Eco-Thrifty Renovation Reaches 3 Years

As an eco-thrifty renovator, watching The Block NZ is an eye-opening experience. On the one hand, our villa was in as bad or worse shape than some of the houses on the programme. But on the other hand, the couples’ renovation budgets far exceed what we have spent in total: purchase of the villa and section, all consents, new roof, new wiring, new plumbing, solar hot water, super-insulation, and fully landscaped. Put another way, the budget on The Block for each room makeover is more than what we spent on the entire interior of our home including new floors, a new kitchen and new bathroom!
Granted, they are in Auckland. Granted, they are selling the houses for many hundreds of thousands of dollars. Granted, they are working on a tight timetable.
By contrast, we are not planning on reselling our home in Castlecliff in the immediate future, and are just finishing the last of the landscaping after three years. As a matter of a fact, this weekend marks the third anniversary of our blog –– that we started at the beginning of the renovation: November, 2010. The blog has had over 70,000 page views.
Before: Day 1
Unlike The Block, our renovation has been a part time endeavor. I spent the first two years writing my doctoral dissertation, and Dani worked more-or-less full time at the YMCA. And in the middle of it, we had a baby in the middle of our lounge. Wouldn’t that make exciting television?!? Take that Loz and Tom!
Like most of the couples on The Block, we have blended the new with the old, blending fresh paint colours and accents into what is patently a vintage dwelling. Style and craftsmanship are important because who wants to live in a drab, poorly built home?
Finally, like the couples on The Block, our home is somewhat of a public spectacle. That is to say we have shared the experience with anyone interested enough to pay attention. Unfortunately, however, we have no TV sponsorship, Kiwibank pre-loaded debit cards, or stacks of vouchers.

After: Day 1,000
We engaged in the educational component of our renovation as a voluntary community service, with the hope that momentum and interest would build enough over time to provide at least one part-time job. In the last three years we have written over 300 blog posts, and 80 columns for the Chronicle. Additionally, we have organized and hosted over 40 free/gold coin community sustainability events in Whanganui, and I’ve answered dozens of home energy questions over the telephone. Finally, Project HEAT provided close to 80 free home energy audits this winter.
Unfortunately, no jobs have emerged other than the partest of part-time. That didn’t seem like such a problem while I was writing my dissertation and before the bubs came along, but now that I’m Dr. Dad, unemployment is not so appealing. With no apparent prospects in Whanganui in the field of sustainability, we’ve decided to seek support from the community at large for the time being.
For the next six weeks, we – The ECO School – are engaging in our first fund-raising drive. We will be selling copies of the 2014 Permaculture Principles Calendar as well as hosting a series of events as shown in the sidebar. Your support will help us continue to support our community.
Sidebar: All events to be held at 10 Arawa Place
3rd November, 3-4 pm: Garden Tour. Donation.
10th November, 3-4 pm: Composting. Donation
17th November, 3-4 pm: Garden Tour. Donation.
24th November, 3-4 pm: Food Forests. Donation.
1st December, 1-4 pm. Permaculture Design for a Suburban Section. Sliding scale, $25 – $45.
8th December, 1-4 pm. Driftwood Structures for Gardens and Landscaping. Tools and galvanized nails provided. Sliding scale, $25 – $45.