Factor 4 and other stuff...

What is Factor 4 about? In a nut shell it's about doing more with less - reducing resource depletion without reducing the quality of life. If you do twice as much with half the resources you've achieved a factor 4 improvement. This book starts with fifty examples of factor 4 or better improvements which are achievable now and often at negative cost!. The book shows how laws and attitudes have to change to reward efficiency not penalize it as often the case at present. What can I say - get a copy and read it if you haven't already - also check out the Rocky Mountain Institute where much of this research is taking place.


'The greatest ecological challenge we face is the human mind-the values and beliefs that shape our perceptions and actions. There is a widespread recognition that climate change represents a major challenge, but many feel unable to do anything on a scale that will make a difference. . . Each of us in our work and lifestyle affects the globe in a tiny way. . . This book is a priceless guide to the ways we can maintain a high quality of life while saving energy, money and the biosphere.' DAVID SUZUKI

`Factor Four's case is compelling. It gives us not one, not two, but dozens of real-world projects that are saving money and reducing pollution simultaneously. For those who might suggest that addressing the Greenhouse Effect is too daunting a task, Factor Four is an essential read. It will transform the naysayer into the enthusiast and catapult each of us into action that will improve our work, our home, and our quality of life.' CATHY ZOI, SUSTAINABLE ENERGY DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY

`This book should make you spit with rage-at the mainstream engineers, scientists, economists and politicians who still stand between us and achievement of a genuinely sustainable future for all the Earth's people. As Factor Four so cogently demonstrates, most of the technological solutions to our problems are there for the taking right now. If only. . .' JONATHON PORRITT, FORUM FOR THE FUTURE

`Factor Four is choc-a-bloc with practical examples of technologies that can use the world's resources more efficiently. Its wealth of detail from around the world makes it essential reading for anybody who wants to understand the ways technology can be put to the service of the environment.' FRANCES CAIRNCROSS, THE ECONOMIST

Ok, the other stuff...

More books...

Co-housing - Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett - HABIT/TEN SPEED PRESS 0-89815-306-9
When I mention co-housing to people for the first time they usually assume it's about many people living in one building - it isn't. It's about having homes which are intentionally placed to provide a sense of community and filling those homes with people who co-operate to make such a place a good place to live. While I have no way of knowing what the efficiency gains are in such a place, there is definitely a potential to save not only energy and other resources but also to save human energy. Also see co-housing.

F 0 R E W0 R D 

Housing, private and public, across the developed and developing world is everywhere pretty much the same, and pretty terrible. It seems set up to crowd together unrelated and hermetic nuclear families whose only link with each other is that they have been brought together by some mindless central casting to play bit parts in an incomprehensible urban drama. As much attention is devoted to ensuring privacy as money will allow, with no attention to providing for community, ever. The format is particularly inappropriate since the family unit apparently served-father who works, mother who takes care of the children (1.6 or 2.2 or however many the country supposedly averages) -seldom exists either among the extended families found in some parts of the world or in the variety of living arrangements found in the United States. Into all these unsuitable arrangements this book comes like a breath of fresh air. The authors look insightfully at places (it turns out there are some) where people have chosen to provide for community as well as privacy, where adults and children value each other, and remain interested in concerns beyond themselves. The authors have looked carefully at the physical arrangements of community housing and those settings that support new ways of living. Cohousing rings true-it is interesting, well balanced, and without hype. In short, this is a reasonable and even frequently fascinating account of a topic presently of small dimensions, but of enormous importance for the future of housing, and of us all.

Charles W. Moore, Architect

A Pattern language - Christopher Alexander.
When "A Pattern language" was first recommended to me - I thought that "patterns" meant shapes. Once again I was wrong. While some of the patterns is this book are related to shapes many are not. A pattern can be something like having different types of chairs (pattern 251). Here is a complete list of patterns (thanks to Dave Keenan). This book is a must for anyone designing places to live in, from regions of millions of people down to a room. It's a thick book and trying to read it from cover to cover could be a mistake. They certainly describe some places I'd like to live in and that's saying something.

