Nov 12, 2021: Free Zoom Screening of ‘Now’ Movie on Sunday

In our Newsletter back in February this year I wrote about the release of a movie called ‘Now’. It is a full-length documentary conceived, produced and presented by Ryan M. (and his Mum, Tina). I can’t publish his last name because, at the time Ryan started making the film he was only ten years old (now he’s 12).

As I wrote back in February…

‘The fact that he and Tina have been working on this for 18 months and have now seen it through to completion speaks volumes about their commitment and passion. As I wrote to Ryan back in November 2019…

‘Ryan, I’ll be very interested to see where life takes you. I really admire that fact that, at 10 years old, you are willing to put your time, effort and skills into doing something about the problems you see in the world. Good on you.’

Ryan has already sold enough copies of the film to cover expenses and is donating all profits to climate change relief efforts. He has even set up a website at nowisthemovie.weebly.com where you can read more about it, watch the official trailer (which I have added below) and purchase the movie in various forms if you’re interested. You can support a young fella who has made a huge effort to do something positive in the world, help him donate money to good causes and maybe pick up some tips for how to make your own little part of the world a better place.

Well now you have the opportunity to see the movie for free on Zoom on Sunday, November 14th at 4pm.

Just click the following link to register for a ticket (I assume that the zoom link will be sent to anyone who can’t attend in person although they don’t make that clear).

https://www.acf.org.au/acf_southerntablelands_now_movie_screening_20211114

It’s well worth watching and here is the trailer to whet your appetite…

Nov 5, 2021: The Times They Are A-Changing

I’ve been working on, and advocating for, energy efficient and sustainable buildings, developments, communities and lifestyles for about 35 years now. For most of that time I’ve felt like I’ve been beating my head against a wall. But, finally, just in the last six months, it feels like something has shifted and the wall is starting to crumble. I guess if enough people beat their heads against a wall for long enough it will eventually give way and now we have both Rupert Murdoch AND the “Coal Man”, Scott Morrison talking about the need to take action to protect against climate change… what is the world coming to??? It’s senses???

Here is a link to an encouraging article from the ABC about how easy and cost-effective it can be to make an existing house energy positive.

Image source: abc.net.au ‘Insulation can reduce energy costs far more effectively than solar panels.(Getty: Monty Rakusen)’

And here are some nice quotes from the article

Having a net-zero house always seemed so impossible — it seemed that we’d have to make big lifestyle sacrifices

‘Their house’s energy needs are now effectively “net zero”…The transition has cost them about $12,000 and this is entirely offset by the savings from a discounted interest rate on their home loan.’

‘In the south-west Melbourne suburb of Altona North, Mirvac is building a “net-zero energy” housing estate named The Fabric… The fully electric homes here have a minimum 7-star energy rating, at least 3.8kW rooftop solar, and battery storage…. And demand is high: all the homes from the first stage have been sold, and the next stages have been brought forward ahead of schedule…I would think that this would become a standard offering within the very near future.’

People told me there would be no demand for energy-efficient homes and now we have 40 lots left and 13,000 people interested

‘They’re requiring zero-energy houses for new residential dwellings across the EU’ 

There are also calls for a national retrofit program, similar to the EU’s “renovation wave strategy”, which aims to improve the energy performance of tens of millions of existing buildings by 2030.

There’s mounting evidence that, in most of Australia at least, it is easy and cost-effective to make both existing and new homes energy positive. We have done it here with both the Greeny Flat and the old fibro cottage next door, and the time is fast approaching when every home in the country is comfortable and healthy and produces more energy than it uses.

The times they are a-changing… bring it on!

Oct 14, 2021: Sustainable House Day is Back… virtually

Interview with Geraldine Doogue airs Saturday

Today I had the honour of being interviewed by award-winning journalist, Geraldine Doogue, for a piece she is doing about the Glascow Climate Summit. Apparently it will air on ABC Radio National on Saturday morning at around 7:40am (Sydney time) for anyone who can be bothered getting up. It should also be available as a podcast soon after it airs (I’ll post the link when I have it).

Sustainable House Day 2021

Image Source: sustainablehouseday.com

Sunday October 17th is Sustainable House Day (SHD) for this year.

