Learn how to live green

The greenhouse helps the home stay naturally cool throughout summer and on sunny winter days heating is not needed.
The greenhouse helps the home stay naturally cool throughout summer and on sunny winter days heating is not needed.

It is possible to integrate sustainability practices into your home without sacrificing style and comfort – visit a green house near you on Sustainable House Day on September 17 to learn how.

Earthship Ironbank is the first council approved Earthship in Australia, which demonstrates that many of its design elements comply with the National Construction Code.

Earthship Ironbank is the first council approved Earthship in Australia, which demonstrates that many of its design elements comply with the National Construction Code.

A prime example of living off the grid is the Earthship at Ironbank in South Australia.

Owner Dr Martin Freney said the Earths are built from ‘indigenous materials of the 21st century’ - the stuff we throw away, such as old car tyres filled with earth and used to make the walls and bottles (glass and plastic) are used to make ‘bottle bricks’ that add natural light and colour to the walls. 

“The homes are extremely self sufficient providing all their own water and electricity via their off-grid systems: storing solar and wind power in battery banks, making solar hot water, and storing rain water in tanks,” Dr Freney said.

“Wastewater is treated on-site where it is reused and up-cycled for other uses such as irrigation of food producing crops, and for toilet flushing. The idea is that you don't have any utility bills!

“Also they are great in bushfire zones due to their earth-sheltered design in which they are dug into the sides of hills or, on flat sites, earth is mounded around the rear of the building which provides very stable indoor air temperature as well as bushfire protection.

Dr Freney’s Earthship has a greenhouse running along the north side that connects all the rooms and providing amenities such as natural light, passive heating and cooling and a place to do gardening all year round.

“It is really important in climates where heating is needed in the winter because it is like a little tropical zone at the front of your otherwise cold home. Double glazing on the north facade traps solar energy so that the living spaces in the home can heat up naturally from the warm air in the greenhouse.

“But in summer, somewhat counter intuitively, the greenhouse helps keep you cool. Due to the high sun angle in the summer, not as much solar energy enters the greenhouse but it is still enough to grow plants and any excess heat from the greenhouse escapes through roof vents which in turn draws cool air through underground "cooling tubes" without the need for fans - voila, natural air conditioning and cross ventilation!”

The greenhouse also allows for greywater from the bathroom and laundry to flow through a wicking bed garden which cleans the greywater so that it is suitable for toilet flushing without the need for chlorine, air bubblers, UV sterilisation.

Plus, you can grow food all year round.

“And the greenhouses in Earthships are incredibly beautiful - which makes you feel happy,” he said.

Find an innovative green home near you at sustainablehouseday.com.