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WATCH: Build Your Own Affordable, Energy-Efficient House: An Introduction

Builder Sam Clark (Independent Builder: Designing & Building a House Your Own Way) walks you through some of the preliminary steps of planning a sustainable house that makes the best use of your particular site and resources, including how to incorporate principles of passive solar design.

Along the way, Clark gives a first-hand account of the burgeoning owner-builder movement in Vermont in the early ’60s and ’70s—a “scene” marked by innovation, creativity, and for the first time, a sense of ecological awareness.

There were a lot of people using native materials, thinking about solar, building small houses, using recycled material, and also, I think, using a lot of imagination. We built passive solar houses, we built post-and-beam houses, we did some timber framing.

Usually, by the time I’m talking to them, people have a lot of ideas about what they want to do. The kind of classic architectural approach is what’s called “the program.” Where you ask your customers to articulate what they want, you try to identify the needs, the way you live. And I also get people to give me a sense of what their resources are like, because what often happens in design is people design extravagant projects, then they have to cut back. It doesn’t really work.

And then there’s the site. It’s the lay of the land, where you’re going to get water, it’s how far are you to the electric pole, it’s a lot about the solar orientation. And you’re trying to find, you know, where on the site you can build that works from a solar point of view. Let the land do the work for you. You don’t want to be fighting with what the landscape is.

Watch other videos on ChelseaGreenTV.

Overshoot, Collapse, and Creating a Better Future

In 2016, Earth Overshoot Day happened on August 8—the day when we’ve exhausted the planet’s resources for the year, and are essentially borrowing from future years to maintain our existence today.Perhaps you celebrated this day with a counter-solution: a vegetarian meal, telecommuted, or turned off the air conditioning. There’s a lot more you could be […] Read More

Save Energy & Money This Winter: Seal Up Your Drafty House

Unless you’ve taken special preventative precautions, it’s likely that on cold days much of your house’s heat pours out through your (closed) windows. Most houses—especially old houses—have drafty, uninsulated windows that do little to prevent heat from dumping out into the cold night. Even if your windows aren’t drafty, the expensive heat your furnace has […] Read More

The Limits to Growth and Greece: Systemic or Financial Collapse?

Could it be that the ongoing Greek collapse is a symptom of the more general collapse that the Limits to Growth model generates for the first two decades of the 21st century? Author Ugo Bardi (Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth is Plundering the Planet) examines the correlation between what is unfolding between Greece […] Read More

Permaculture Q&A: Mulching Options for Your Garden

As Permaculture Month continues, we are making our expert authors available to answer your burning permaculture questions. If you have a question to submit, fill out this form. This week, Lottie from Florida asked if there are other garden mulch options that are as effective as hay. Josh Trought, one of our soil building and garden management […] Read More

Designing Your Own Solar Cooker & Dehydrator

In today’s world, nearly everything we use, from phones and computers to cars and kitchen appliances, requires energy derived from fossil fuels. Wouldn’t it be nice to offset some of that energy use by harnessing the renewable power of the sun? Josh Trought, founder of D Acres—an educational center in New Hampshire that researches, applies, […] Read More
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