Posts Tagged ‘Sustainable Building’
It’s amazing, we have just had 3 full days of sunshine! We are not talking about just a bit of clear sky every now and then, we are talking about three whole, entire days of sunshine, from sunrise to sundown.
A German friend noted on Saturday, our first sunny day, that we had only had three sunny days in the past sixty days. My German acquaintance tends to make notes like this, as does my Swiss neighbour. They both tend to be mathematical about the weather, percentage of humidity, inches of rainfall – actually make that feet of rainfall, days of sunshine.
Some friends and I were chatting about this phenomenon of being so analytical about the weather and concluded that Irish people don’t have these tendacies because it would be too depressing to know exactly how much rain had fallen last week or that we have had only three whole days of sunshine in sixty days.
It’s much easier to cope when you know that it’s “been awhile since there was a good sunny day” or “there’s been a fierce amount of rain recently” as opposed to the cruel, hard, cold and wet facts.
So, back to the happy, happy fact that we have had multiple, complete days of sunshine. The ground is beginning to dry out, the mud outside our door has dried up. There are wasps flying about, presumably making the most of the last few flowers.
We have been working on the house again, for a while there it was too wet to be climbing up on the scaffolding to do outside work. We kept ourselves busy tidying up the inside of the house, moving the cedar wood indoors to keep it dry, painting the windows that have yet to be installed.
Now, for the last few days we have working outdoors again. We used the cedar to clad another wall, bringing us around to the south facing front of the house. We are about halfway to having the entire house clad and weatherproof.
It’s been so good to be working on the outside of the house again, even better has been working in a tee-shirt. It’s still a little chilly in the morning however it’s not long until the sweatshirt comes off – yahoo! Soooo nice to feel the warmth of sunshine.
Sundown, however, comes on quickly. The temperature drops so suddenly that it’s a rush to pull on sweatshirts and woolly hats, put the tools away and get indoors to light the fire. I laughed today when I thought about the silly old Vampire movie I saw over Halloween – the townspeople were rushing to get indoors when the sun went down, to avoid being Vampire supper.
We displayed the same urgency for different reasons, bright sunny, cloudless days lead to clear skies and cold nights. It’s time to be back indoors, enjoying the heat of the stove.
I know that I have mentioned a few times that we are building a home for ourselves. Usually in Ireland when someone self-builds it either means hiring a contractor to organise the job and supply all the labour or hiring all the builders, carpenters, roofers etc yourself.
Well, we don’t usually do things the “normal” way and building our home is no different! We are doing it by ourselves, with a little help from our friends. We also have not taken the mortgage route, preferring to save the money and buy or salvage materials as we go along. Of course this does mean that we are moving slowly and the build is taking some time.
Right now we want to get the roof on and that is what we have been concentrating on this summer. We have put up most of the wall framing posts and the ridgeboard for the roof. We are using purlins which are like ridgeborads and do basically the same work – they help to hold up the rafters. The purlins run parallel to the ridgeboard, either side of the ridge equidistant from the outside walls and the ridge and they act to cut the rafter span in half.
Currently we are putting up the northern purlins and rafters. We have five rafters up and are hoping to get a few more up today. The building space is beginning to feel like a house now. For the last year we have had the floor platform up and covered with the floorboards. We have sometimes used the space as a platform for gathering with friends to drum, I have often brought up a garden chair and sat there with a coffee and a book.
Now that we have most of the wall frames up and we are putting up rafters we can feel the shape of the rooms and it is all becoming a little bit more real. It is great to look up now and really see where the roof is going. There are ways in which the slowness of the build is frustrating and there are ways in which the slowness is an advantage.
We are getting to really feel our home become real and we have the time to change wee things as we go along, make adjustments, see where the evening sun shines in, where the summer breezes come from. We will really appreciate it when the house is finished enough for us to move in – everyone says don’t move in until it is finished however our current home is becoming way too small and cluttered and is getting ready to fall apart – it was old when we bought it and really shouldn’t even have lasted as long as it has! We have been reluctant to put any time or money into repairing it as we really need to be concentrating on our new home so I think that as soon as we can we will be moving into the new house.
