Tag Archives: retrosuburbia

RetroSuburbia in New Zealand

20-20 Hindsight Revisited

Nelson Lebo

In just four months 2020 has delivered more life lessons than most years do in 12. Along with those lessons have come new terms and phrases: social distancing; self-isolation; contact tracing; essential services.

Witnessing the ‘essential services’ lolly scramble has been mildly entertaining as different sectors lobbied for essential status with plenty of self-justifying rationalization. Ah yes, all services are essential but some services are more essential than others…

From my perspective I tend to think of the essentials as food, water, shelter and companionship.

Of the latter we have been able to provide safe accommodation for a number of adults who otherwise had no place to go for the duration of the lock down. This has resulted in a large bubble filled with board games, jigsaw puzzles, playing Lego with the kids, and walking bubba up the road to visit a neighbour’s horse. We’ve also enjoyed the regular act of speaking to neighbours ‘over the fence’ which has brought our rural cluster of homes closer together.

Regarding the other essentials, it’s been business as usual on our farm as would be the case on any permaculture property worldwide. Growing food, storing water and creating energy efficient spaces to live are at the heart of the permaculture movement, which provides a ready-made textbook for the type of resilience a wider audience is now clamouring for.

Despite what may be implied by the ‘Billionaire Bunkers’ of the South Island, resilience (and sustainability) need not be expensive. As shown by the 2011 renovation of our home in Castlecliff, meaningful results can be achieved on a shoestring budget. Here are some reflections published in the Chronicle on 30th January 2012.

 

Big savings in a year of living lightly

“We are now over the 12-month mark of renovating an abandoned villa in Castlecliff into a warm, dry energy-efficient home. When we set out on this low budget / high performance retrofit we had no specific numbers in mind for energy savings and waste reduction. We simply wanted to push the envelope and do the best we could. As it turns out, our power bill has averaged $20 per month (this includes the daily line charge) and we have spent a total of $20 in rubbish fees for the entire year. I’ve come to call this our “20-20 hindsight” but there is no reason it could not also be a 20-20 vision for others to work toward by the year 2020.

The first Conservation Comment I wrote in July explained the design principles we employed for our passive solar renovation that have helped us achieve low energy bills. There is nothing new or unusual about those principles: solar gain, thermal mass, insulation and draft proofing. Similarly, there is nothing new or unusual about the design principles for our approach to resource conservation: reduce, reuse and recycle. The 3 R’s have helped us reduce the cost and impact of the renovation project as well as the cost and impact of our day-to-day lives. Here are a few examples.

While we have followed the New Zealand Building Code and used treated pine, Braceline Gib, building paper, and heaps of insulation, there are also areas where we were able to reduce costs and impacts by reusing materials. Prime examples include the bathtub, vanity, washtub and toilet in the bathroom, and the bench, sink, mixer, drawers, and shelves in the kitchen. Perhaps the most visible example is the vintage Shacklock 501 multi-fuel range that I bought my wife two years ago as a wedding present and we worked with Building Control to find a way to install safely.

Regarding our household waste stream, we compost all of the food scraps and even our fish and chips papers. We save paper to burn in our Shacklock or our outdoor pizza oven (made from an old wood burner) or to mulch our gardens and fruit trees. We reuse plastic bread bags and other small non-recyclable plastic containers. Again, there is nothing special about any of this, other than the fact that we take it seriously and put out one bag of rubbish for every two months. Perhaps the most unusual thing we do at all is emphasize the costs savings rather than simply the environmental benefits. At the end of the day, eco-thrifty living makes dollars and sense.”

 

Along with the renovation we filled the section with fruit trees and vegetable gardens. Today the home and section are unrecognizable from a decade ago, and have been included in a recent book written by permaculture co-founder David Holmgren: RetroSuburbia: The downshifters guide to a resilient future.

In the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown – which has forced almost all of us to downshift for six weeks anyway – this book and the greater RetroSuburbia movement seem more relevant than ever. Dani and I feel privileged to work with our Australian counterparts in promoting the movement on this side of the Tasman.

