Virtual Eco-House Tour

All readers, welcome to our home:

My safe, allergy-free and eco-friendly home. Ready for the tour we promised? Take your shoes off. Only socks or Japanese slippers allowed. 

“Would you like a cup of coffee or tea? Do you take sugar? Soy milk okay? A herb from the garden perhaps?”

[Miche pops the kettle on.]

“Why, thank you for going fragrance-free. I really appreciate it; and it’s so lovely to have you here to visit! xx “

“Here,” Miche says while holding out a bright flowing fabric with a flock of exotic birds scattered across it (or a white Tyvek suit–your choice), “Pop on this will you? It’s just to protect the furniture from any washing powder or fragrance residue on your clothes.”

It’s an exciting day: Because today, I warmly, virtually invite you into our home by taking you all on a Virtual EcoHouse Tour, using the latest technology in architectural drawings for our ‘Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House‘ Project, These were done by Eco Draftsperson, and our friend, Quin Wyatt; he’s known as an ‘EcoDesigner’ around the Peninsula Coast (I am on Victoria’s Surf Coast near Queenscliff but I was just 1 hour by boat away at Portsea: the air and seaweed, beaches are mostly the same. Except we have marshland that rubber boots won’t help you with, it sinks that much, which makes it a perfect haven for birds. So it an actual Marine National Park with a few different things going on: Army training, hooded plovers, Mud Island (sink in sand there for sure!) all types of bird and seagrass.

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Black footed albatross (image source: Pixabay)

Why we are taking so long to build:

Our house is smaller, which is why it took another 6 months to get started because of the re-sizing. Plus all the testing of the products. Then we had to wait on Boral Bricks by 3 months, luckily, Ashley from Boral in Geelong made up for this by giving me a heap of research about mould and bricks and how to remove the horrid stuff. We are supposed to be at lockup stage by now. Been told hold ups are normal on this business. Issue is we need to be locked up before the rains come.

It was downsized by 10 square metres, which is like the size of an average room. This took a load of the cost of the build. The front balcony was rejigged so that it didn’t form part of the indoor area by intruding into the house, which would have looked more contemporary modern; instead it’s just your old-school 6 post balcony. This way if there’s ever a leak it won’t flood into the house, it ill run straight off the balcony. Smart thinking, Slobodan <3 And, it still works as an eave for the passive heating and cooling effect.

Passive Design Coupled with Ideal Orientation

A good ecologically designed home, utilises orientation because the way the house faces, which is to the north, plays an enormous part in passively heating and cooling the home. So long as the occupants are active in summer by closing blinds and roof-window blinds early in the morning, closing off any rooms that catch warmth on days of high heat; only opening up again at night, putting on fans and opening windows strategically positioned to cross-ventilate, which will also allow thermal lag to cool your house off, you too can design an eco-home.

Ideally, the home should be placed so the living areas faces north (south if you’re in the US, I think, correct me if I am wrong) to take advantage of the winter sun. The eaves overhang 90 centimetres to block out the higher-in-the-sky summer sun, while allowing the lower-in-the-sky winter sun into the house, warming the tiles or polished concrete floor.

Because the Zenit thermally-broken, double-glazed uPVC windows are designed to go low to the floor, the sun hits the concrete warming it in winter while the concrete acts as the thermal mass (unless you cover it with carpet or something else, which acts as insulation or has rubber in it that will impede on this all-important function). Coupled with the Hydrotherm Hydronic panel heating, the most allergy-friendly heating possible, the house will always be a warm home. On sunny winter days we won’t need heating as the sun heating the thermal mass will be enough, even at night when heat from the slab is released via thermal lag, or if closed up, the thermal lag will still be keeping the place warm as the temperature drops outside. But more on the other eco-friendly elements that help facilitate a truly efficient home later…

The cottage is in the far right hand corner. The Garage is seperate, with a breeze-way as specified as what Interviewee, Katryn Treat said when I asked her what she would do differently if building again,

The cottage is in the far right hand corner. The Garage is seperate, with a breeze-way as specified as what Interviewee, Katryn Treat said when I asked her what she would do differently if building again,

The little cottage out back, the one for fragrance-free visitors to stay in, had to lose its bathroom, which is no big deal: there are two inside the house. Both run on filtered rain water supplied by EcoBright Tanks (all stainless steel! No plastic lining!), then town water if the tanks become dry. (If you have advice on tanks please share below.) The toilet is fully ecologically minded, with it’s own 2000-litre-rainwater tank too. We’ve got this tank covered with Reece plumbing in Drysdale. And our plumbing was done by KLM Plumbing whose team went fragrance-free; I highly recommend their services if you’re on the Surf Coast or the Bellarine Peninsula of Victoria, Australia!

We also have an outdoor shower: visitors Beware: Come fragrance free or go nude and wash outside in the garden of Eden.

