Living in the Environment, Postscript


Author: Alistair Knox

During the year of 1975 the mudbrick building has finally become one of the common building materials of the Eltham district. Private individuals and speculative builders are erecting them in various parts of the Shire, and it an everyday sight, especially for the North Riding, to see building excavations with stacks of mudbricks on them, and structures in all stages of completion. I seem to spend more time answering enquiries about earth building proceedures than doing anything else. Phone calls from all the eastern states of Australia are a daily occurrance, and there is a constant stream of visitors to our office. My planning associate, John Pizzey, qualified in architecture and town planning, with our staff of two, sit in a half-buried hluestone studio-office near the entrance to the property, working more strenuously than we care to admit. We discuss slowing down our activities, but the hunger for information and plans is so strong that we find it very hard.

In earlier years I was pleased with our more 'architectural' buildings, but today I prefer simple, low-cost work because it makes interesting housing possible to a group who otherwise could not have it. In addition they are generally very enthusiastic and optimistic. Good relationships spring up all round and the sense of team work sets in. It is expensive in time and does not return the money that larger buldings do. It does however fulfil the low technology concept very well by producing village life style, barter systems and personal satisfaction at all times.

Two of our best friends, Peter and Marion Huggett, bought part of the orchard next door to our property, and are now finishing one of the simplest and best homes that could be conceived of, at a price of about $11,000 which is extraordinarily cheap. The house commands views of the Yarra Valley and the Dandenongs and glimpses of the Warburton and Healesville Ranges. It also looks back to the high rise buildings of the city -15 miles away as well as enjoying about the best inner landscape in Eltham. Peter changed his job from being a cutter in a clothing firm to that of local postman. Marion is a District Nurse with special duties in under-privileged part'> of Melbourne. Bolh are terrific workers and now that their daughters are married they are free to build the remainder of the house as they wish. My son Hamish and his friend Eddie, built it to the roof stage and then the Huggetts took over. Its size is about 1100 square feet, plus eight foot wide verandahs to the north and south. It has only one bedroom with a bathroom off it, and a scullery and pantry adjacent. The greater part of the cooking will take place on a five foot six inch wide ship's fire-stove, which will he at one end of the living room. A large fireplace is situated at the other end.

Clerestory lighting penetrates the simple pitched roof to let in winter sunlight and make a shape which exactly reflects the line in the surrounding hills. There is no concrete slab. The whole of the floor and the verandahs are being paved with bricks. The earth walls have been rendered with powdered milk mixed into topsoil mud. Two twelve-sided, adzed, second-hand electric light poles support the ridge, and five similar poles form verandahs on either side.

Hugget house in the course of construction Hugget house in the course of construction

They are catching their drinking water from the roof and not putting in a septic tank, so that they will be independent of everyone. A large dam will provide second quality water for vegetable growing and other natural activities. There are also about six acres of orchard that provides an income of some $1000 annually. I hope I shall be able to persuade them to build a barn further down the block to supply natural health foods to the district as a business venture. We will certainly share the maintenance of milking a Jersey cow with them. I can hardly wait to see that rich, creamy milk and homemade butter again.

The continual flow of people searching for ways out of the corporate state is reaching remarkable proportions. To show them the Huggetts' house is to tum them full on. The only real trouble is the finding of suitable land at a reasonable price, and this will soon have the effect of sending them into country areas.

There is another small building of note on our property. It is an attic bedroom that my second son, Macgregor, built for himself when he was fifteen. It is composed of large posts, wattle and daub infills, and attached to the room he was living in. The cost of the house in materials purchased, apart from the glass and the electrical connections, was $7 for some rusty iron'. The odd timber and bricks were purchased from odd materials we had lying around the property. In fact the further we have gone the better the results, provided you do it yourself, either by direct work or the exchange of talents with other members within the community.

Macgregor's house built at a cost of $7 Macgregor's house built at a cost of $7

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