As this is my last conservation comment, I want to make sure to thank all those who have supported our community projects over the last decade including the major hardware stores and garden centres. I especially want to recognize the dozens of volunteers for the Curtain Bank and the Repair Café as well as the Whanganui Learning Centre and the Josephite Retreat Centre for their unqualified support.

Kia kaha, Estwing

7th Annual Permaculture Weekend: Community Resilience

The 7th Annual Whanganui Permaculture Weekend will be held in conjunction with the Festival of Adult Learning Ahurei Ākonga (Adult & Community Education Aotearoa).

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The focus will be on building household and community resilience.

Community Resilience Week

Permaculture and Adult Learning

7th – 13th September

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Wednesday 9th, 1 – 2:30: Backyard Gardening and Composting. 63 Tawa Street, Gonville

Free. No registration required. Sign-in and Social Distancing required. 

Thursday 10th, 4-5 PM: Basic Fruit Tree Care. Whanganui Learning Centre.

Free. No registration required. Sign-in and Social Distancing required. 

Thursday 10th, 6-7 PM: RetroSuburbia Case Study. Whanganui Learning Centre.

Free. No registration required. Sign-in and Social Distancing required. 

 

Saturday 12th, 9 AM – 1 PM: River Traders Market: River Exchange and Barter System (REBS) is Whanganui’s local currency. Learn more at the REBS stall.

Free. No registration required.

Saturday 12th, 2-3:30 PM: Repair Café. Mint Café

Menu: broken tool handles – please bring a replacement; small wooden items including toys; DIY sharpening of tools and knives – we have the gear; minor bicycle repairs and flat tyres;

By Donation. No registration required.

Saturday 12th, 4-6 PM: Building an Affordable Eco-Home: Key Points.

This workshop covers all aspects of designing and building a new home in an urban or rural location including: orientation; materials; energy performance; ventilation; windows & doors; insulation; self-build options; reusing materials; & more.

$45 p/p, $70 couples. Registration essential. theecoschool@gmail.com

 

Sunday 13th, 10-12:30 AM: RetroSuburbia Property Tour

From abandoned villa to affordable eco-home and section. This Whanganui property is the only case study outside of Australia to be included in David Holmgren’s RetroSuburiba: https://retrosuburbia.com/case-studies/eco-thrifty-retrofit-case-study/

$40 p/p, $60 couples. Registration essential. theecoschool@gmail.com

SEED SWAP 2020

This years seed swap is still going ahead but there will be a very different format.

If you have seeds you would like to share please drop them off at the Whanganui Environment Base at the Maria Place recycling centre. The drop off dates are from the 14th to the 25th of September, between the hours of 10-4, Mon-Fri.

Please include your name, phone and email and the details of each seed variety.

I will send out an email at the end of this time, to the addresses supplied, as well as the SW google group and the Seed Swap email group, listing what is available.

If you would like a seed parcel, please respond to the email with your name and number and the seeds that you would like.

Your parcel of seeds will be waiting for you at the Environment Base for pick up between the 5th and 9th of October.

Enquires can be emailed to Angela at nangethepange@hotmail.com

These changes are due to the difficultly in maintaining social distancing requirements under level 2.

Take care and keep well.

See you next year, Angela.

 

RetroSuburbia: Castlecliff, Whanganui

Everyone told us, “Do not buy in Castlecliff!” We ignored them. It was 2010.

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It was love at first sight.

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More than one person scoffed at me for buying this house.

Some called it “A dog’s breakfast.”

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But she came up alright with a lick of paint.

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The home and section were a bit of a mish…

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…but we got there in the end.

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Side yard before…

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…and after.

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This project has become a benchmark for low-cost and high-performance renovation.

There will be a one-off tour and workshop in late April.

ANZAC Day (Observed, Monday) 27th April, 2020, 2:00 – 5:00 PM. $35 p/p, $55 couples.

This Whanganui property is the only case study outside of Australia to be included in David Holmgren’s RetroSuburbia project: https://retrosuburbia.com/case-studies/eco-thrifty-retrofit-case-study/

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Space is limited.

Registration essential: theecoschool@gmail.com

Peace, Estwing

RetroSuburbia Property Tour 13th September

Join the RetroSuburbia Movement!

