Commentary: The view from my e-bike

By Mike Hulme, Ecovillage Co-founder and Director of Sustainable Settlements

Over the past couple of months, many of you will have seen me riding my bike around the Ecovillage, chatting to residents and contractors. I have to say, for the first time in 13 years of incredibly hard work, Michelle and I are starting to feel both very proud and relieved that all the stress associated with getting to this point has been worthwhile.

We’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude from many people who are thrilled with the experience of living within the Ecovillage already and the most regular comment I hear is that they can’t believe how helpful and supportive their new community is. A productive, sustainable, highly functional and interdependent community is already evolving.

We’re also thrilled with the look and feel of the village. Seeing all of the homes being built out of natural materials, timber, hemp, strawbale and earthy renders is just so pleasing to the eye. Not to mention the amazing community gardens that many residents started creating before their homes were completed, or in some cases before they even started building! I particularly have to acknowledge Britta and Michael Sorensen’s garden from which they’ve already been providing surplus veggies to new residents.

I also want to give a huge shout-out to all the hard-working contractors on site, particularly Wormall, Integrated Electrical, LD Total and all of the builders and subbies who have been hit with extraordinarily challenging conditions with supply constraints, inflation and Covid. Also, thanks to our team at Sustainable Settlements and our consulting engineers at Stantec and Cossill & Webley, who all work tirelessly behind the scenes to design, enable and manage all of the works within the Ecovillage. Thank you all so much for your hard work, commitment and persistence. You are enabling all of us to be able to create our wonderful community.  

Our home in the Ecovillage

In more personal news, Michelle and I have almost signed off on a contract to build our home in Cluster 2B. This is exciting for us both as we’ve renovated many homes over the years, but we’ve never built from scratch, and of course we’ve always dreamed about building a truly sustainable, solar passive and healthy home. We designed the home ourselves over many years and then worked with John Damant from Arcologic to bring our vision into the reality of working drawings and 3D modelling. It was so helpful to “see” the home in 3D in order to make all the final decisions. I pegged it out on site last weekend and this caused another couple of adjustments (after all of these years we want to get it right). Thank you Jordan Pol (from our office) for making these further amendments to our drawings and our engineer Lee Sidwell from Structwell for amending your structural drawings for us, again.

We designed our home in both hemp and reverse brick veneer (RBV) to assess the pros and cons and compare the cost differences of both options. After much discussion, we have decided to build with external hempcrete walls, and internal brick walls (for thermal mass and reduced width). Both external wall options had their pros and cons, but remarkably they were very similar in price to construct. We specified Accoya weatherboards on the RBV home, which are highly sustainable and long lasting, but expensive. In the end our decision to run with hempcrete was due to how much we love the feel of the many new hemp homes that are being built within the Ecovillage. I think the Ecovillage may end up being home to the most hemp homes in the southern hemisphere. Hemp breaths, it’s anti-fungal, gets stronger with age (apparently it will last for millennia), and it won’t need any maintenance. The internal walls will be plastered with a natural lime-based plaster that has a white, glassy, smooth finish, which will never need to be painted, and we’re exploring the beautiful natural oxide colours for the external walls.

We’re also excited about purchasing two of the Ecovillage Agricultural lots. One of these is for Michelle’s herd of Saanen and Anglo Nubian milking goats, which we’ve been building up for many years. We can’t wait to build them a well-thought-out milking shed and strip grazing fodder belts, as they love lots of roughage and diverse pasture. The other Ag lot will be a food forest as I’ve been collecting varieties of mulberries, figs and avocados for years. I’m super keen to expand this to include stone fruit, berries, etc, not to mention all of our ducks, geese and chickens! We’re also thrilled with the amount of future Ecovillage residents who are looking to buy an Ag lot for their own small business ideas, including truffles, blueberries, apples, veggies and more.

So, after all of these years, it really feels like it’s coming together. People often ask us: “what’s next, are we going to build another Ecovillage?” to which our quick reply is: “definitely not!” We’re hoping to finish Stages 4 and 5 sales at around the same time as our builder finishes our home. After that, our desire is to move in and live the dream: a simple life with our amazing community of diverse but like-minded people, along with all of the plants, animals, conservation areas and incredible infrastructure we’ve been able to build into the Ecovillage. Bring it on! 