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Green Building Bible, Fourth Edition
Green Building Bible, fourth edition (both books)
These two books are the perfect starting place to help you get to grips with one of the most vitally important aspects of our society - our homes and living environment.

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    • CommentAuthorcaspen
    • CommentTimeOct 10th 2017
    I'm hoping to build a small and narrow, single storey house [think canal boat] in a small town setting. I'd like it to be minimum impact - ideally off-grid. Do you know of any off-grid house that has received planning permission from a Council?
    With luck, I can use that precedent and not reinvent the wheel!
    Many thanks
    • CommentTimeOct 10th 2017 edited
    I don't think a grid connection has anything to do with planning does it? I don't think the presence or absence of a connection will affect planning permission at all, or indeed even be stated at that stage.

    edit: with a more general meaning of 'off grid' you will have to get approval for sewage treatment that's not connected to the main sewer.

    Sounds an interesting project. Do tell us more.

    But I would advise at least putting ductwork in to ease a grid connection later, if circumstances change.
    • CommentTimeOct 10th 2017
    I would think that water into and out of the property would be the biggest challenge.
    I like the idea of it being modelled on a narrowboat, but you could just get a narrowboat.
    • CommentAuthorowlman
    • CommentTimeOct 10th 2017
    Small and narrow, mmm, linked shipping containers spring to mind.
    • CommentAuthorCWatters
    • CommentTimeOct 11th 2017
    What djh said.

    Being off grid isn't a planning issue. They will care about the appearance of your PV array or rainwater tank not the fact that you are using a PV array or collecting rainwater.

    When I asked our planning officer if building a sustainable house would make it easier to get planning permission he said "No, because all houses must be sustainable these days". Their view of sustainability is more to do with the availability of public services then being green. Some parts of the country have set targets for green development but far from all.

    Water companies are statutory consultees and planners may take more interest in what you propose for your sewage even if it's not visible.

    If the area has a very characteristic or historic appearance (eg stone everywhere) they sometimes like you to build more of the same or go very different so that it's obviously a later addition.
    • CommentTimeOct 11th 2017
    Indeed, a fully autonomous house is not 'sustainable' if it is more than 400 m from a bus stop, apparently.

    Environment Agency as well as the water company are also consulted.

    There's a rather scary list of consultees at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/consultation-and-pre-decision-matters#Statutory-consultees-on-applications
    Not in England, but the council planning guidance here requires use of public mains water supply if one is available. Ditto sewerage. Rainwater drainage must be 'sustainable'. Worth checking your Local Plan as planners will have to follow it?
    • CommentTimeOct 11th 2017
    I think as far as water supply goes, the theory is that mains water supply surprisingly uses less energy than individual off-grid systems so mains supply is more sustainable.

    I connected to mains supply as being the easiest, especially as we get older, but I collect rainwater which is just used to water the garden at present. If circumstances change, I could think about adding filters etc.
    • CommentAuthorcaspen
    • CommentTimeOct 14th 2017
    Thank you, everyone! For djh who asked for more info ... off grid is partly because it's probably more future-proof, and also because connecting up to services is going to be difficult.

    Not a narrowboat because I'm hoping we can build tight and with better thermal mass and solar gain.

    Water - I'm told I can have a borehole supplying drinking water for approx £8K. Definitely more sustainable to have mains connection. And because it's a tiny build, I don't know how much rainwater we can collect. Hockerton shows usage but they collect on a number of houses. http://www.hockertonhousingproject.org.uk/water-systems/rainwater-harvesting/

    Toilet - I was hoping to use the Humanure system by Joseph Jenkins. It's working well in our current home. http://humanure.net/manual.html - neither water nor electricity. But, to convince the local authority, I'll probably have to install a narrowboat-type toilet ie 12v electricity to dry out the solid waste for composting. I'm told the liquid is legally considered grey water and can be discharged into the ground.

    Electricity - I'm thinking PVs and storage battery [wondering if Tesla batteries will be working properly in 12 months] and then minimal everything eg 12v fridge, etc.

    No mains gas. Maybe a woodburning stove - thought it's possible heating won't be necessary. http://www.hockertonhousingproject.org.uk/eco-homes/new-build/

    Thanks again - and if you come across any other useful info, I'd be delighted if you shared it.
    • CommentTimeOct 14th 2017
    Posted By: caspenbetter thermal mass
    Oh dear, we have done this one to death I thought.
    Apart from the terminology being wrong (thermal properties of mass), you will find that there is enough of this in just plasterboard, the rest is a read herring.

    Posted By: caspenminimal everything eg 12v fridge, etc.
    The Tesla power wall will not help you there.
    You need to either design a 12V system from scratch or go for a 230V system.
    230V has the advantage that fridges and microwaves are very cheap, and you can plug in a cheap generator.

    Posted By: caspenMaybe a woodburning stove
    Not sustainable, ecologically or environmentally, and not very good economically. There is plenty of debate on here about them.
    Like 'thermal mass', wood burners are a hard idea to shift, regardless of the evidence against them.
    ''the rest is a read herring''

    But they are notoriously difficult to read...
    • CommentTimeOct 14th 2017
    Why are service connections problematic in a [small] town? In a town, a narrow build usually implies an infill plot, is that the case?

    Oh and 'thermal mass' is a lot more complicated than ST's disparaging remarks suggest. It's certainly not true that more is always better, but neither is it true that a piece of plasterboard is always enough. It's a subject that bears some research and thought and that depends on the occupants' lifestyle to some extent. I suggest we discuss it in a separate thread if anybody wants to.
    • CommentAuthorMike1
    • CommentTimeSep 19th 2018 edited
    Posted By: caspenToilet - I was hoping to use the Humanure system by Joseph Jenkins. It's working well in our current home.http://humanure.net/manual.html" rel="nofollow" >http://humanure.net/manual.html- neither water nor electricity. But, to convince the local authority, I'll probably have to install a narrowboat-type toilet ie 12v electricity to dry out the solid waste for composting

    Not necessarily - here's what the Centre for Alternative Technology has to say: http://info.cat.org.uk/questions/water-and-sewage/how-do-i-go-about-getting-planning-permission-compost-toilet/
    • CommentAuthorconverse
    • CommentTimeMar 7th 2022 edited
    For planners, "Sustainable" means "Something we like". "Unsustainable" means "Something we don't like".
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