The Greeny Flat has been part of SHD since 2014 and this year we have two entries, The Greeny Flat and our Fibro Cottage Deep Energy Retrofit project.

Due to Covid restrictions SHD will be an entirely online event this year. And I actually think that’s great because we can all get to see video tours of homes all over the country that we wouldn’t be able to get to for an open house. There are over a hundred homes on display on the SHD website. (In order to view them I think you have to create an online account but it is free and easy to do so). Most of them have a video tour along with a lot of detailed written information. There is a ton of good stuff here for anyone interested in building sustainable homes and communities. You can even submit questions to the home owners themselves.

Here are links to the listings for THE GREENY FLAT and the FIBRO COTTAGE DEEP ENERGY RETROFIT (although you might need to be signed in to the SHD website for these links to work).

I’ve been having a look at some of the other homes (another thing I wasn’t able to do when it was an open house event) and here is a link to my favourite so far – HARMONY HOUSE (the video for this one is well worth a look).

There is also a whole day’s worth of free online sessions. Click this link to the view the SHD SESSION PROGRAM

I will be a panelist for the Owner Building session at 11am in case your interested. Personally, I’ll be watching the next session at 12pm about Creating Sustainable Communities because a) I’m interested and b) the panel includes Jo Theirfelder from Witchcliffe Ecovillage.

Witchcliffe Ecovillage – possibly the most sustainable housing development ever

If you have about forty minutes to spare I HIGHLY recommend that you watch the following video about the Witchcliffe Ecovillage. If you’re interested in sustainability it will blow your mind what they are doing. It’s what every housing development should be (but none are)…. truly inspiring!

Sep 24, 2021: Two Years In the Cottage

It’s now been two years since we installed the 5kW solar power system on the retrofitted cottage next to the Greeny Flat. We used an Enphase micro-inverter system which gives us excellent monitoring or both the production from the panels (it even tells us how much each individual panel has produced on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly or lifetime basis) and our energy consumption in the house. I highly recommend the Enphase system. It maximises the production from our panels and gives us the information we need to make the most efficient use of the power they produce.

With VERY Positive Results!

As you will see from the screenshot below, over the last two years we have managed to export almost three times as much power to the grid (11.0MWh) as we have imported from the grid (4.1MWh). The system has produced a total of 13.1MWh and we have consumed less than half that… only 6.2MWh.

MWh means ‘mega-watt hour’. One MWh is 1000kWh. kWh is what we get charged for by our electricity retailer (or what we get paid for if we are exporting to the grid).

One of our primary goals for this project was to take an old fibre-cottage and make it energy positive. So we are delighted to know that we are producing more than twice as much power as we are using and have been doing so consistently for two years now.

Barranga-you’ve-got-to-kidding-me!

Back in our February Newsletter I wrote about how much I hated ‘Packer’s Pecker’… the Crown Sydney Tower. I even went so far as to say it was a new contender for the worst building in Sydney (neck and neck with the Blues Point Tower). So you can imagine my delight when I read the headline this morning that this shocker of a monstrosity has just won an award for best skyscraper in the world.

Image Source: ftnnews.com

According to this article from Archinect, ‘The top ten skyscrapers in the world have been announced as part of the annual Emporis Skyscraper Awards, with One Barangaroo in Sydney, Australia taking the top spot.

Apparently ‘The Emporis Skyscraper Award was selected by an international jury of architectural experts‘…

Well this just proves what I’ve been saying for years… architectural experts are idiots! And they clearly don’t give a damn about climate change or design that is appropriate to place, climate or context. The Crown Sydney Tower is a disgusting affront to Sydney and to any efforts the rest of us might be making to try to reduce our carbon emissions. James Packer might just as well have built an 890 foot-tall model of his middle finger, proudly saluting the people of Australia and shouting ‘SCREW YOU’ from its lofty rooftop.

I would have enjoyed that a lot more.

Solar-powered Electric Campervan

I just want one of these.

The Stella Vita, solar-powered electric campervan from the University of Technology in Eindhoven (Source: New Atlas)- Click here to read the article

Jun 25, 2021: Cheap and Simple EV

I got drive my first Tesla yesterday and all I can say is… WOW!!!

