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Golden Yak Award

At home, community, energy, nature, waste

By Kim McConchie, Totally Renewable Yackandandah (TRY) Committee member

Chris Horton & Karen Dods were awarded a Golden Yak by TRY (Totally Renewable Yackandandah) during the Earth Hour festival event, for their commitment to sustainability and renewable energy.

You’d think a tornado taking out 300 trees might be a bit of a setback, but for Chris Horton and Karen Dods, it was opportunity knocks! Designing and building a sustainable house near Yackandandah, these trees became their doors, window frames and features in the house, and fire wood. It’s another example of smart thinking for their north facing house, which combines elements of Chris’ ideas about “living lightly on the planet”, and Karen’s aesthetic and environmental interests.

Located on the Yackandandah Earthquake Fault Line, the block rising sharply to the Stanley Forest, they now enjoy views across the Yackandandah Valley and past Big Ben to Mt. Bogong. The thoughtful design captures a downhill airflow for passive seasonal heating and cooling, and a wood fired boiler in the living area powers an underfloor hydronic setup plus providing radiant heat. Building materials were chosen to have a high thermal mass, while also considering the embedded energy – hand-made Timbercrete bricks give a balance of the two requirements. Also smart are high efficiency evacuated tubes for solar hot water generation, a clothes drying room around the hot water cylinder and applying a thermally reflective paint to the low profile curved roof. A 5R+ rating isn’t to be scoffed at either!

It’s all off-grid, solar panels and a lead acid battery setup on an adjacent barn providing the power to the house – a reflection both of their values, and costing less that the grid connection cost.

Waste must go somewhere, too – and that’s where the worm farm plays an important part, dealing with the grey waste, organic waste, and of course the poo too. With gravity moving the food to them, Tiger worms have a great capacity to turn the yuck to something useful, and are another key to the sustainable achievement.

Chris and Karen have a broad vision of what a sustainable approach to living means, and their environmental activities are indeed complementary – they have a covenant on 40% of their land under the Victorian ‘Trust for Nature’ program, and are carrying out tree planting as part of the North-East Catchment Management Authority Eco-Connections Initiative – to date, around 3,000 locally sourced native trees have been planted. By hand. That’s sustaining!