Being an environmentalist and small forest-type creature, this might just be the dwelling for me. Not only could I go “off the grid” but possibly off into the realm of fantasy with a home like the one built by do-it-yourself architect Simon Dale. Not only is this low impact woodland home charming, but it does not require a dragon’s nest of gold to build. Created for a family in Wales, the entire structure only cost around $5,000 taking advantage of reclaimed and materials and labor provided by the architect himself along with family and friends. Rather than live in a “prefabricated box designed for maximum profit and convenience of the construction industry,” Dale designed a truly unique home that was intended and perfectly suited for its environment.
The house itself was dug into the surrounding hillside for shelter and low visible impact on the surrounding terrain. Oak collected from the nearby woodland was used to construct the frame, and reclaimed wood was obtained for the flooring and fittings. Straw bale in the floors, walls and roof were chosen for insulation, and appliances such as the heater and fridge take advantage of natural convection systems to operate. Lime plaster instead of cement cover the walls reducing cost and allowing for better ventilation. Plastic sheeting and a mud/turf roof regulate temperature and give the impression that the house is growing out from the hillside. Skylights and solar panels generate electricity and allow for ambient lighting, water is collected from the roof and gravity fed from a nearby spring, there is a composting toilet, and the yard collects runoff in its garden pond.
Dale was enthusiastic about this project for a variety of reasons. In order to reduce dependency on dwindling resources such as fossil fuels, he believes it is important to increase the productivity of our land and find the simplest, most sustainable solutions to live more in accordance with systems that take advantage of permaculture, small community sizes, and reduced consumption. The transition to an energy independent future begins with grass-roots action, and there is nowhere better to start than where you live.