Thursday, December 22, 2011

Our move to Tasmania

We have long wanted to get out of Sydney – too busy and getting ever more so, plus we really dislike the hot humid weather in the summer here. We have also long been interested in ecological sustainability and wanted to build an energy efficient house which is light on the landscape and  we decided that strawbale was the way to go.

We initially thought about moving to the NSW country somewhere, and actually purchased a block of land at Yetholme, between Bathurst, Lithgow and Oberon and with an altitude of over 1100m it was guaranteed to at least have cooler nights in summer! It was when we had children that we thought it was important to give them as many opportunities as possible, and there is no doubt that there are more opportunities nearer to bigger population centres. Thus we started to consider Tasmania, as a place where you could live in the countryside and be near a city – and actually afford the land! Tasmania is a truly lovely place, with lots of opportunities in all sorts of ways, and after several visits looking at areas where we might like to live we bought a 21ha block at Collins Cap above Collinsvale, some 25kms northwest of the centre of Hobart and taking about 30mins to get to the block from there in peak hour – somewhat different to Sydney! At an altitude of over 600m with regular snowfall in winter, a strawbale house with its’ inherent insulation properties will be the ideal choice.

We sold our house in Sydney to some friends, and moved to Tasmania in mid November. The plans for our new house have been approved by the local council and we have chosen the builder, Phil Hart of Middle Earth Constructions, an experienced builder of strawbale houses. The site has a northerly aspect, and the house itself has been designed with energy efficiency in mind and to take advantage of the glorious view from the land. Thus it is aligned to get maximum sun gain in the cooler months, with lots of windows facing north, verandas all around for protection from driving rain in the windy times and sun in the summer and a large clerestory window for light and sun access. Joanne and I intend to be heavily involved with the build, Joanne more in the project management role and me on the build itself – I’m quite handy with tools and have some general experience of aspects of building a house.

Hopefully building will start pretty soon, though this will largely depend on the weather up to then. Tasmania has had a very wet winter, the wettest that most can remember in a long time, and the block is very soggy at the moment and there is no chance of any trucks getting onto it. The building site is some 300m from the road, so there is a long dirt drive to negotiate. In fact there is no way that we could get our container with our belongings packed into it onto the block either. We are really hoping for a dry summer – if it is wet we are in some trouble as even the straw might not be available when we need it, plus we really want to get the mud/lime renders onto the bale walls before the weather cools down for next winter. Everything going to plan, we hope to be living in the house by next winter, though realistically we expect the internal fit out won’t be completed by then – but at least we will keep warm! We will be living in a “shack” – for want of a better description – that is currently on the block, rustic but quite comfy while lacking electricity and hot water – the lack of hot water should be encouragement enough to get on and finish the new place!

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