I am getting a bit ahead of myself though, the moving time is quite some while away yet, today we need to concentrate on getting a few more rafters up…
I thought that it was worth posting this information on behalf of a group called CUBE (Campaign to Use Buildings that are Empty)
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Carbery Housing Association was set up ten years ago by local West Cork residents, who could see that local people and new arrivals were unable to find affordable housing to rent in West Cork. As a result they were obliged to emigrate, or to live in unacceptable conditions, dependent on state Rent Allowance. Because of this CHA has made several attempts to progress sustainable housing projects, notably in Bantry (Kinaith-Fineen and Slip) but on all occasions our proposals have been rejected by Cork County and Town Councils.
Today the housing situation nationally is in shambles. A recent University College of Dublin study has found that there are around 345,000 empty homes in Ireland that are standing empty and unused. Some are in need of repair, but the majority would be immediately habitable. At the same time Local Authority housing lists have grown to over 80,000 households.
In view of this, CHA has decided to concentrate on trying to bring empty properties into use. The Government has recently introduced a new scheme to lease private empty properties, where the DEHLG will pay up to 80% of the market rent to the property owner, on the basis of a 10 to2 0 year lease. The tenant pays the equivalent of a Council rent, to cover the management and maintenance of the property.
CHA is now actively looking for privately-owned properties that can be used under this Scheme. So far we are following up the use of 2 properties in West Cork, but we aim to secure many more properties for rent to persons on our housing list in the coming months.
We would like to invite you to join CHA. We need your help to keep looking for homes, and to help raise funds. We currently receive no grants of any kind. We need to carry out surveys of properties we are offered, we need to carry out essential repairs, we need to administer and publicise the Scheme. We want to get as many property owners as possible to understand that letting their houses to us for use by people who cannot afford to buy or rent is a win-win situation.
We are also currently looking for Volunteers, who can help out for one day in the forthcoming West Cork Music Festival, to be held in Skibbereen on July 31st. We need Volunteers to act as Stewards on the day, and for each Volunteer, the Festival organisers will contribute € 100 to CHA for every Steward found.
If you are willing to help out in this, or in helping to identify empty houses and their owners, then please contact me, on 028 21890 or 086 8224429, or by e-mail at email@example.com
Help is a wonderful thing, especially help from friends.
Asking for help is easier for some people than others and does not always come naturally. I had to learn how to ask for help, it was a hard lesson and one that I am glad I learnt.
It has certainly made my life easier to be able to ask for help and to be able to graciously receive it – the two do not always go hand in hand!
Now I also need to know when to say no to help.
We have been getting offers of help in building our house. We have also been advised by people that have already been down a similar road that it is not always helpful to have help – perhaps I had better explain that one!
There are times when you are building with help that you may spend more time teaching the helpers/volunteers than you actually spend working.
It is important when you are working on a project that is new to you that you take the time to learn how to do it properly yourself before you can safely or easily instruct someone else in what to do. Perhaps you are working by instinct or feeling your way, which is fine when you are working by yourself but not easy when someone is watching over your shoulder to see what you are doing!
It may be that it is easier to do a particular job yourself rather than train a volunteer, especially if that volunteer is not there all the time or may even be a different person each week!
Sometimes you may have someone there to help and you don’t have any jobs for them so you can feel under pressure to find something interesting for them to do. You can feel that they have come all this way to help you and the least you can do is create some work for them. This may result in you not concentrating on the task at hand or worse – rushing a job which needs careful consideration.
You also need to match the job to the person, this takes time. If you know the person well it is much easier because you may have a feeling for what would suit them, what they are capable of making decisions about without always asking or checking that what they are doing is ok.
People have different natural skill sets, things that they have a natural flair for and are comfortable and confident doing and it is important to try and match these skills to the job.
