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The low impact, organic design, woodland home built by Simon Dale in Wales conjures images of Hobbits baking bread in tiny hand-made ovens and friendly gatherings among the denizens of Middle Earth. But this extremely natural home also utilizes solar PV technology to bring lighting, music, refrigeration and computing power into this outgrowth of the forest. Dale and his father-in-law spent about four months and $6,000 building the home in 2008. Besides the PVs, they made it as sustainable as possible with oak, straw bale walls, roof and floor, a vegetated roof, and lime plaster on the walls.
Dale says the main tools used were a chainsaw, hammer and one-inch chisel. And he writes that he is not a builder or carpenter, with little experience other than building a similar house two years prior. He believes that constructing this kind of building is accessible to anyone. He views this building as one part of a low-impact or permaculture approach to life.
Some key points of the design and construction:
• Dug into hillside for low visual impact and shelter
• Stone and mud from diggings used for retaining walls, foundations etc.
• Frame of oak thinnings (spare wood) from surrounding woodland
• Reciprocal roof rafters are structurally and aesthaetically fantastic and very easy to do
• Straw bales in floor, walls and roof for super-insulation and easy building
• Plastic sheet and mud/turf roof for low impact and ease
• Lime plaster on walls is breathable and low energy to manufacture (compared to cement)
• Reclaimed (scrap) wood for floors and fittings
• Anything you could possibly want is in a rubbish pile somewhere (windows, burner, plumbing, wiring...)
• Woodburner for heating - renewable and locally plentiful
• Flue goes through big stone/plaster lump to retain and slowly release heat
• Fridge is cooled by air coming underground through foundations
• Skylight in roof lets in natural feeling light
• Solar panels for lighting, music and computing
• Water by gravity from nearby spring
• Compost toilet
• Roof water collects in pond for garden etc.
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