You can use this book to design a house for yourself with your family; you can use it to work with your neighbours to improve your town and neighbourhood; you can use it to design an office, or a workshop, or a public building. And you can use it to guide you in the actual process of construction.
After a ten year silence, Christopher Alexander and his colleagues at the centre for Environmental Structure are now publishing a major statement in the form of three books which will, in their words, "lay the basis for an entirely new approach to architecture, building and planning, which will we hope replace existing ideas and practices entirely." The three books, The Timeless Way of Building, The Oregon Experiment, and this book, A pattern Language, are described on the back cover.
At the core of these books is the idea that people should design for themselves their own houses, streets, and communities. This idea may seem radical (it implies a radical transformation of the architectural profession) but it comes simply from the observation that most of the wonderful places of the world were not made by architects but by the people.
At the core of the books too is the point that in designing their environments people always rely on certain "languages," which like the languages we speak, allow them to articulate and communicate an infinite variety of designs within a formal system which gives them coherence.

Introduction to Permaculture - Bill Mollison with Reny Mia Slay - Tagari publications.
Again this book was not quite what I expected. It was largely about energy savings but the energy is human energy. By working with the land and climate, and by using some "common sense" a huge amount the work can be save - a resources as well. I was impressed to find a chapter on how cold air flows down hill slopes - something you don't normally read about but vitally important in minimizing heating costs.

Permaculture is about designing human settlements. It is a philosophy and an approach to land use which weaves together microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, soils, water management, and human needs into intricately connected, productive communities.
Topics in this book include :-
Energy-efficient site analysis, planning & design methods.
House placement & design for temperate, dryland and tropical regions.
Urban permaculture: garden layouts, land access and comunnity funding systems.
Using fences, trellis, greenhouse & shadehouse to dest effect.
Chicken & pig forage systems; tree crops & pasture intergration for stock.
Ochards & home woodlots for temperate, arid and tropical climates.
Permaculture gardens: energy-saving designs & techniques.
How to influence microclimate around the house and garden.
Large section on selected plant species lists, with climatic tolerances, heights & uses.

Also see my fictional work which also addresses some of these topics.

In house stuff.
and Out house stuff.

Solar refrigeration...

For decades I've wondered how gas/kero fridges worked. How do you make something cold by lighting a fire under it? And why not do this with solar heat. A search of the web didn't give me the answers. Together with my friend Dave Keenan, (who did all of the library searching) I got some of the answers. We're now doing some basic research to make a simple demonstrator and maybe something larger. I'm sure the multi-national fridge companies would quake in their boots if they knew we where doing experiments in soft drink bottles in my kitchen once a week!!! Today the kitchen tomorrow..... Well actually we haven't had much in the way of cooling. This is because my kitchen didn't come with an adequate vacuum pump. Last week we cooked up a mercury manometer to check it's inadequacy (see photo - which is of me fusing the glass tube shut).
Anyhow I'm putting together a lay persons (that's us) guide to absorption and adsorption cooling.
12-nov-97, We improvised a methanol trap to protect my pump and we got some cooling happening, not a lot but something. This is using the methanol/activated charcoal adsorption cycle. We haven't done a generation cycle yet. Other commitments by both Dave and I will mean we won't be doing any more on this for some time - if ever. While the concept seems simple we've had to tackle lots of little problems along to way, a well equiped lab would make a big difference.

Links :-

Construction Methods,
Straw Bale Construction
Natural Insulation/straw clay

Sustainable technology
Welcome to Rocky Mountain Institute
Sustain-L and EcoBalance mailing lists
Institute for Planetary Renewal
Centre for Photovoltaic Devices and Systems

DPI Home Page
Net Energy
The Water Treatment FAQ
Centre for Alternative Technology: Index Page
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