Sustainable House Day success

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By Charlie Robinson, September 2015

As Fay and I taxied down the runway at Denver International Airport I thought to myself that, in less than three days time, we would be hosting scores of visitors as part of Beechworth’s 2015 Sustainable House Day.  What could possibly go wrong?

As it happens, very little. It seems we brought fantastic weather with us and our visitors arrived to blue skies and temperatures in the mid-20’s.  Members of the Murmungee Hall and Tennis Clubs offered cakes and biscuits while great coffee was provided from Gapstead Mobile Coffee.

Sustainable House Day is a State-wide initiative to showcase the latest applications of renewable energy, water conservation, alternative building methods, waste management, and food growing and preservation.

Two other Beechworth properties – John and Julie Iseley’s off-grid strawbale home and Jill Jarvis’ B&B The Vision Splendid provided practical examples of living with a reduced carbon footprint and environmental impact.

Apart from the spectacular views over Murmungee to Mount Buller, The Vision Splendid features solar water heating, a vineyard watered from a worm-based waste management system, and power derived from a vertical axis wind generator (taking advantage of the windy conditions on the escarpment).  Jill’s brother also demonstrated a new concept in passive lighting systems designed to replace traditional skylights.

Built over two years, John and Julie Iseley’s strawbale home features massive internal bridge beams to support the roof.  The beams give the home a feeling of solidity and character.  The roof itself is covered with living plants such as cedum to further enhance the insulation properties of the home.  The off-grid electricity supply has proven to be both reliable and convenient, with no blackouts!

While our property is known for its vegetable gardens and fruit trees, our focus this year has been on developing an additional five acres that we recently acquired.  Our plan is to implement a rotational grazing system using, alternatively, sheep and chicken.  This has meant segmenting the extra land into five separate paddocks divided by double fences in which a mixture of lucerne trees and native plants are grown.  These plantings will eventually form living fences whereby stock can graze on the plants while, at the same time, enjoying their shade and shelter from the winds.

Feedback from all the property holders was very encouraging and we may do it again next year with, hopefully, additional properties from the Beechworth area.  Attendances were very good with numbers exceeding 200 for each property.  As hosts, it can be very tiring but it’s heartening to see so much enthusiasm from the visitors and to know that you’re helping to motivate others to see the possibilities of living sustainably.