Hippyshopper editor Gabrielle (aka [GT]) chronicles trying to have a small, affordable wedding while pleasing her dreamed-of-a-fairytale-wedding- since-he-was-a-boy fiance John, and trying to keep her consumerism low. This week, a look ahead at green housing.
A friend who manages an apartment building called up today to let us know a two bedroom was coming up available soon. Great location, room for the all-important home office, and good neighbors – he lives there himself. But my green lifestyle was thrust upon me by having a rash (more like a plague) of chemical sensitivities and classical allergies, so there’s a good chance I won’t even be able to set foot in the place. This got me thinking about the after-the-wedding part, where we go home together. Which reminded me of something: I hate paying rent. And I’ll tell you why.
Sure, everybody hates paying rent, but as I was growing up, my mother was an accountant, and my father had a construction company. It was dinned into me: get equity. Buy a house. Don’t throw away money on rent. So the arguments I’m going to give you in favour of owning are coming from bias, to be sure. However, owning a house makes you interested in what happens to your part of the world in a way that renting never can, and encourages better behaviour. (Yes yes, it also gives you equity, so your money is working for you instead of being burned up and blown out the window. That’s beside the point.)
We all want the trendy, tiny flat near all the cool shops, but if you also want a home office, there’s a good chance that what you need is a house. If you’re going with a house, you might as well look into building your own, which is what I got thinking about. Land is pretty cheap around here, especially exhausted farmland. My uncle had previously convinced me of the merits of straw bale housing, since it has fantastic insulation value and is much less expensive to build sustainably (as well as without ugly chemicals) than with conventional materials.
The Straw Bale Building Assocation has a lot of good workshops (and The Last Straw magazine). Most straw bale is simple post and beam, with bales of straw stacked up like Legos, then sprayed with lime plaster to create a smooth, breathable surface. Don’t use concrete if you can avoid it; concrete locks in moisture which leads to the straw rotting, whereas lime disperses moisture and dries out. Concrete also offgases for years to come. Lime is also generally pretty, and concrete generally is not.
If you want a basic idea of what you can do with it, BaleWatch has 50 plans for straw bale buildings, ranging from small storage sheds up to a nine bedroom Bed & Breakfast. The idea I liked most is the Compound, which involves building a perimeter wall, then several small buildings inside, so that you can perfect your ability one square room at a time. This also allows you to spread out the cost of your house building and easily expand for, say, more office space, an art studio, or, well, possibly sometime after the wedding there’ll be children. Assuming science catches up with us and John can carry them. [GT]