Stories

How to Build an Ecological House – The Dream of Personal Freedom

The next days and weeks we have planned exclusive 4-course gourmet dinners and big vegan brunch events in Zurich, Bern and St. Gallen. As always, everything is plant based, organic and wholesome. In addition, we will have a dessert cooking show at this year’s Veganmania in Gossau (St. Gallen, Switzerland). We are looking forward to this exciting time and to seeing you until then we would like to share with you, our journey to building our own ecological house.

The dream of absolute personal freedom. Like the birds, living day by day, flying freely and getting everything you need to live from the world. Nutrition, companions and the joys of life. Despite their comparatively simple way of life, the birds lack nothing. They are independent of social pressure and the system, free from the rat race.

If the birds can do it, why can’t we? If you share the dream of personal freedom with me, this article is for you.

Here you will find the steps and components for the construction of an ecological house and how we plan to implement this in our life.

Lisa and I are planning to build an ecological house in Angola, in the tropical province of Uíge, where we provide our family, our friends, as well as our supporters, with a temporary, system-independent self-sufficient retreat home.

In recent years, we have visited various courses and inspiration sources for the construction of an ecological house. These included working on the construction of an earth ship, an ecological house with recycled materials, in Seattle (Washington, USA) visiting the property of a natural woman near Coimbra (Portugal), visiting food-forests, cultivated wild forests / gardens with freely consumable plant foods, visiting green conferences on alternative ways of life and much more.

To break the complex theme down, the article is divided into the parts of principles, food, energy, comfort and next steps

Principles

The construction of the ecological house and the surrounding country for self-sufficiency follows the sustainable permaculture principles. In short, permaculture is about closing cycles and creating paradises. This includes the observation and integration of the existing ecosystem, working with self-regulating systems of nature, the use of renewable energies and the elimination of waste by closing the cycles.

In our case, this means we need to listen before we start to work and learn from the ancient knowledge of the people living in this province how the original interaction with the soil was and from which materials they built their houses. We also want to learn from the soil on which we build and recognize, which materials we have available and which existing natural resources and weather conditions we can integrate into our system.

Food

Having food in abundance is part of a paradise. A basis for this is running water. The central question is, therefore, where and how the water flows, how we can use rainwater for our means and how we can store and distribute water in our system during dry times for our own needs as well as for the plants and animals living on our field. Several water containers are required in order to have enough water for extended dry times.

The food for the inhabitants of the eco house is to come mainly from the nearby food forest. The food forest is like a self-cultivated forest full of edible plants. These include fruit trees and bushes for berries, bananas, and pomegranates, various vegetable varieties such as cabbage, manioc, and beans, as well as herbs, nuts and seeds. It is designed in such a way that someone does not have to be present all year round to manage the garden, but that the plants grow as if in a forest by themselves and are edible for humans. In addition to the food forest, there are also mixed vegetable beds near the house.

Animal fertilizer is very effective for the cultivation of plants, which is why there is a habitat for wild animals on the nearby land, the excreting products are used as fertilizers for the plants. There will also be fishponds. The presence of fish in ponds produces nutritious water for the plants.


What will also be important for the food sector is a mushroom farm. At the beginning of this year, we learned at a workshop in Portugal how to grow mushrooms ourselves. Fresh mushrooms have an incredible nutritional profile and grow in excess when cultivated on a tree trunk or in a mushroom box (as in the picture above). For the mushrooms, as well as generally for the harvested food, a cool dark storage space will be necessary to keep the food fresh and tasty for a long time.

In order to be independent of bottled water as drinking water, a sewage system is integrated into the house.

Energy

In our society in our daily lives, we need electricity every day for almost everything. We want to be independent of the electricity system of private and public corporations in our eco-house and in this respect, we could also live on our own resources. In Central Europe, more than half of the energy is used for heating and for warm water. The heating in Angola will be obsolete and replaced by the construction of a natural ventilation system to cool the house.

In addition to hot water, we need energy for water pumps to distribute water on the land and in the house, for lamps for night lighting, for an energy-efficient washing machine, for charging mobile phones and laptops and for cooking.

Wall made out of recycled material.

Most of the electricity is likely to come from solar panels that charge a central battery with electricity all day. When the weather is good, water is warmed by the sun in dark pipes. In windy days, wind turbines provide additional electricity and on rainy days, additional electricity is generated by water turbines. Firewood and coal are used for cooking, which we receive from our own farm. On days when the sun does not shine, wood and coal are also used to heat a hot water boiler for the shower.

This off-grid energy system will probably not provide us the same performance as we are accustomed to in our Swiss household, for example, cooking with an electric cooker and using a water cooker. However, we do not want to miss the essential devices that simplify our lives and work, thanks to independent renewable energies.

Comfort

Despite a secluded life in nature, we do not want to forgo a minimum of comfort for the quality of life. This includes a comfortable odorless seat toilet for us. This is possible through a worm compost system that we have met in Wendy’s eco-house in Portugal. The excrements land in a worm compost, which is located outside the toilet on the field. This container is airtight and filled with worms, which convert the contents into fertilizer. This fertilizer benefits the vegetable fields. The warm water described in the section Energy is also a typical comfort factor and would be used in a shower with a bathtub.

Central to our concept is that the inhabitants of the eco house can live from the built system without investing a lot of work in the preservation. Leisure is therefore also a great comfort factor. There should be enough room to accommodate several people. Inventory instruments for creative expression and a fireplace for cozy evenings may also be part of it. In order to meet the standard of the good ingredients of the fields surrounding the house, a well-equipped kitchen with manual kitchen appliances is to be integrated.

Contact with the outside world and with the Internet can be established by the available mobile network.

Next Steps

The book “Inspiring Stories from Ecovillages: Experiences with Ecological Technologies and Practices”, which has many illustrated examples of ecological houses and residences available for free at www.balticecovillages.eu , gives us the steps that we can take at a one-day workshop on the planning of our own eco-house by means of the “Sketch and Match” method.

  1. The co-users of the eco-house and technical experts gather and list their visions, wishes, skills and resources.
  2. As a result of the discussions in point 1, the strengths of the eco house project are brought together.
  3. All the places and objects listed are listed on a map.
  4. The feasibility of the combined points is examined and the terrain is visited to estimate the localities of the planning.
  5. After the visit to the terrain, the options to be converted are listed.
  6. The findings collected from the steps are summarized and documented with photos and sketches. The concept will be made available to all participants to complete and further develop.

Do you also dream of living independently and one with nature?

We are looking forward to working on our dream and will be happy to share our journey on our social media channels and our blog. 🙂

Cheers
Prosper

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  • 2 Comments

  • Reply Carmen 10. May, 2017 at 10:00

    Guys the Eco-House is such a cool idea!!! This article is very inspirational! Thanks for sharing this great project with everyone! 🙂

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