I'm not given to using the word awesome (don't get me started!), but I think I used it about six times on Sunday.

Anyway, I wanted to upload a pile of photos, and it suddenly occurred to me that I could do it here. I'll try to follow up with a post on the garden design and the thinking behind it, but am still too tired from the weekend to write much tonight.

These pics are of our back yard. I need to take another of the outcome with the morning sun, but this will do for now. The front was also transformed, but with such speed (or so it seemed to me) that I missed getting any action photos. I will get out there in the morning some time this week and take some photos of that too. It looks equally amazing.

Hope you like the pics. 


Monday, April 25, 2011

Money, money, money

We are pretty close to our final payment, and as a few people have been asking me, I thought I'd post briefly about money. We're still fiddling with our spreadsheet of costs, so the absolute final cost is yet to be confirmed, but roughly speaking, we've paid about $2,500 per m2 for a house of approximately 160m2 of usable floor space (i.e. not including the voids and the crawl spaces upstairs on the south).

That price includes everything but the land: design, fees, permits, all materials and the build itself.  Not bad for a bloody beautiful house in this day and age. I will ultimately post the spreadsheet, and try to quantify some of the variables, such as the reverse brick veneer.

In other eco-financial-domestic news, we're about to install 18 grid connected solar panels, which will actually save us a small amount of money every year. It would save us even more if we didn't already have 100% green power.

And finally, we're yet to install thermometers and temperature logs, but the house is performing really well. I imagine most readers in Melbourne will have a heater on by now. We have no heater at all, and (at 9:15 at night) Rodney is in a t-shirt. I'm quite comfortable here downstairs in a t-shirt and medium weight cotton knit top, but will need to take off my top layer when I go upstairs as it's considerably warmer up there.

Since the cold descended, it's been around 19 degrees in the living room when we get up at 6:30am.

Of course, we're yet to see how we go with several days of low sunlight in a row. That - and the 35 degree plus days - will be the big test. I'm starting to feel optimistic that we might not need a heating system. The oven pumps out a fair amount of heat, so maybe we'll just resort to more oven baked meals in the dead of winter! :)



Okay, so they aren't brilliant, and we still have shit everywhere, but people have been asking to see what we've built, so here you go. Inside is still too much of a mess to show you!

In case you are starting to get Block Envy, note that our friends will be building on that patch of dirt next door. There will be 4.5m between us (enough for sun to penetrate our lower windows in winter) and we'll share the backyard.


This is the northern face of our house. Winter sun will stream in. The wide eaves shade us in summer.

This is our street face.

This is our house viewed from the back of the block next door.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

We're in!

Where have I been, I hear some of you ask? Well, actually, I've been moving into my 9 star home!!! Hip, hip, hooray.

I will write in more detail later but this is just a quick update of highs and lows:

I love my carpet. It is magnificent. If you can stretch your budget to Valieris, do. Every time I walk on it, I feel happy.

My love affair with soft furnishings extends to our Luxaflex blinds. They look absolutely superb and function like a dream. We went for blockout blinds in the bedrooms and opaque on all other windows.

I feel less happy about the boxes. There are still too many unpacked, mostly because we are still waiting on our studio floor covering. I believe it is coming ... but when?

The house is performing amazingly well in terms of heating and cooling, although I do regret not installing a solar panel attached to a tiny little motor attached to the windows so that we could open and close them at a touch of a button. I dare say that we will get used to managing the ventilation, but Melbourne's unpredictable weather does make it trying. I thought our enormous eaves would stop the rain coming through the windows, but it turns out I was wrong. Thankfully I worked this out after a light shower, rather than a rainstorm.

The light and sunbeams are a continuing source of delight to us all. And they do seem to be working from a passive solar perspective. Even after cool nights (14 degrees), we are waking up to a house that's about 19 degrees. I'm looking forward to seeing how we go after a few consecutive days of cold weather and no sun. But I'm in no rush ... I love March's warm glow.

All of our paint colour choices have been vindicated. They look great, especially against the wooden frames. I can't believe I was planning to have white window frames! It turned out the red of our bathroom really would have been better with a darker undercoat (as suggested by the painters but rejected by the paint shop). So the painters are a bit pissed off. I hope they will forgive me by the time I ask them to work on the next project (which is hopefully the house next door).

BTW, it seems that low VOC does not necessarily mean no fumes at all. The house was quite chemical-stinky for the first three weeks or so, but now it's starting to settle down. But for the record, I think the smell was mostly from the kitchen and the carpet, not the paint.

Our concrete floor feels great: silky smooth and not at all cold. But it's not looking that crash hot. We've had repeated attempts from the floor guys to fix it, and now it seems that we might end up with them coming back to grind it back again and reapply the sealant. I really hope we don't end up with more aggregate exposed, it's quite subtle now and looks really nice in that regard.

The bathroom tiles look fantastic, although much darker than I expected. The tiler did a really lovely job and I am so glad I took our project manager's advice not to cut them down. There's this idea that you shouldn't use big tiles in a small bathroom, but it sooo works in ours.

And finally, our lights! They are really lovely. I think I'd like to make a plan to retrofit them for LED globes over time, but compact fluros are working pretty well in most of them. The exception is the CF downlights, which are perfect for the kitchen, but a bit white for the one place in the living space that we used them. I think we still need some lamps. :)

When we unpack, I will take photos and post them. In the meantime, I know I owe some of you emails (Lindy & Marie). Our internet was down for weeks with the move (AAPT sux, for the record), so I'm only just catching up on emails.

I'm going to need to decide when to wrap up this blog, now that the place is actually built. But I do still have a few outstanding topics, and this is fun, so I'm not quite ready to stop. I'll be back when a few more boxes are unpacked (i.e. when the upstairs flooring is in)!!