One of the reasons for going off-grid is wanting to iron out some misunderstandings about clean energy. Technology is evolving rapidly. The possibilities to live independently improve every couple of months. But we are addressing the wrong problem.
Davy is the expert of course. But we both search for an independent life. Freedom. I always considered myself an eco-friendly person. I am a vegetarian enjoying public transport, right?! It is not enough. In order to live free & sustainable, you need to be engaged. To look at the big picture (Lifestyle as such). When Davy specialized more and more in sustainable techniques that deal with the root of the problem, we decided to take it to the next level: Practice what you preach. We can do this: to demonstrate that one doesn’t have to lose money, comfort & aesthetics to living a self-sufficient life. The (fossil) industry and astrological budgets maintain a lot of fables around the issue.
The more we read about nature & clean energy, the more we understood that it wasn’t that complicated. Before, ahum, developed times, the world already turned in a sustainable way. We just have to proceed with logic & be thorough. The most complicated part lies within ourselves: to create a different mindset.
Imagine: you have to spend 15.000 euro on either solar panels or on isolation. What do you choose? Most consumers will choose the panels because ‘you can easily win them back’. Sustainability, however, starts with reducing your energy demand, so isolation is the better option. Halve the energy demand and you don’t have to compensate it with solar panels, collectors or heavy heat pumps. We are too much fixated on what we can see or ‘earn’ instead of dealing with the root of the problem.
Most architects suffer the same blindness. They isolate what is laid down by law while problem-solving techniques- hidden behind walls & through the arches, are granted a small budget. Aesthetics prevail over sustainability. But times are changing. Architecture should not only have to deal with aesthetics but equal with the energy demand of the owner (hello, architectural training!). Classic techniques used to take 20 % of the whole project budget but new techniques demand 30 to 35 % of the pie. Logical, but it causes friction.
Also, the City Planning Commission keeps on being fixated on the end product of the chain and refuses to accept that smart cities start with a smart orientation of buildings.
Who wants to build or renovate smart, should opt for partners who integrate material, technique & aesthetics.
Choose never-ending energy
We want to renovate. To create something new from something old with the powers of the elements. The sun is our one and only endless energy source. She delivers for free every morning. Wind is, never-ending but nog efficient when it comes to dealing with the root of the problem: energy demand versus sufficient techniques. Plus, most city counsels reject windmills because – again, it’s not aesthetic. Also, heat pumps which are on everyone’s lips these days are not as sustainable because we still don’t know what would happen if we all start to take energy out of the earth. So, we focus on the sun (not necessarily on photovoltaïc energy!).
Our provisional rental house has no heating, nor isolation, which is a good test case for the time being. On sunny days, I work on the porch in the morning, the rest of the day at my desk on the south side and when the sun sets I lit the stove on the north side. Temperature drops like crazy in the evening here. In our off-grid system, we will isolate, store energy and install air ducts that can reverse the south & north side.
The whole picture
These days everybody is overqualified and when it comes down to a project, partners put forward their own area of expertise. It’s complicated. If you want to be truly innovative, you learn to work together because everything is connected with everything. It’s logical: individuals sustain a society which maintains an ecosystem, which is made of materials, which create energy who can heat or cool a building. Whooph!
We want to install an integral, sustainable system (SiD Elsia), created by the Dutch think tank Except. This system exists of eight areas, with Energy (most fundamental) at the base and Luck (most targeted) on top. These areas are interconnected and you need to evaluate them in harmony with one another according to Space, Context and Time. In times where everybody points fingers when problems occur, or likes to blow their own trumpets, this method would be… Developed, mhihi.
A devoted person can take a lot
I love quality products and I love design. I like to dress up for a fancy restaurant or bar. Choosing an off-grid life doesn’t mean that we exclude ourselves from society. Quite the contrary: we are very much aware of the public debate. And if a lifestyle journalist & a self-made man can demonstrate that a sustainable life doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive, everybody can. I like to repeat it: Change never comes from politicians but from people who engage in the change they want to see in the world. In a world that is or built up, or needs to be cultivated to provide the needs of a hungry and ever-expanding population, we have to dare to make the right choices. Luck instead of Economy and a healthy breeding ground all the more.
Sorry, not sorry for me preaching!