Nah, just kidding, the outdoor shower is for the dog and beach visits!

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Yes, we will give our composting toilet back to Natural Event at the end of the build. It’s still working out really well feeding the soil of the neighbour’s apricot tree, I’m sure.

One positive that came out of halving the garage is that now we have all this space between the cottage and garage. Is the extra room for gardening and paving areas: bonsai garden, outdoor shower. This space is a medium sized courtyard that’s surrounded on three sides by the brick fence separating ours and our neighbours property and the brick walls of each out-building.

Oh, and the other brilliant thing about kids flying the coop is the room for a proper yoga room and gymnasium.

Now just notice where the sun falls and the time of the year and day. This will show how it’s positioned for good orientation taking advatage of the full northerly aspect so on winter days the sub comes right on in. Quin Wyatt did a remarkable job designing and then re-designeing this house to suit my needs. 

We did this re-jigging of the house via Skype last winter when I was horribly ill from Pullaria mould and possibly the mould in the room with the water-damaged ceiling. [Update: I’ve since been diagnosed with CIRS, so it’s not just Pullaria mould that was the problem.) So I wasn’t exactly coherent but luckily for me Quin and Dan and I worked it out: We have an unusual front balcony, which I will show you all later. Welcome to my prototype for an Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly House!

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A sun study of an eco-freindl y house. It shows sunlight splashed across the room in June, which is winter in Australia

A sun study of an eco-freindl y house. It shows sunlight splashed across the room in June, which is winter in Australia. This is not our kitchen just a generic image of the design. Pretty cool, hey?

If you take a look at the sun study done for June, which is mid-winter, and since 2012 and living in two water damaged buildings (WDB), I’ve suffered every winter since due to outdoor moulds; now when I was in mid-winter of last year, sick as I’ve ever been (before CIRS diagnose), I took impeccable comfort: the type that just wraps you in cottonwool, allowing you to feel everything is going to be alright, that type of comfort, when looking at these photos. The sun coming through the window. Picturing myself in our safe house. Knowing all is going to be just fine.

On another positive, it’s near close to all bricks and mortar now, and I’m busy, busy, busy, testing and organising samples, asking, sometimes hounding for MSDS and product contents. I’m finding there are two business models:’ don’t share a thing’ and ‘here you go’ when it comes to building products and materials… especially MSDS or proof of composition of materials of VOC release per cubic metre. Also, Australia is lacking in ecological products; but we do have access to some incredible European products.

So this is the roofline of the house:

The front of the 'Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House' project

The front of the ‘Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House’ project, which I am also writing a ‘How to’ Book about the Process itself

I know you are picking up the Japanese them now. Do you like the design so far? Ant questions on passive design?

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Where we are getting the doors: Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Modified Shoji Doors

All the posts on ‘Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House

Quin Wyatt Building Designers: Created This House Around my Allergies and our Environment!

Stainless Steel Rainwater Tanks: EcoBright Tanks (I’ve a post coming up on rainwater tanks (the 3 companies in Australia who sell them!) and on catchment and delivery systems to the bathrooms. Full Eco Housing ideas coming up.

Hydrotherm Hydronic Heating, the best heating for people with chemical sensitivities or allergies (also the best price out of many quotes)

Natural Event Portable Compositing Toilets (no head splitting chemicals)

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

I’m Not a Hippy But… I’ve got a composting toilet!

Because my boyfriend and I are in the process of building an eco-friendly, allergy-free house (aka Freedom), with people working on site and all, we realised we needed a toilet for workers to be able to use. Mostly, on building sites you may see a portable toilet that looks somewhat like this:

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If this toilet has fragrance ‘deodorising’ chemicals, you may be better off going behind those trees

But, if you have allergies or chemical sensitivities that are impacted on via chemical irritants known to be in many cleaning and ‘deodorising’ chemicals, then you may feel/smell/taste this toilet before you actually see it (In my case, I often taste smells before I actually smell them, which is a sign that I’m about to get very sick if I don’t practice chemical avoidance). When I realised we needed a portable toilet on our building site, I thought back to the one my daughter and I saw at the Melbourne Markets when we used to go there: it was leaking a puddle of electric-blue liquid out from underneath the box that housed it. I was olfactory blinded by the 3M mask protecting my airways, therefore, couldn’t smell the fragrance chemicals emanating out from it; ergo, gratefully, my daughter did, and, grabbing my elbow steered me clear of walking straight into a puddle of fragrance chemicals!

Then, a few months ago, Dan and I were looking at the outside of some new houses going up near our block, and as we walked down a vacant street towards one, a cloud of stink arrived on the wind, nearly knocking me for a six. What the hell was that? I took another whiff. Yep! The ‘scent’ of artificial rose stinging my eyes and burning my nostrils was actually fragrance! I pushed my mask to my face, hanging back a whole three house blocks, while Dan went to check out the new house and alert me to where the obnoxious chemical irritants were coming from. They were coming from a Portaloo!

