VISITING Stirling’s first straw-bale house, I could easily forget the icy winds that chased me up the coast from Fremantle.
Inside Christian and Deepti Wetjen’s striking home in Doubleview it’s snug and warm, yet there’s no heater humming away in the background. In fact, it’s like this pretty much all year round.
“We don’t have heating or cooling, just that one fan near the kitchen, and sometimes we even forget we have that,” Mr Wetjen says.
“There’s just those two weeks in summer, really, when there’s no breeze.”
The use of passive solar design, innovative materials and sustainability features mean the couple have virtually wiped out utility bills.
“We get payment from the solar rebate, which offsets the water charges,and there’s just $18 for a bottle of gas that lasts about two months.”
The Wetjens will be opening up Wision House, as they call their home, for tours as part of this year’s Sustainable House Day on Sunday, September 16, from 10am to 4pm.
The three-storey building is actually two homes in one, as they rent out the bottom floor; currently to a single mum, but previously they’ve had their parents, a best mate and an aunt as tenants.
Mr Wetjen says it’s great to feel part of a mini-community, particularly when they can help out each other with tasks such as childminding, while having help keeping on top of the mortgage is the icing on the cake.
Some of the key sustainability features include the thick straw-bale walls which keep the temperature even and help keep noise out; the obligatory solar panels, an underground rainwater tank that fills the toilet apart from a couple of months in late summer, a grey-water recycling system to irrigates the garden, a tank for drinking water, and funky German-built windows that seal beautifully to keep out drafts but also open vertically or horizontally to make the most of cooling breezes in summer.
There’s a whole bunch of houses open this year; to find the closest and most interesting near you, head to http://www.sustainablehouseday.com
by STEVE GRANT