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  1.  
    Hi folks

    I just joined the forum here, and thought I should introduce myself.

    I've been looking for an intelligent and knowledgeable forum on green self-build for a while, and looks like I've found it. Just randomly clicking on a few threads it looks like there's a lot of people here who know about the nitty-gritty of this huge subject. I'll probably be mostly lurking for a while, just reading around, but as I come from the know-nothing yet end of the spectrum, I may be asking some stupid questions from time-to-time. (I hope not too many).

    My ambition is to build myself a zero carbon home in the next few years. But more than that, I want to be part of a small community promoting and living a low impact lifestyle. I've been reading about the Hockerton Housing Project (http://www.hockertonhousingproject.org.uk/), and that seems to be very close to the kind of thing I'd like to do.

    Anyway... hello!

    pbd
    • CommentAuthordjh
    • CommentTimeOct 7th 2011
     
    It's well worth visiting Hockerton if you're anywhere near. They run various types of tours. Where do you live?
  2.  
    I'm down on the south coast, so it's a bit of a trek. They're having a 'Realities and Practice' day in October - but I can't get to it sadly. I'll try and get along to future events though. Have you been there djh?
    • CommentAuthorJoiner
    • CommentTimeOct 8th 2011
     
    Best thing you could do, if you're serious about being truly sustainable, is read both Ben Law's 'The Woodland House' AND Barbara Jones' 'Building with Straw Bales' and consider including some of the energy-harnessing systems discussed on here to power and heat your self-build.

    I envy your position. I so wish I could go back 30 years, knowing then what I know now.
    •  
      CommentAuthorSteamyTea
    • CommentTimeOct 8th 2011
     
    You could also read 'A Poverty of Reason' by Wilfred Beckerman, 'The Rational Optimist' by Matt Ridley and anything by Lovelock.
    Gets harder if you are after real technical stuff, but there are the Open University books 'Renewable Energy' and 'Energy Systems and Sustainability' by Godfrey Boyle.
    A bit of mathematics and statistics are useful, any 'A' level book will do.

    Or just ask Tony to build it for you.
  3.  
    Joiner - thanks for the advice. I've ordered those two books. I haven't looked at straw bale buildings yet - a very different concept from the thermal mass idea of earthships and the Hockerton project. I like watching Grand Designs (although I mostly feel that the houses featured are far too big and impersonal to be homes - just architectural statements). I've never seen Ben Law's Woodland House! Must keep an eye out for the repeats.

    Steamy Tea - I'll take a look at the books you've recommended too - thank you. They look like they're more about the general philosophy of sustainability than directly about construction - is that right? Matt Ridley (if it's the same one) is a biologist isn't he? I read a book of his called The Red Queen (this'll be about 20 years ago). It was about evolution and sexual selection. Perhaps its a different Matt Ridley though.

    I suspect this is the first 'SQ' (Stupid Question), but who is Tony?

    Cheers!
    pbd
  4.  
    • CommentAuthordjh
    • CommentTimeOct 10th 2011
     
    Posted By: palebluedotHave you been there djh?

    Yes, I went a few years ago.
    • CommentAuthorAndy_P
    • CommentTimeOct 10th 2011
     
    If you want to see the TV programme on Ben Law's house (which i've seen most of) rather than the book (I havn't)

    http://www.channel4.com/programmes/grand-designs/4od#2920078

    "Kevin McCloud follows Ben Law as he attempts to build his dream home: a handmade, cruck-framed wooden house, totally self-sufficient, with no mains services."

    Was on TV last friday. Not sure how long this remains available to view online.

    Andy
    • CommentAuthorpalebluedot
    • CommentTimeOct 11th 2011 edited
     
    Hi Andy

    Have just watched it - thanks for the link. A great house; a rustic barn on the outside - and a church on the inside. And with proportions that will make it a really comfortable home, unlike most of the Grand Designs I've watched. I'm not sure I'd like to go quite so rustic, but there's no denying that's a pretty much zero carbon home. And £28,000 for a house in Sussex with views like that... that's made of win!

    I've just seen it's been included in the Grand Designs Revisited...
  5.  
    ...and it looks absolutely stunning now. What a beautiful home. And I see it allowed him to pull too!

    pbd.
  6.  
    There was one thing I thought was a little disturbing though. He was shown using 'Pyro' electric cable to do his wiring, as opposed to normal PVC cables. He said, yes, it's expensive, but not as expensive as a burnt down house. This is not what 'Pyro' is about though. It's a type of cable that will resist being damaged by much higher temperatures than PVC cable - (It's used for fire alarms, emergency lighting, and other vital power applications), but it doesn't mean it will prevent a fire that would otherwise start.