After we got home, I mused on the fact that a portaloo is just like a modern-day gas chamber… for every race. It doesn’t discriminate: that shit will get into everyone’s airways! However, it’s up to their immune system as to whether it will cause a problem or not. But why would anyone risk that? Do the people who make, sell and rent these portable toilets even care that there are people who won’t be able to enter them; or that there are people who will use these, finding they get sick afterwards?

It’s actually law that we, here in Australia, have a portable toilet on any building site. Fair enough, can’t have people just whopping it it out just anywhere; can we? But what to do about the fragrance chemicals? Have one of those stink-bombs on the site of our home-to-be? I think not! I mean, what if I have to use the toilet? What if it leaks? And there’s fluorescent-pink, artificial-rose-scented puddles of fragrance-chemical irritants near or on the foundation of my future home?

Isn’t this what people with MCS have nightmares about?

So, later that night, before I went to sleep, I jumped onto the AESSRA member’s forum, and fired off my question: “Help! I need a non-stinky portable toilet for our building site!” While I sat back wondering if I’d just asked another stupid question—I mean surely there are no stupid questions when I’m not the only one with this dilemma?—I received a reply from a member stating that, yes, there is a company called Natural Event who supply chemical-free, odour-free toilets Australia wide (and in the UK, too (where they’re called Pootopia!)).

A little bit about Natural Event:

Natural Event has designed and operates the most effective, practical, enjoyable and appraised toilet system for festivals, events and gatherings where people poo. Natural Event was created after the organisers of the Festival of ‘Folk Rhythm and Life’, in Victoria Australia, came to understand that the toilet system they had created to cater for their three day festival, had national and international relevance.

These are not just ordinary toilets. It’s a composting toilet, yeah? This is our Natural Event composting toilet, right here:

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So you go up those stairs, sit on that black box at the back, which has a toilet seat and lid purposely built into it, and you too can have your own natural event! Underneath the toilet seat, where all the pee and poo goes, is a bin full of wood-chips (it has no bottom, and has been dug into the ground so all the worms can come up, and any liquid can soak into the ground). Next to the toilet seat is another bucket of wood-chips; after all the poo and pee lands down the hole, you just throw a scoop or two of wood-chips over the top. The stuff then composts down into the soil. Pretty nifty, hey? Later, and we’ve not used it enough to do this, you change the bin so that there’s a fresh one to do all the business in.

More about this company and what they can do:

Natural Event can provide for any size need, from a single loo, to enough to suit an army! In the natural world there is no such thing as ‘waste’. All organisms degrade and have their intrinsic nutrients taken up by other life forms. Nature provides the ultimate example of recycling. Natural Event replicates the rain forest floor in recycling organic material and nutrients. By combining human toilet deposits with a carbon based bulking material and oxygen, Natural Event creates an environment where a previous environmental and health issue becomes magnificent soil conditioner…

They also supply toilets for the Glastonbury festival, and it’s a nice feeling to know my bum is associated with such a superb gathering of people [Think Kate Moss in her Hunter gum boots. Now think of my bum on the toilet. And know this: What Kate Moss did for Hunter gum boots, my bum will now do the same for Natural Event toilets!]:

Natural Event offers complete hire of cubicles and urinals and can also tailor design a system to suit particular conditions and various site requirements…. By using Natural Event, festivals make a clear statement that they have had enough of the ever dreaded port a loo. The days are over where you expect cramped stinking boxes or over flowing trucks. Now there is no need to use harmful chemicals to store or treat toilet waste.

And no, so far it’s not at all stinky like I imagined it would be!

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Above is the side view of the Natural Event composting toilet. And as you can also see, our block is pretty much ready to go. I’m a little excited looking at it! If you look at the back fence, just over that is a National Park; the air comes straight off the sea. And it was just the other day I was sitting on our Natural Event composting toilet, and was thinking: Why can’t all toilets be out in the fresh air like this? But then a cold south westerly slapped the tarpaulin wall, and I acknowledged that I can’t bloody wait to use my real bathroom toilet!

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So far, we are off to a great start! I’m feeling grateful for the assistance of others who’ve been able to share their tips such as where to get a non-toxic toilet from, and I feel especially thankful for my composting toilet. Thanks to Natural Event for the lovely dunny, too!

What do you think of composting toilets?

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About Natural Event 

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Information, products and views presented by guest bloggers @The Labyrinth are not necessarily the same as those held by this blog's author, Michellina van Loder. Reviews are my own personal opinions (unless stated otherwise); and satire is used throughout personal posts. Any health topics discussed are not to be taken as medical advice. Seek out medical attention if needed and do your own research; however, you're welcome to use mine as a start.
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