We can easily underestimate the simple things that one can do to be helpful. We had a friend visiting with us last week who really wanted to help and also to learn what she could about we are doing so that when she finds some land and the time comes for her to build her own place she will have a sense of confidence about the possibilities.
She did very simple things for us. Each morning she washed up all the dishes and pots from the previous night’s dinner. This might seem like a small thing but it was so much appreciated. It meant that after dinner we could all just socialise and hang out, play music or dominoes or watch a movie.
She came grocery shopping with me and organised big salads every lunch-time and then cooked up a great big lamb curry that lasted for two evenings with the simple addition of a side dish of potatoes the first night and rice the second so that we didn’t have to think too much about food.
She understood that we were having problems working out some aspects of setting out (squaring up) the frame for the building and left us to it, we needed the space to be cranky!
However, I have to say that her decision to organise the outdoor bath was the coup de grace! It meant that firstly she wasn’t hanging around waiting for something to do and secondly it was one of those things that I had often thought about and not gotten around to so I was really delighted that it was happening! It also meant that we were not feeling guilty about not having an interesting building job for her to do!
So the things we have learn are to say no to help if we are not ready to use it. If someone is really enthusiastic about coming and we don’t have anything for them to do we need to make sure that they are capable of working by themselves on non-building related things and if not then they will have to put off their visit for another time.
We need to be organised about having help.
It is really important that we have a list of jobs to do for people with different skill sets.
If something needs to be taught then it is better to teach it someone who will be a regular volunteer rather than teach it over and over again to once-off visitors.
If people really want to come just to learn then we need to barter something in return – food brought and meals cooked or second hand useful building materials as an example. It needs to be acknowledged that we will loose a good deal of time in teaching so I think that we really need to look after ourselves in this regard.
It is also important to look after our helpers by ensuring that all on site eat well and have fun, we would like the house to have happy builders who enjoy hanging out, helping and learning from each other. We also expect that we will learn from those who come to help us.
Let’s not forget we need to have some energy left to play music and tell stories!
We do not just expect people to help without return, we are more than happy to barter for help given. If someone is prepared to give us a lot of work-time then we will return that favour after the house is built by helping when they are building themselves or by doing something that they need like assisting them to set up their own renewable energy system for example or helping with web design.
Help is wonderful, especially from people you want to hang out with, it’s just not as simple as it first seems…
We had good weather to work on our house building project today after I got back from getting some building supplies.
The first floor joists were put in this afternoon and it is really satisfying to see them sitting on the beams that span the “stilt” style foundations. We have a very sloping site and so the southern face of the house will be close to six foot off the ground on sturdy stilts which are on concrete pads. The concrete pads are set about three foot into the very solid clay subsoil.
We really would have liked to avoid using concrete however we really could not afford the alternative of cut stone and there is no stone naturally occurring on our site. There are some compromises which we find we are making, mainly due to budget constraints – our budget actually being almost non-existent!
Our floor design will be a little unconventional - quelle surprise! We are fixing galvanised chicken wire between the tops of the sturdy beams and on top of this we will spread a breathable fabric which will in turn be fastened to the tops of the beams. The floor joists will then sit on top of this fabric, nailed to the top of the beams and the spaces created will in time be filled with insulation and the floor boards screwed down to the joists.
We will not be adding the insulation just yet for two very good reasons – firstly we need to get the roof on in order to keep the insulation dry and secondly at the moment we do not know what sort of insulation we will use.
The second consideration will depend on budget – if we win the national lottery – highly unlikely but not impossible – if only we remembered to buy tickets!! I digress – if our budget changes we would love to use sheep’s wool or something similar.
What is more likely is that we will source some local timber and use our free electricity and an electric planer to create wood chips which we could mix with lime and maybe some hemp hurds and a little water to create a sort of woodchip insulation.
Any suggestions about alternative, easily sourced, environmental insulation will be most welcome