Providing self-sufficient and affordable shelter remains a major challenge for humanity worldwide. Decent and healthy living conditions are still required in many parts of the world especially due to migration to over-populated urban areas, man-made and natural disasters.
Many architects and non-government organizations have attempted to provide local communities in these areas with building skills using local building know-how and introducing low-cost construction methods such as sand bags, mud bricks and bamboo structures.
The ‘Simple Solar Homesteading’ e-book was conceived by the author who lives in rural North America where farms and infrastructures are far and in between.
The e-book provides a hands-on self-help guide for building an autonomous off-grid timber cabin including various sustainable features priced at affordable costs totaling some 4,000 USD. Most chapters provide information about the tools, time and costs required for each stage complemented with various useful energy and cost-saving tips such as use of salvaged building components.
The simple timber-frame cabin includes a living area on the bottom floor and a sleeping area in the loft. Once this has been constructed the various sustainable features can be added on.
These include extensive use of solar energy for generating electricity panels, water heating, a compost toilet and a solar oven. Other systems described include rainwater harvesting, gray-water recycling, and garden composting Additional information is provided on storm protection and drilling water wells, though these may require additional professional and financial aid.
Tricky issues such as finding cheap property on which to build the home and complying with building codes are also mentioned. Perhaps local authorities could provide small plots for an affordable price in return for residents reducing their carbon and eco-footprints?
The e-book includes colored pictures of other self sufficient homesteads for inspiration. In future editions adding metric dimensions would be very useful. The guide shows that going back to basics enables building self-sufficient, affordable and eco-friendly DIY housing which could be applied more widely.
‘ Simple Solar Homesteading ‘ by LaMar Alexander 2007 Sun Power Publishing
E-book available at www.freewebs.com/simplesolarhomesteading
Reviewed by Gil Peled, Jerusalem’s premier green architect. Find out more about Gil and his passion for living a sustainable lifestyle here.