As LAND FOR WILDLIFE members, we were invited to nominate for the Logan City Council Area 2017 Eco Champion Award – which is basically a small cash prize and a certificate in recognition of our efforts to create a sustainable, low-impact home. I am happy to report that we won it!
There is an article written and published during the very early stages of building, an article on the build published in mid 2017 in the Sydney Morning Herald (including photos), and LCC’s press release about our win under the ‘Pages’ section of this blog. We hope this win will inspire others to consider sustainability when building.
This is my description of our project that won us the award.
‘Euphoria’ in Greenbank.
We bought our property in Greenbank in 2000, seduced by its beauty and obvious environmental values. It is a rocky and sandy 9.3 acre block of dry schlerophyll forest, boundaried on the south side by Crewes Creek. In just a small area, it has floodplain, large rocky outcrops, large trees containing tree hollows suitable for wildlife (spotted gum, blue gum, stringybarks, paperbarks, Scribbly gum, Casuarina) and some untouched native understorey comprising a variety of native species (3 types of ferns, elkhorn and staghorn, lomandras, native grasses etc). In the first year we sighted over 80 species of birds, as well as a variety of lizards, mammals, and insects
We immediately joined Land for Wildlife and pledged to preserve 7 acres as conservation land. The work involved in this is mainly in weed control and replanting with native species (casuarina, moreton bay fig, native hibiscus, and dianella. Apart from that we leave the environment alone to sustain itself and the species that live here.
Our home, ‘Euphoria’, was built with a view to being low cost but also low impact on our immediate environment. Our desire was to live IN the forest, in ‘a small treehouse on a big block’ as a way of lowering our environmental footprint and only using what we needed.
We had to remove over 20 trees to clear a house site, but we incorporated much of the timber from the felled trees into landscaping and to make verandah rails and posts.
We had a platform 8 metres high designed and built, and put a 9X9 metre kit home on top of it.
We positioned the home facing north to maximise breezes and minimise heating and cooling costs.
We installed a solar hot water system. Our heavy tree cover has so far prevented us getting solar panels for electricity but we are hopeful newer technology will soon make this possible.
A second hand cast iron wood stove provides heating, using kindling found onsite, and simple fans keep us cool. Roof insulation was recycled, saved from a demolition in which it was destined for the tip.
Our toilet is composting, saving 60,000 litres of water per year. We think ours was the first composting toilet LCC has ever approved, as our application caused it to be added as a category on the form.
We harvest rainwater from the roof to our water tank, and run greywater from the washing machine into the garden to feed banana and papaya trees.
The actual fit out of the home is a monument to Kim’s carpentry skills, artistry, and patience.
We bought a few things new: bathroom sink, composting toilet, plasterboard and paint, timber flooring, and electrical and plumbing fittings.
But everything else inside the house is UPCYCLED – either repurposed, purchased secondhand, donated by friends, scavenged from house demolitions, or found very cheap at liquidation sales.
Our bathtub and kitchen and laundry sinks were given to us by a renovator.
Our stove and fridge were bought secondhand for $350 each, and our washing machine was given to us.
Bathroom tiles were leftover from various friends’ renovations (except for the small mosaic tiles, which were purchased for $2 a sheet at a liquidation sale, along with our bathroom sink for $80). Bricks and slate used around the woodstove were given to us for nothing.
Verandah rails and joists were purchased second hand in premetric lengths, so there were offcuts which were later used for inside shelving. The additional verandah’s rails and joists were made from the trees that were felled to make room for the house, with the toughened glass inserts being repurposed shop fittings and the flooring recycled from a demolition.
Special touches by the artist in Kim include coffee tables made from old repurposed timber (hoop pine and mahogany from an 1860s house in Nundah), carved doorhandles in the shape of platypus, mosaic bathroom, and rustic timber shelves and walls.
It has been a long journey but the home is distinctive, rustic, comfortable and low impact, and we feel as if we are living every day in our very own treehouse in the forest.