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Home > Example Homes > Straw Bale Eco Friendly Eco Haven

Straw Bale Eco Friendly Eco Haven

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Diamond Harbour just seems to sparkle with light when you look over at it from the often grey port of Lyttelton. Although it's just stone’s throw away from the port, it has it's own warmer micro-climate - a major attraction for people who choose to settle there.

One of those people is Holger Kahl, who arrived in New Zealand some 22 years ago from his homeland of Germany. Holger spent time in other parts of New Zealand, mostly Christchurch city, until finally settling in Diamond Harbour seven years ago to build his eco-home.

The beautiful straw bale structure is built on a northern facing slope with wide views of the bay. And the stunning vista has less obvious benefits too: the water acts as a giant mirror reflecting the suns rays back up into the house, thereby maximizing the suns warmth. Holger has cleverly reduced the cold southern facade of the house which is fan-shaped, opening out towards the sun. A thick plantation of trees also protects the south side sheltering it from the cold winter southerlies.

Holger designed the house himself, and employed a draughtsperson and builder to aid with the technical aspects. The straw bale is built around a post and beam construction which makes it as structurally sound as a conventional home, but with all the benefits of straw bale, such as added warmth and insulation. The wooden beams of the house’s frame are exposed adopting the dual purpose of both form and beauty.

The house has its own plumbing system and uses only collected rainwater throughout. Holger uses a generator every few months to pump the rainwater up the hill into a 5000 litre header tank. This then relies only on gravity’s pressure to circulate through the house, which is great news if there is ever a power cut!

The grey and black water goes through an Oasis water purification system, and is then fed into 200 metres of piping under the fruit orchards. This means that all water is used twice on the property, first inside the home and then outside in the garden.

Holger has an extensive vegetable garden which serves 14 to 15 people, when he counts the hungry mouths coming home from uni at the weekends to feed! He also teaches organic gardening courses from his garden, structured as workshops once a month. His aim is to empower people to do their own planning, growing and experimenting rather than being too frightened of making mistakes to try things at home. The course is koha (donation) based, and the group also shares in a pot luck lunch after a long day working in the garden together.

Some guiding words to living sustainably from Holger? Choose to eat locally and seasonally. It’s an interesting exercise and you will occasionally have to learn to live without some things that you are used to having on demand, but it’s an easy way to be a more responsible consumer, and more self-reliant. Wise words from a man who has based his life and livelihood around sustainable living.

Article by Denise Bester

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