Here is our principal, April, on the right receiving The Pat Mowbray Award from FutureWorld on behalf of Permaculture Visions. Pat Mowbray worked tirelessly for local eco-innovations. She was an inspiration.
Permaculture Visions is an award winning business. It has won several awards from local government and FutureWorld eco-technology centre. Our Teaching Project is student-centred, comprehensive, accredited, respected and experienced (since 1993). We have participants worldwide (now serving 55 Countries). We only teach courses in Permaculture. Our main office is part of our demonstration site in Mt Kembla NSW Australia. Our target market is working people who can’t afford time off to do a face-to-face course or live in a remote locations or are working in the field as aid workers. They have a passion and vision to build a better future for everyone. Our students enjoy working on their own and at their own pace. As you can see, our course is a very
specialist course and we are proud of our good reputation. We support overseas projects and local people who cannot afford a course by offering them work-learn exchange programs.
All our training is one-to-one, personal and as low-stress as we can deliver. We believe that we can’t teach peace with nature and with one another unless the learning environment is also peaceful and low-stress. It matters less to us that people finish the course in a strict time frame and more that they question what they do daily and follow their quest to answer the world-wide problems.
We have a home-based office. This cuts transportation costs and time. Our workers don’t need a car and can use the bus or electric bike. The main disadvantage of the home office can be social isolation. This is overcome for us by having a pool of regular workers who live nearby and spending time outdoors where neighbours will stop and chat. The scarecrow is not our imaginary friend. We live in a busy village with lots of people around us.
Some Environmentally Sound Features of Our Office
- Solar power. A solar panel charges an old car battery which can then charge the LED lighting and laptop.
- Natural air-conditioning it is cool in summer, because it was designed with a slab that is earth coupled and doors for maximum air flow.
- Wood-fired heating in winter. We grow and harvest all the wood we need.
- Solar passive design for heating, cooling and natural light. Lighting is low voltage. This is easier when most work is done during the day and by computers. No artificial lighting is needed even in winter.
- We are a Paperless office. Very little work is printed out or filed. We consume less than 3 reams of paper per year. This helps reduce mess too. All sheets are reused on reverse side and when obsolete are used either in the garden as sheet mulch or in the fire as starter material.
- Recycled and Re-used furniture. The main office desk was made by hand from from recycled wood, other items are recycled. E.g. the kitchenette was formerly a catholic church communion table. The bookcases and cupboards are re-used. The library is shared with students and fellow permaculture designers.
- Low embodied energy.The floor is pretty special: it is an earth coupled slab (meaning it is a raft construction filled with soil and stays the temperature of the soil). It was made with 90% recycled aggregate (waste from the steel works). The concrete was supplied by Boral and the product is marketed as ‘green’ concrete. The floor also had recycled glass pieces floated on top and was polished back. It required no further covering but we do wear slippers in winter. It holds the temperature at about 18 deg C.
- Recycled and Re-used building materials. The windows, doors and architraves are fully recycled and were restored by us.
- Low Toxic: Walls were constructed of L.O.S.P. frames, colour-bond externally, large old pieces of recycled hardwood, insulated with glareshield and wool batts (which gives additional insulation and draft proofing around openings) and lined internally with pine (a sustainable resource). Overhead rafters were constructed by hand from sustainably farmed local eucalyptus. Plumbing is H.D.P.E.
- Office cleaning is minimised by: not walking work boots into the office (especially because our site is often muddy).
- The chemicals used to clean the office are: biodegradable rags, water, vinegar, biocarbonate of soda and surface spray we make containing 95% water, eucalyptus and lavender oils, a drop of biodegradable detergent and wood-based methylated spirits. Pests such as spiders and cockroaches are vacuumed up and released outdoors or killed with methylated spirits if they are poisonous and persistent.
- Wool Insulation in the walls helps maintain internal temperature and reduce noise.
- Fire resistance (preserving the building for future generations). By use of metal cladding, metal fly-screens (made by hand) and design.
- Durable construction (mostly hand built), use of screws instead of nails where possible to enable re-use of materials if necessary.
- Low toxic pest control: LOSP frames, mesh not chemical termite protection, natural oils for painting, no plastic except in the waterproofing membranes, ample ventilation to provide fresh air. Avoidance of PVC where possible.
- Conserving existing features. It was built to blending with the old section of the house so that very little had to be re-clad or demolished.
- Preservation for conservation: use of natural oils to preserve timber.
- Water harvesting by filtering gutters.
Future directions for our office and ways for us to improve our office:
- Campaign for a bike path for our village. The path would enable all village residents to ride. Our road is very dangerous: it is narrow and has trucks on it daily.
- A small cool wind current runs under the house now which can be harvested for additional summer cooling and refrigeration.
- We could share the office space for other local projects on a time-share basis and this would reduce our impact further. Seeing running costs are very low, there would be very little risk involved.