My good friend Noel who owns and runs the Merchant of Welby Antique shop put his name on the waiting list for a Model 3 over a year ago and finally picked it up yesterday morning.

Noel's new Tesla Model 3

Noel’s new Tesla Model 3

Needless to say, Noel’s pretty happy with it and he must really trust me, because he let me have a drive when he got it home. There are lots and lots of professional reviews of the Model 3 on the internet so I won’t bore you with too much detail. Suffice to say that the acceleration and handling are extraordinary, the interior is clean and crisp and unlike any car I’ve been in before and it’s a real pleasure to drive. Some of the reviews I’ve seen call it ‘the best car ever made’ and I can easily see why.

BUT… it did cost nearly $70,000.

Noel is of Scottish descent so I was surprised that he was capable of opening his wallet that far. I am mostly of English descent but I think I might the bigger miser. In the video below you’ll see the Electric Car that I would buy if it were to become available in Australia.

Cheap, simple, practical, does the job…. you wouldn’t take it on a long trip but for running around town… I like it!

p.s. If you like beautiful Australian antiques and would like to support someone who has made major efforts to make his business more sustainable then I highly recommend a visit to the Merchant of Welby (and I didn’t even have to promise to give him a plug in order to get a drive of his Tesla!).

May 14, 2021: 3D Printed Earth Home

We’ve written before about various 3D-printed homes. The technology shows a lot of promise for reducing cost and construction times but, until now, most of the projects we’ve seen used extruded cement-based materials for the structure. The problem with cement. of course, are the high levels of carbon emissions and embodied energy required to make it, plus the fact that it can be very difficult to properly insulate a cement structure.

This article from New Atlas describes a new project in Italy where a beautiful home has been 3D-printed using locally-sourced earth materials. The printing took 200 hours and the natural materials give it a very low embodied energy.

The organic forms of the Tecla 3D-Printed Eco-home (Source: New Atlas)

The lovely, organic forms of the Tecla 3D-Printed Eco-home (Source: New Atlas)

The shape might seem outlandish and fanciful but it actually makes a lot of sense. The use of domed shapes with ribbed walls mean that they are able to create a very stable structure without the need for any other supporting materials (like steel or timber). In standard construction it is very time-consuming and expensive to build organic shapes out of straight, square materials (just look at the cost of anything designed by Frank Gehry as an example). However with 3D-printing it’s a great deal easier. You simply create a computer model of the structure and the printer does the rest with the added advantage that there are no offcuts, waste or scrap.

My first thought when I saw the article was, “that won’t have any insulation”. But according to the article…

The TECLA design incorporates thermo-insulation, ventilation and water collection within the single structure. The dome shape of the dwelling is an effective way to enclose the building without the need for support structures during the construction process. Furthermore, the design can be optimized to balance thermal mass, insulation and ventilation according to different and unique locations and climate conditions.

That all sounds pretty good (although I wouldn’t want to be sitting under one of those big sky windows in an Australian summer) which leaves me with one major concern… if this structure is made entirely out of earth and it has no roof overhang to protect the walls, what’s to stop it simply washing away when it rains?

I guess time will tell whether this technology gains a foothold in the notoriously slow-to-change construction industry. But if someone comes up with a system that produces a durable, well-insulated structure that can be built quickly at low-cost with low embodied energy and a very small carbon footprint then I think it might give the brick-veneerials a run for their money.

Feb 26, 2021: Doing Something About It

Quite a while ago I was asked by a ten-year-old young man named Ryan if he could interview me for a movie he was making about climate change and what to do about it. Of course I said yes so he came to the Greeny Flat with his mum, Tina, and a well-prepared list of questions about passive solar design, energy efficiency, electric cars, etc. Tina shot the footage while Ryan asked the questions and I did my best to answer them. Then off they went.