    When designing a circuit for power and lights you need to calculate the design current (how much current is going to be used by the circuit) and find the appropriate sized cable to handle that current without overloading (and so overheating/melting/causing a fire). You have to take into account anything that will add to the temperature in the cable, and also anything that will prevent the cable from dissipating heat. Like insulation.

    Running a cable through more even a short section of thermal insulation can 'derate' the current carrying capacity of the cable by 50%. While Pyro will not melt like PVC cabling, if an electrical fault is causing a lot of heat build-up, this in itself might be enough to cause the straw surrounding it to catch fire. He'd have a burned down house, but at least the cable will still be intact!

    I can only assume that he had a qualified electrician to design and test the installation, so that this is actually safe - but the impression given in the program was that just choosing 'Pyro' would save him from a fire.

    pbd
    • CommentAuthorseascape
    • CommentTimeOct 12th 2011
     
    Hi palebluedot - just looked up Hockerton Project - very interesting, so thanks for that.

    Can't help with plot prices but do know it's good to research building prices whilst you're looking for that perfect site. The Homebuilding & Renovating Magazine website has info on the selfbuilds they have featured - costs from £38,000, £60,000 to the ridiculous.

    Other useful sites could be Walter Segal Trust and Centre for Alternative Technology.
    • CommentAuthordjh
    • CommentTimeOct 12th 2011
     
    Posted By: palebluedotThere was one thing I thought was a little disturbing though. He was shown using 'Pyro' electric cable to do his wiring, as opposed to normal PVC cables.

    Using pyro cable was a meme in the straw-bale building world a few years ago. I don't know where it came from though. The usual advice is to not run water pipes inside bales (condensation risk) and also electric cables (fire risk), so the pyro idea might have come from misunderstanding of the requirements when ignoring that advice.
  7.  
    Posted By: palebluedotThere was one thing I thought was a little disturbing though. He was shown using 'Pyro' electric cable to do his wiring, as opposed to normal PVC cables.

    I've not seen that episode for a while, but I thought the implication was that they'd be more resistant to being chewed by whatever wildlife finds its way into the straw bales.

    David
    • CommentAuthorJoiner
    • CommentTimeOct 12th 2011
     
    Got the book out...

    (He had a mate, James, an experienced electrician, who wired all the 12v electrics in.)

    pps 58-59... "James not only calculated all the cable sizes, he also recommended I used mineral cable. This was to ensure that the cables running through the straw bales were rodent proof and there would be no risk of fire. Mineral cable is a cable coated in copper and mice are unable to penetrate it."
  8.  
    "running through the straw bales were rodent proof and there would be no risk of fire"

    Ah, I see. Even in that sentence, it looks like he's guarding against two things - rodent damage as well as fire. But I guess he's saying is that anything trying to chew the cables won't be able to cause a fire because they won't be able to penetrate. Fair enough!

    Seascape - thanks for the links. All grist to the mill.

    pbd
    •  
      CommentAuthorJSHarris
    • CommentTimeOct 14th 2011
     
    I wonder if there is any problem with using metal conduit, instead of pyro, for wiring through straw? I'd have thought it would be more practical in many ways, would allow wires to be replaced if need be in future and would still ensure protection from rodents.
    • CommentAuthordjh
    • CommentTimeOct 14th 2011
     
    Posted By: JSHarrisI wonder if there is any problem with using metal conduit, instead of pyro, for wiring through straw? I'd have thought it would be more practical in many ways, would allow wires to be replaced if need be in future and would still ensure protection from rodents.

    The main issue with metal in straw is condensation. If any part of the metal gets cold, it can cause condensation elsewhere. Whether or not its a problem depends on detail design. Conduit of some kind is a good idea, if running cables through the bales is unavoidable. But usually its possible to run the cables along the floor next to the timber wall plate and then up the wall in the plaster.
  9.  
    Hi seascape. Sorry - missed your earlier post. Thanks for the pointers. I really like the combined build and community project idea they have at Hockerton. It'd be interesting to know how they arranged various things like who owns what on the project, and what happens when someone wants to move out (or dies!). This could be very awkward, but they might have some novel solutions to it.

    I'll definitely try and get along to their next open day - will be missing one they're having this week :0(

    pbd

    Posted By: seascapeHi palebluedot - just looked up Hockerton Project - very interesting, so thanks for that.

    Can't help with plot prices but do know it's good to research building prices whilst you're looking for that perfect site. The Homebuilding & Renovating Magazine website has info on the selfbuilds they have featured - costs from £38,000, £60,000 to the ridiculous.

    Other useful sites could be Walter Segal Trust and Centre for Alternative Technology.
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