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ETR for the Wanganui Chronicle, 25-08-12
As I have written in the last three columns, ecological design is holistic. It considers the relationships between elements of a system as important as the elements themselves. Ecological design is all about making connections in our minds based on the interrelationships we observe in the world around us.
In writing, one form of connection is the segue – a literary link. I’ll use the one concept included in the last three columns – multiple functions – to segue onto the last of the design principles we followed during this project: the ‘Three R’s’ reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Where ‘reduce’ is more of an umbrella concept including the reduction of material and energy waste, ‘reuse’ and ‘recycle’ are strategies we can put in place to achieve the reduction of waste and the conservation of resources. In other words, by reusing and recycling, we reduce what goes to landfill, and we reduce the amount of new materials that need to be extracted and manufactured. These are good for both the planet (eco) and the wallet (thrifty).
During the renovation we diverted over 95% of all materials from landfill, and spent a total of less than $50 on rubbish fees. On the other hand, we made over $300 recycling scrap metal, and have a big pile of untreated, unpainted ‘scrap wood’ ready for the wood burner. (See Urban Chainsaw post.)
Some framing timber and lots of sarking was too filled with borer to reuse in any other form than feeding the Shacklock. Other native hardwoods that came out of the renovation were ideal for reuse where the building code did not require that certain timber be used. One example is the former deck (aka trampoline) that became an attractive fence that serves multiple functions.
Those functions include: privacy screen; dog-excluder; wind barrier, trellis, and teaching tool. Yes, much can be learned from pulling and straightening nails as our interns John and Amy discovered.
The most important lesson is the most abstract: mindfulness. Mindfulness 3 R style can be described as materialism, but not the Madonna kind. A materialist recognizes the value and potential of objects. This should not be confused with being materialistic, or addicted to consumerism.
I would suggest that materialists do well at the 3 Rs, and are more likely to frequent op shops, building salvage centres, and auctions. In the case of the latter two, quality products always fetch fair prices, while junky products are nearly always worthless. In other words, in appears that high quality goods are more expensive to purchase new but hold their value longer, but low quality products do not hold what little value they had to begin with.
This brings me back to the former-deck-turned-fence. Although the timber had been exposed to coastal elements for 30 years, most of the individual boards were still sound. Although we could possibly have reused them to build another deck, we preferred to build a brick patio that would serve as a heat sink for subtropical plantings such as banana, Tahitian lime and tamarillo. With the brick patio in place, the deck-turned-fence became a windbreak for the banana and Tahitian lime, both of which came through June frosts fairly well.
Before the brick patio and fence
After: Brick patio and fence on a frosty morning.
In the end, John and Amy learned some things about creative reuse, about construction and about permaculture design. We now have some attractive fences that keep dogs away from our chooks and ducks, block the wind, and allow us to run around naked in our back section. Wait a minute, did I just say that?