If you’ve ever spent some time inside a yurt, you probably understand the pleasures that come with small-scale living. Not too long ago, I stumbled upon an ingenious how-to guide for building a “low impact woodland home” by Simon Dale and I haven’t been able to shake it since. To my mind, this effort deserves a cleantech post because a.) this house is intuitively beautiful in its own small way and b.) it embodies the very definition of cleantech and green living.

Simon’s home, sited in SW Wales, took 4 months to build (1000-1500 man hours) and ended up costing £3000. Though Dale doesn’t list the overall footprint, he arrived at an estimate of £60/sq m excluding labor, so somewhere around 50 sq m or about 540 sq ft. He lists the main tools used as little more than a chainsaw, hammer and 1 inch chisel.

Details of the house include:

* Dug into hillside for low visual impact and shelter
* Stone and mud from diggings used for retaining walls, foundations etc.
* Frame of oak thinnings (spare wood) from surrounding woodland
* Straw bales in floor, walls and roof for super-insulation and easy building
* Plastic sheet and mud/turf roof for low impact and ease
* Lime plaster on walls is breathable and low energy to manufacture (compared to cement)
* Reclaimed (scrap) wood for floors and fittings
* Anything you could possibly want is in a rubbish pile somewhere (windows, burner, plumbing, wiring…)
* Woodburner for heating – renewable and locally plentiful
* Flue goes through big stone/plaster lump to retain and slowly release heat
* Fridge is cooled by air coming underground through foundations
* Skylight in roof lets in natural feeling light
* Solar panels for lighting, music and computing
* Water by gravity from nearby spring
* Compost toilet
* Roof water collects in pond for garden etc.

Simon doesn’t consider himself a master builder or carpenter and believes that this sort of building is accessible to anyone of sound body and self belief (as well as a mate or two to help out.) While this sort of dwelling isn’t completely feasible for city-dwellers, it gives a good example of how we as people can realistically re-imagine our living requirements.

I applaud Simon for approaching the challenge of designing and building his home in a holistic fashion, without having to compromise too much of his dream in the process. Furthermore, I appreciate how the building seems to peaceably interact and coexist with its surrounding environment. Moreover, the building becomes part of the environment.

This structure speaks to me as the pinnacle of green, organic building and it serves as a beacon for how to live well with less. Forget about faux-verdant modular McMansions. Micro handcrafted hobbit ‘hoods are where it’s at!

- Curtiss Martin