Climate action 01

Climate action 01 is the first of a series of posts which will be the Climate action equivalent to Climate clippings. This post concentrates on housing, energy efficiency and rooftop solar.

  1. Housing:

I spent most of my primary school period living in a two room cabin with the toilet a long way down the back and washing in a tub that was set up in front of the fuel stove.  Us kids slept in one room and my parents slept in the kitchen/living room.  It seemed to be OK to me at the time and my mother always talked about that time of her life with enthusiasm.

In addition, I seemed to have spent a lot of time living in dongas during the last 10 years of my working life.  The first one was freezing cold, didn’t have enough blankets and showers and toilets a walk through the rain away.  To make matters even worse, the afternoon shift had a fire set up just outside my window where they drank and talked loudly into the night.  One of the other early dongas had a bed so bad it was more comfortable sleeping on the floor. Then there was the one…….

After a while the dongas got better with air conditioning, ensuite, fridge and comfortable beds.

The point of both these stories is that you can actually live quite happily in a fairly small space.  It may not be as good as a 4 bedroom house after the kids have left but a small ensuite donga with cooking facilities would be more than adequate for a single person and OK for a couple.  (One of our project managers used to share his donga with his wife.)  An ongoing thread here will be compact, smart accommodation.

If you want to go ultra basic there is an organization called Street Swags that distributes weather proof swags designed to help homeless people who cant find accommodation of any sort.  The swags are designed not to be all that obvious are rolled into the shoulder bag.

Street Swag

Still at the low cost end this Chinese company claims to be able to produce 10 houses a day using 3D printing.  The houses are designed to provide a better class of rural accommodation.  One of the more basic designs is shown below:

Small home constructed from 3D-printed building blocks (Image: Winsun New Materials)

3D printing is building up to be a real industrial game changer.  The good old days when raw materials are transported thousands of km to be turned into products that are shipped thousand of km back may become a thing of the past.

5 key ingredients for an energy efficient home:

The above link provides lots of useful data for an energy efficient home.  However, the emphasis is on homes that use a lot of heating or cooling.  It is worth noting that any building can be made net renewable by replacing gas with electricity and installing enough rooftop solar.   It is just a question of how tosplit the cost between energy efficiency and energy generation.
The latest review of Australia’s energy-saving appliance scheme has delivered a rare trifecta: a good news story for the economy, the community and the environment.

According to estimates from data in the Department of Industry review, the value of energy saved in Australia last year alone was around A$3.2 billion. Of this, some $2.7 billion was saved by households.

The Equipment Energy Efficiency (E3) program aims to reduce energy use by household and business appliances, through the use of energy labels and enforceable standards for energy use.

This latest review found that in 2013, the E3 program reduced Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 13.5 million tonnes at a saving of $118 per tonne.Overall, the savings delivered by embracing efficient appliances were three times greater than the costs. (NOTE: At current Qld domestic power costs  a household will save over $300/tonne CO2 abatement.)

The savings in energy use were equivalent to 7% of all Australian electricity consumption – a fact that certainly helps to explain the recent declines in electricity consumption and power company profits.

By 2030, the program is forecast to be saving 34.4 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year, at a cost of minus $118 per tonne and a benefit/cost ratio of 4.6. That means for every $1 we spend, we get $4.60 of benefits back.

Not a bad result for a program with little political commitment and a low public profile. Imagine what it could achieve if it was taken more seriously.

2.  Rooftop solar:

There is a lot of macho talk going on at the moment about whether Rooftop solar really needs the grid.  This is a reaction the macho schemes that Campbell Newman and his ilk are trying to use to halt the growth of rooftop solar and renewables in general.  My take is that, in a sane world, going off grid doesn’t make sense if the grid is already there. It costs a lot more to have enough solar with storage and back-up to provide an acceptable level of reliability.  In addition, the free, green surplus power produced on sunny days just goes to waste instead of replacing a bit of dirty fossil power.

Up to recently the attitude used to be that we should try as hard as possible to get as many power users as possible on grid.  Advances in solar, wind and storage technology now means that it is often more economical to avoid the costs of connecting some communities to the grid by using solar etc feeding into micro grids that only connect to users within the community.

5 thoughts on “Climate action 01”

  1. Excellent John. Definitely the way to go. The only fly in the ointment is the extraordinary plundering power the finance industry wields – their unstoppable power to impose fake “standards” so as to protect their housing rackets.

  2. Graham: There are a number of barriers that block the adoption of innovative housing solutions. For example, there are the “standards” imposed by councils and developers. All about convincing buyers that the development will be a “prestige” development where property values will be maintained by excluding the scruff.

  3. It’s rather amazing how appliances have improved efficiency over the last 15 years. Our air con bought in 1998 costs around $1.00/hr to run. We could replace it now with one that only costs $0.40/hr, runs much quieter and has stronger heating cycle which is the cycle mostly used.
    COP 4 is common around that size but there are little baby ones with a COP of 6 which means they put out twice as much heat as a fan heater and use one third of the power. Awesome. When I stop all the draughts, add more ceiling insulation and can afford to double glaze, just such a tiny aircon is all we should need.
    Our freezer uses 4.5kWh per day in summer, was bought in 1997 and is one of the biggest on the market. We could replace it now with one the same size which uses less than half that, albeit for around $2000. Now that we are empty nesters, the new one would be somewhat smaller and use around 1.5kWh per day or less.
    As a former Injection Mould toolmaker I find 3d printing fascinating. Making prototypes for the R&D dept was one of my most pleasurable and challenging tasks and 3d printing has probably already taken most of the challenge away but then one could achieve far, far more complexity than one could from traditional machining techniques.
    For large runs and stronger parts though 3d printing will not replace a tool. Good for smaller runs or one-offs, very large parts(buildings) and extreme complexity though.

  4. John, I seem to recall hearing a couple of years ago that the house area per capita in Australia led the world.

    Has the The Equipment Energy Efficiency (E3) program been defunded by the current mob?

  5. Brian: Archtectureau says that:

    Australian houses are the largest in the world and getting bigger, reports Amelia Borg.

    In the last fifteen years, the average newly built Australian house has grown by over twenty-seven square metres (or 10 percent) to 243.6 square metres in mid 2011. However, the actual household size has decreased (from 2.7 to 2.6 people), which implies we need even more houses as people choose to live alone.

    With this growth, Australians continue to demand new detached housing, naturally, at the periphery of most state and territory capitals.

    That works out at 94 m2 per person in 2011! or a square with 9.7 metre sides..
    Too put it in context one of our smaller bedrooms that is big enough to take two single beds has an area of 7.5 m2. 94 m2 is equal to 12.5 of our small bedrooms!!
    7.5 m2 is the size of the

    Diogene Micro Home which measures just 7.5 sq m (81 sq ft), but still contains all the basics.

    The small dwelling sports a living area, with folding desk and chair, a sofa bed and kitchen unit with built-in sink and a refrigerator. There’s a composting toilet on-board for when nature calls, and more storage space than you might expect. Solar panels, rainwater collection, and filtration services have also been added for good measure.


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