Sunday 13th, 10-12:30 AM: RetroSuburbia Property Tour

From abandoned villa to affordable eco-home and section. This Whanganui property is the only case study outside of Australia to be included in David Holmgren’s RetroSuburiba: https://retrosuburbia.com/case-studies/eco-thrifty-retrofit-case-study/

$40 p/p, $60 couples. Registration essential. theecoschool@gmail.com

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Our Whanganui property is the only case study outside of Australia to be included: https://retrosuburbia.com/case-studies/eco-thrifty-retrofit-case-study/

 

Registration essential: theecoschool@gmail.com

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The book: $89 NZD plus post ($8 plus $3.90 for rural address).

Pick up available in Palmerston North and Whanganui.

To Place Orders: theecoschool@gmail.com

 

RetroSuburbia: The Built and Biological Fields

This workshop covers the most cost effective approaches to home renovation and edible landscaping. Using the Eco Thrifty Retrofit as a case study – https://www.retrosuburbia.com/case-studies/eco-thrifty-retrofit-case-study/ – attendees can expect to learn many of the strategies described in David Holmgren’s book including: eco-renovation; passive solar design; solar energy; energy efficiency; wind protection; annual veggies; fruit trees; backyard fowl; and more.

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Before and After

Dr. Nelson Lebo is a leader in New Zealand’s green building movement. He has worked in the sustainability field for over 30 years. Nelson has an undergraduate degree in geology and environmental science, a Masters in education, and a PhD in science education, along with a Diploma in Permaculture.

Saturday 8th September  2:00 – 5:00  $50 with $10 discount on the book for attendees.

This tour is offered as part of Whanganui Permaculture Weekend. 

RetroSuburbia: What it Looks Like

Permaculture co-founder David Holmgren’s upcoming book, RetroSuburbia, “highlights the ongoing and incremental changes we can make to our built, biological and behavioural landscapes. Focused on his home territory; Melbourne, Victorian regional towns and more generally southern Australia, the suburban retrofit concepts have national and global application. Due for publication in late 2017.”

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More from the website:

“RetroSuburbia explains and illustrates patterns, designs and behavioural strategies applied by those already on the downshifting path to a resilient future, using permaculture ethics and principles. It is organised as a pattern language of interlocking and complementary design solutions to perennial problems faced by those applying a more systematic, whole-of-household approach to retrofitting their houses, gardens and living arrangements. It includes some proven design specifications and pointers, references technical sources and case studies, but is more of a strategic guide than a technical manual.

Rather than reviewing the latest technology for thermally efficient heating, the book has an overview of wood energy options that increase resilience and productivity of the household, some of which can be manufactured in a home workshop. Rather than details on how to grow vegetables or raise chooks, it describes the different systems for doing so, and their pros and cons in various situations. A lot of the technical detail is conveyed with graphics. This book will help you get your hands dirty tackling tricky issues with creative solutions, including those that might be seen as socially or even legally questionable. Harness the tradition of Aussie DIY to reclaim common sense self reliance while ignoring the overregulation, risk management myopic and dependence on centralised authority that afflicts affluent Australia. In the process, help create a broader, more holistic culture of DIO (doing it ourselves) which rebuilds the non-monetary economies of the household and community.”

Our home in Castlecliff, Whanganui, is used as a case study. Independent of Holmgren, we came to many of the same conclusions and design strategies. The success of our suburban retrofit speaks for itself: a warm, cosy, low-energy home and abundant food production on a small section. Regarding the issues brought up by Holmgren, there would be few properties in New Zealand that match this one in terms of the key characteristics of resilience.

In November, 2010 we started renovating the old villa…

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…which is now a high performance passive solar home.

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We started with a section full of weeds and rubbish six years ago.

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It is now full of fruit trees, natives, annual gardens and a pizza oven.

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Side yard before.

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Side yard after.

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Learn more about retrofitting suburbia.

Thursday, 11th May, 6:30-7:30 PM

Central Library, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

Dr. Nelson Lebo, Eco Design Advisor, Palmerston North City Council.

 

Peace, Estwing