The Autonomous House


Everything you wanted to know about saving the planet but were afraid to ask. This book was published in 1975 at an early stage in the ‘green’ movement development. It is interesting to compare its approach with the 2007 beliefs. At a conference in Cambridge, England, shortly after this and similar books were published, one speaker bemoaned the situation asking that, “we find something to scare the shit out of folk, or they wont buy this”. That something three decades on is the Global Warming extremists. This book was an intelligent attempt to review all of the possibilities that might contribute to a reduction of consumption and pollution. The authors concluded that it was not practical to build a fully autonomous house without deliberately reducing consumption to reduce the input of resources and the output of waste. The book contains a great deal of information with many drawings, charts and tables to support the text. The authors have begun with a description of building techniques that might be employed to produce houses that would provide optimum heat containment and use natural resources as far as practical. They then work through all of the services and systems that could be designed with energy and resource conservation in mind. At the time that this book was written a number of test buildings had been constructed in a number of countries to provide data on autonomous living. There is a heavily “home-made” content throughout the work, with suggestions on how to build a sewage system and store methane gas to be used for cooking and heating. The book describes how the systems could be constructed out of junk such as old vehicle and bicycle inner tubes, jam jars, plastic jerry cans and agricultural materials. Where a house could be designed and built using the suggestions and information in this book, using a mixture of new materials and scavenged parts, the material cost would have been relatively low because so much would have to be made by hand. The labour content would have been high.

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