I reckon life is all about finding balance. And because we live in a dynamic world, the balance point is always changing. On this project we are looking for balance not only between eco and thrifty, but also factoring in the New Zealand building code and the potential for wide applicability across society and across the world. In other words, we are looking for the intersection of eco, thrifty, legal, replicable, beautiful and attractive to people other than already committed Greenies.
To my knowledge this is a unique endeavor. This project represents an everyman’s/woman’s approach to permaculture. There are lots of examples of eco-villages and perma-farms and expensive bespoke eco-homes. But in the foreseeable future, the vast majority of people will never live in such places. Most people in OECD nations live in places like this.
In response to Richard’s comment on the last post, I’ll give an example of the intersection mentioned above using insulation. Pink Batts are widely available, recognized by almost everyone, cost-effective, meet the NZ building code and contain up to 80% recycled content. Meeting (and exceeding) the NZ building code is essential to this project. So the options of insulation included Pink Batts, polypropylene batts, and wool batts. (We did not consider blown in cellulose too closely because we wanted to do the job ourselves to ensure quality installation and to keep costs down.) Polypro batts are made from recycled plastic and the wool batts are made from…wool. Both are more expensive and less available than Pink Batts.
Some people like polypro batts because they are so soft and easy to handle. But in terms of insulation, handling should be (!) a one off. I do not mind handling Pink Batts. Once they are installed, I don’t plan to touch them ever again.
Some people claim that wool batts are the most eco option possible. I question that thinking. Have you seen the unsustainable ways sheep are grown in NZ? A holistic look at the ecological footprint of wool batts must include soil erosion, herbicides, and nitrogen fertilizers. Some might argue that the ecology, soil health and water health of NZ would be much better off with fewer sheep.
In the end, the insulation intersection for this time and place and the goals of this project was Pink Batts. For the equivalent cost of polypro or wool we were able to exceed the building code at a higher r-value. In other words, we have a warmer house at the same cost. By using an innovative installation technique (see Bridge to Nowhere), we reap the benefits and can share this under-utilized approach with others to replicate from Auckland to Alberta.