Loft life in the green lane

2011-12-12 07:55

With its bar stools made from tractor seats and railway tracks for stairs, the Davies’ house is not only supergreen, but full of recycled materials that have made it beautiful too. Melanie-Ann Feris reports

Kevin Davie has parked his Prado in the garage and now cycles the 6km from his home in Richmond, Johannesburg, to his Rosebank office on a battery-charged electric bicycle.

“It costs about 20c to recharge, it’s electric so you’re not sweating when you get to work and it’s easy to park,’’ says Davie, the business editor of the M&G newspaper.

The modest exterior of the home Davie (56) shares with his wife, Lucille (58), belies the size of the house inside.

It’s only when you walk in that you appreciate the space, magnified by the natural light streaming in through huge windows.

When the couple purchased the property four years ago, it was an empty shell.

But an abandoned ruin was just what the Davies were after.
 
“I was keen to do a loft construction. This was just a shell. I spent a lot of the time on the Web looking for approaches to energy efficiency. I also wanted to be as independent as possible from large corporates like Eskom,” says Davie.

“We recycled a lot. All the building materials on site were reused, including Oregon pine and steel.

“We put in concrete floors, which retains heat for longer and, once it is cool, it remains cool for long.”

There are a multitude of other simple and aesthetically pleasing innovations in the house, including bar chairs made from tractor seats and tyre rims.

An old cold storage unit has been converted into kitchen cupboards, and railway tracks form part of the main staircase’s frame.

Davie says the main motivation for them investing in an energy-efficient house was the realisation that energy costs were going to rise in the wake of an already chaotic energy supply.

The house, on a natural gas route, is powered by gas sourced from Mozambique.

“We use gas for the cooking, hot water and heating. We are still on the Eskom grid. I just checked the meter and our usage for the month is R70. There are other fees attached to being connected to the grid so that brings it up to R450. Gas costs have gone up but, typically, in summer it (the gas bill) comes to about R250, and in winter twice as much,’’ says Davie.

“The house is north facing and designed to let in a lot of natural light. All of the light bulbs have been replaced with CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps or low-energy bulbs).

“It makes a huge difference,” he says.

“A lot of the bulbs are low wattage, and a lot of it is just for background lighting. If we want to read we use a reading lamp. You shouldn’t just wash the house with light.’’

Thanks to the Davie house being in a suburb that is part of Pikitup’s pilot recycling programme, the couple does a lot of recycling.

They also have a wormery – using worms to turn kitchen and garden waste into compost.

“Organic waste goes to the wormery. We have a bin for glass and plastic, and a bag for paper.”

Says Lucille: “Three quarters of your waste can be recycled – we only put out the normal waste bin about once a month.’’

“We also have a grey water system so the water from the showers goes into the garden. In the showers we have low-flow shower heads.

Because they use a lot of air, you don’t see any difference compared to a high-flow shower head.”

It’s not that hard to start going green, say the Davies.

“Most people think you need to do expensive things to become energy efficient. You don’t.”

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