Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mid winter visit

Courtyard and Dining roomGlass slot to lower Media Room filled with sunshine Dining/Play room

It's been some time since the last visit to the ecohouse. The bananas by the pool are now huge, as are the bamboo-type grasses across the fence. The house has taken on a personalised feel now with family bits and pieces and an eclectic mix of furniture. The youngest member seems to have taken over the best places: the sunny courtyard and sun-filled dining room.

The garden is awaiting its new-improved makeover to reduce maintenance for the residents. After that, we hope use of the greywater and rainwater will be highly used. With all of the technology in the house, hiccoughs do occur. It seems that one of the water switching devices has failed as the house has been drawing on town water rather than the full rainwater tanks recently - soon to be fixed.

The subterranean "Media Room" has become a very tranquil bedroom with warming sunshine spilling in through the glass ceiling slot.
Post-occupancy analysis of energy use has shown that with a family of 5, energy consumption is higher than originally estimated and exceeds the daily energy generated by the solar panels. However, with the paperwork finally sorted out with the energy supplier, the owners should now be earning money from their solar panels during the daytime.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Flood photos

The floodwaters are well documented in the aerial shots on Nearmap .

Here are some other photos from the owners at the height of the flood and soon after....
Brisbane River water slowly clouding up clean pool
View from terrace out past pool to river
Door to lower hallway, protected with ply, plastic and sandbags
Protection to lower bedroom door and window
Lower bedroom from hallway

Many have asked how the house survived so well in the floods. The lower floor was always designed with the assumption that flooding would occur at some point. Here are some of the design considerations which assisted:

  • There was no built-in furniture downstairs (most vulnerable to flood damage).

  • Most walls are of rendered blockwork with cement render and limewash finish which is extremely durable and when cleaned down as the waters subsided was virtually unmarked.

  • The small amount of lightweight walls (only 2 in this level) had recycled hardwood framing (very dimensionally stable) and was sheeted in Powerscape which is a highly water resistant plasterboard alternative (and very high recycled content). Paint finish to these walls was water-based acrylic which cleaned down easily – only minor damage was where water got under the enclosed stair and its pressure caused one small corner of the paintwork to lift off.

  • The internal doors were veneered solid core doors and on one of the doors, the ply started to delaminate, though this damage is far less than would have occurred if the doors had been typical hollow core construction with a cardboard core and mdf outer.

  • The stair was solid timber so would have swelled with moisture but has dried out now.

  • Floors are all of polished concrete so very easy to clean

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Floods and Mud

High water mark on blockwork
Brisbane has just gone through the worst flood since 1974 and the ecohouse being on the river, had front row seats. Fortunately it survived the flood well, despite the waters coming inside half a metre up the walls on the river level. The owners cleaned as the waters subsided and apart from a damp base and slightly swollen timber doors, it looks relatively unscathed.Necessary safety gear
Knowing that the future was likely to hold many extreme weather events and sea level rising, we selected materials for the ground floor which could survive inundatation. I was pleased to see that they did surprisingly well. The Powerscape wall sheeting was completely intact. Only the paint in two places seemed bubbled (water in understair storage coming from behind the paint) and some taping to a joint. Wall cavities may be a different matter, if water got into wiring but cosmetically, the river level spaces and terrace looked good. The limewash finish looks like it survived the grime and hose down relatively unblemished.Paint lifted from pressure behind in store room.
The world's best ecopool changed colour slowly during the floods from clear green through cloudy blending to Brisbane River brown. Lots of wildlife appeared as the waters rose: two snakes, many spiders moved indoors and the bush turkey chicks have become familiar with the living room. Unfortunately as the house has no power, the rainwater and treated greywater cannot be accessed, despite the solar panels (a battery bank needs to be added) but the owners have clean townwater and gas for cooking.

For more flood photos, see my picassa photo sitePlants are growing crazily with the huge rain and new desposits of silt.