Fast forward to yesterday, a year-and-a-half later, when I received a letter from Ryan and Tina thanking me for my contribution and including a free copy of the movie called ‘Now’. So Cintia and I sat down to watch it last night and, I have to say, we really enjoyed it. It includes a lot of useful information about practical steps that we can all take to reduce our carbon footprint and live more sustainably. As the brain-child of a ten-year-old it is very impressive. He does an excellent job of presenting and interviewing various people (including Craig Reucassel of ‘War on Waste’ fame) and providing useful information about practical steps we can all take, plus he makes it entertaining and fun to watch. The fact that he and Tina have been working on this for 18 months and have now seen it through to completion speaks volumes about their commitment and passion. As I wrote to Ryan back in November 2019…

‘Ryan, I’ll be very interested to see where life takes you. I really admire that fact that, at 10 years old, you are willing to put your time, effort and skills into doing something about the problems you see in the world. Good on you.’

Ryan has already sold enough copies of the film to cover expenses and is donating all profits to climate change relief efforts. He has even set up a website at nowisthemovie.weebly.com where you can read more about it, watch the official trailer (which I have added below) and purchase the movie in various forms if you’re interested. You can support a young fella who has made a huge effort to do something positive in the world, help him donate money to good causes and maybe pick up some tips for how to make your own little part of the world a better place.

Feb 12, 2021: Barangarooted

A couple of weeks ago Cintia and I had the great pleasure of a trip to Sydney to see the Bangara Aboriginal Dance company perform in the beautiful Walumil Lawn at Baragaroo Reserve. We parked at Rose Bay, took one ferry to Circular Quay then another around to Barangaroo, enjoyed a wonderful performance on the lawn after the sun set, walked back under the Harbour Bridge to Circular Quay then caught a ferry back to Rose Bay just before midnight. It was a perfect summer evening in Sydney and a perfect way to enjoy the most beautiful harbour in the world.

It’s such a shame that Sydney’s planning authorities don’t pay it more respect.

As I wrote in this Newsletter back in 2018, I’ve long thought that the Blues Point Tower was the worst building in Sydney. Its ugliness interferes with the gorgeous view looking west down the harbour at the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge and sadly it is protected by a heritage conservation order so can’t be torn down.

180116-Blues-Point-Horror

(Image Source: Trip Advisor)

But now, I’m sorry to say, there is a new contender for the worst building in Sydney.

Crown Sydney Casino and Hotel as seen from Luna Park

Crown Sydney Casino and Hotel at Barangaroo as seen from Luna Park

The Crown Sydney Casino and Hotel was completed in December last year and is now the tallest building in Sydney. Not only is it a really ugly building (sort of a cross between an assassin’s sword and the Dark Tower of Mordor) as you can see from the photo above, it is completely out of proportion to everything around it. No matter where you see it from, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

It’s at its worst when you see it from the west as in the photo below. From this angle it totally overpowers everything else in the city.

Crown Sydney Tower as seen from Balmain

Crown Sydney Tower as seen from the West.

Unfortunately its ugliness is not the worst thing about it. When you see it from the above angle you realise how totally inappropriate the design is to Australia’s warm climate. What you see in the photo above is a VAST expanse of dark-coloured glass facing directly into the hot afternoon sun with no attempt made to shade the glass or do anything to reduce the extreme heat gain.

On our way to the concert we walked right past the base of the building on a warm Sydney afternoon and I took the opportunity to put my hand on one of the dark, west-facing panes of glass. Not surprisingly, it was almost too hot to touch. When you multiply that by the huge area of west-facing glass, what you get is an ENORMOUS heat load.

This building is a luxury hotel and casino so you know for certain that the indoor temperature is kept at a very comfortable level which means the building must use an unbelievable amount of energy to keep it cool on a summer afternoon.

To me it is completely unconscionable that this building was allowed to be built by the City of Sydney. It ruins the city skyline and it’s an energy-sucking monster of a temple to gambling. How it meets the planning objectives of the City or the state of New South Wales is completely beyond me. I can only assume that a lot of political “donations” were made by Crown Resorts on top of the $100M fee it paid to the city in order to get approval to build this nightmare.

Given our government’s obsession with slapping heritage orders on horrible old buildings, I can only hope that this shocker never gets the same protection as the Blues Point Horror Show.

 

Jan 29, 2021: Our House on the ABC

Last week we had another visit from Justin Huntsdale from ABC Illawarra. Justin has been to see the Greeny Flat a few times over the years and produced some excellent articles and videos about the project (see previous Newsletters here and here). This time he came to see the completed Energy Retrofit of the old fibro cottage next to the Greeny Flat. And this time he brought a new toy with him in the form of a drone which he flew over the house to shoot some video from the air.

