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Recommended Reading and Viewing

Caitlin McGee, 2013 Your home

Your Home is your guide to building, buying or renovating a home. It shows how to create a comfortable home with low impact on the environment — economical to run, healthier to live in and adaptable to your changing needs.

Available in hard copy for around $35 or free to download from the site.



Derek F. Wrigley, 2012. Making your home sustainable. Scribe Publishers

In 1991, architect and solar consultant Derek Wrigley moved into a townhouse in Canberra and faced a new design challenge — how to retrofit an existing suburban house to use renewable energies rather than fossil fuels. Convinced that building design could do more to achieve sustainability, he developed a series of innovative devices to improve the energy efficiency of the house, and modified the existing design to work harmoniously with the local climate.

Paperback, $45.00

making home sustainable


Jeremy Leggett, 2015. The winning of the carbon war.

Humanity is in a race, a kind of civil war. On the light side the believers in a sustainable future based on clean energy fight to save us from climate change. The dark side defends the continuing use of fossil fuels, often careless of the impact it has on the world. Jeremy Leggett fought for the light side for a quarter of a century as it lost battle after battle. Then, in 2013, the tide began to turn. By 2015, it was clear the war could be won. Leggett’s front-line chronicle tells one person’s story of those turnaround years, culminating in dramatic scenes at the Paris climate summit, and what they can mean for the world.

Jeremy Leggett is a social entrepreneur, founder of Solarcentury and SolarAid, chair of Carbon Tracker, a climate-and-energy activist, and historian author.

The book can be downloaded free as an ebook, or can be bought as a hard copy from the site (but perhaps only for UK residents?), with all profits from the sale of the print book going directly to SolarAid to help to distribute solar lights to rural communities in Africa.



David Suzuki and David R. Boyd, 2008. David Suzuki’s Green Guide. Greystone Books

Everyone knows that human actions affect our natural environment. With this indispensable guide, readers will learn to consume fewer resources and become part of the solution as stewards of the planet. This book recommends actions for individuals to be more green in the homes where we live, the way we travel, the food we eat, and the things we buy. It also describes how all of us can ensure that governments support sustainable lifestyles.

The book can be downloaded as a Kindle ebook from Amazon’s Australian site, at a cost of $13.80. Hard copies can be ordered through booksellers.



Seafood and Australia

Here is a link to an informative four-episode SBS documentary titled

What’s The Catch With Matthew Evans



Tiny houses helping homeless

A Sydney-based not-for-profit organization will build a tiny house village on the NSW Central Coast as part of a project to help the homeless.

The pilot project, designed by NBRS Architecture and developed by the Tiny Homes Foundation, will comprise four tiny houses, a common laundry and workshop and community vegetable gardens. The project will be located on a site next to Gosford Hospital on the corner of Showground and Racecourse roads.

tiny homes

Derek Mah, an associate at NBRS Architecture, said the concept for the project was inspired by the tiny house movement to fill a gap in housing provision for the homeless.

“There’s boarding houses and subsidized housing but there wasn’t anything that offered this amount of independence for such a small amount of money,” Mah said. Each unit is projected to cost around $30,000, which is expected to decrease as the foundation increases its economy of scale. “That’s the main driver behind it – to give people some dignity and independence.”

Each unit contains a full bathroom, kitchenette and a sleeping space in a “very modest” footprint of only 14 square metres.

“The living space is the sleeping space and the food preparation space, so it’s multipurpose,” Mah said. “That’s the secret to these things. You have to multitask the space as much as possible to get the most use out of the very small space that we have.”

The Tiny Homes Foundation pilot project designed by NBRS Architecture. Image:  Courtesy NBRS Architecture

The tiny houses are designed with passive solar principles in mind. Each unit features large glass doors in the longer side of the dwelling, which will be oriented north to take advantage of the solar aspect. There will also be a small covered deck area. The whole site is also designed to be off-grid with solar electricity and hot water and compostable toilets.

tiny house2

The entire unit can be prefabricated, with insulated wall panels, and delivered on site either as a fully formed dwelling or flatpacked and assembled on site with simple tools and no requirement for specialized building skills.

The tiny house movement has gained enormous popularity in the USA, spawning entire industries and reality TV shows, as well as an Australian-made documentary. But Mah says this project shies away from the “twee and delightful” idea of a traditional tiny house.

“The difference with what we’ve had to do as a design project is that we’ve had to consider the fact that this is essentially public housing. It’s not me handcrafting my non-compliant, dangerous-for-the-kids type of moving caravan on wheels,” Mah said.

The units will also be adaptable. “We’ll probably have to explore additional scenarios for other designs, one of them is having one which is accessible,” Mah said. “We also have to look at adopting the basic unit for other purposes like a communal laundry or communal meeting space.”

The Tiny Homes Foundation received development approval for its pilot project in early August 2016. The project also collaborates with Clayton Utz (lawyers), Chase Burke and Harvey (surveyors), Wilson Planning (town planning), The Skills Generator (employment and training), TAFE Outreach (education) and Pacific Link (social housing providers).


Tesla and SolarCity launch rooftop solar tiles and Powerwall 2.0

Tesla and SolarCity's new solar roof tile technology.

Tesla and SolarCity’s new solar roof tile technology. Image: Courtesy of Tesla

American businesses Tesla Motors and SolarCity have launched new technology that allows homes to capture solar energy through rooftop solar tiles.

The textured rooftop tiles contain solar cells, providing a more attractive solar power option to consumers who might have been deterred by having large solar panels on their roof.

The announcement was made by Elon Musk, Tesla Motors’ CEO and SolarCity chairman, and coincided with the launch of Powerwall 2.0, the latest version of the wall-mounted battery.

Musk said the goal was to have solar roofs that “look better than normal roofs, generate electricity, last longer, have better insulation and have an install cost that is less than a normal roof plus the cost of electricity.”

The new Powerwall has twice as much energy as Powerwall 1, with 14-kilowatt hour energy storage, 7-kilowatt power output.

The Tesla Powerwall works by storing solar power to be used when the solar panels cannot be used directly due to lack of sunlight, such as during the evenings.

Musk said the Powerwall 2.0 can power a four-bedroom house including a fridge, sockets and lights for a day and if the house has solar it can be powered indefinitely.

According to a 2013 article on The Conversation, one of the barriers to people adopting solar power in Australia is the upfront costs. In the article, author Kylie Catchpole said it takes a household between five and 10 years to pay back the cost of solar panel installation, compared to a guaranteed system lifetime of 25 years.

The announcement from Tesla and SolarCity comes as a number of solar feed-in tariffs in Australia come to a close in 2016. These tariffs involve households receiving payment for the surplus electricity they export to the main grid. Tariffs vary from state to state. South Australia’s tariff has already expired and New South Wales and Victoria’s will expire at the end of the year.

Group 4 participants in South Australia will face reductions first. This includes households with solar power systems that became eligible between 1 October 2011 and 30 September 2013. From 30 September 2016, Group 4’s payments were reduced from 16 cents per kolowatt hour to 6.8 cents.

In New South Wales, from 31 December 2016 participants who joined the Solar Bonus Scheme before May 2011 will have their payments reduced from 60 cents or 20 cents per kilowatt hour to as little as 4.7-8 cents.

The Victorian Transnational Feed In Tariff (TFIT) took over from the Premium Feed-in Tariff in 2011 and closed in December 2012. Currently, TFIT pays 25 cents per kilowatt hour but as of 31 December 2016 this will drop to as little as 5 cents.

In July 2016 it was announced that a town in Melbourne would become the world’s first Tesla suburb with the installation of Tesla Powerwall technology within houses.