Our fibro cottage energy retrofit as seen from Justin's drone.

Our fibro cottage energy retrofit as seen from Justin’s drone. (source: abc.net.au)

Here’s a link to the article Justin posted on the ABC website including a short video about the retrofit project.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-28/renovating-fibro-house-into-energy-efficient-dwelling/13050554

We always enjoy Justin’s visits. Apart from being an excellent writer, photographer, videographer and drone pilot he has a broad range of skills and interests including performing as a solo singer/guitar player and in musical theatre productions in the Wollongong area. We really appreciate Justin’s continued interest in our work here and the support he has shown in helping to spread the word about the possibilities for energy-positive homes.

So thank you very much Justin Huntsdale.

Jan 8, 2021: Electric Vehicle Madness

Happy New Year!

We’re off to a good start here at the Greeny Flat. Just before Christmas we passed the final inspection for the Energy Retrofit of the old fibro cottage next door. We have been working on this project on and off for the last five years so it’s satisfying to be so close to completion. I just have to supply the council with ‘certificates’ from various tradespeople stating that the work has been done according to the relevant standards (yet another way for our local council to avoid taking responsibility for anything) plus I have a few bits of touch-up paint and some other tiny projects to finish up.

Meanwhile, two articles caught my eye this morning.

This one from The Guardian reports that Elon Musk has now become the world’s wealthiest individual, mainly due to the Tesla share price going through the roof on the back of strong EV sales in the US.

And this one from The Independent states that

Electric cars comprised 54% of all new vehicle sales in Norway for 2019.

This makes Norway the first country to have sold more electric cars than petrol, hybrid, and diesel engines in a year.

The Norwegian government plans to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2025, and is using tax breaks and financial incentives to encourage the purchasing of more sustainable vehicles.’

What these articles show is that the electric vehicle (EV) revolution is well underway and it looks like only a matter of time before EV’s completely replace ICE (Infernal Combustion Engine) vehicles in other parts of the world. To help speed the transition away from fossil fuels, countries like Norway (and even the USA) offer generous rebates and tax breaks for people who choose to buy an EV.

Image Source - abc.net.au

Fossil Fools. (Image Source – abc.net.au)

Here in the upside-down-country however, there are no such incentives, in fact (and this is why I titled this article EV Madness) two of our states have recently proposed ADDITIONAL taxes on EV users. Yes, you read that correctly… as reported in this article from Renew Economy, both Victoria and South Australia are planning to impose higher taxes on EV users because ‘EV’s don’t pay their fair share of fuel taxes’. Apparently New South Wales is looking to follow suit.

Is it just me or is this complete insanity?

Most other countries in the world are trying to encourage people to use less fossil fuels and to drive cars that are more efficient, quieter, easier to maintain and reduce costs for health care and climate disasters by not pumping harmful emissions into the air. At the same time, Australian states are actively DISCOURAGING the use of EVs and joining our Federal Government in desperately cleaving to the fossil fuel interests that have Australia’s politicians by the short and curlies. It seems that the coal, oil and gas industries have completely corrupted our political system.

Ironically, the transition away from fossil fuels is going to happen anyway and the fossil fools that are currently controlling things here will inevitably go the way of the dinosaurs and other critters that were unable to adapt to rapid changes in their environment.

NZ Mandates EV’s for All Government Departments

In stark contrast, according to this article from The Driven …

‘New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has mandated that all Government agencies must now only purchase electric vehicles (EVs) or hybrid vehicles as part of its new policy to become a carbon-neutral government by 2025.’

Image source - The Driven

Image source – The Driven

I would like to propose a referendum to officially make Australia the new West Island of New Zealand and adopt Jacinda as our new Prime Minister.

Sustainability Survey for Wingecarribee Shire Council

For anyone who lives in, visits or cares about our local government area (the Wingecarribee Shire) there is a currently an online survey which you can take to state your thoughts about how our local council can act to help make this area more sustainable and less environmentally damaging.

I encourage any readers who care about these things to have you say. Thanks and here’s the link

https://www.yoursaywingecarribee.com.au/climate-change