In this issue
Community Resilience vs Fire, Flood, Disease
Like you, the ecovillage community is very aware of the need for containment of the coronavirus, and discussions on how we can support community resilience during this uncertain time have been active and dynamic. But the situation is evolving quickly and we are all more or less in the dark about how things will develop. The village has formed a working group dedicated to exploring how we can manage the virus and also support each other, but in the meantime, for the safety of all, we have decided to cancel onsite public events until further notice.
Best wishes to all for staying healthy over the next while. Keep your hands clean and take care of others.
-The Narara Ecovillage Community
Let’s all wash our hands! (enough said)
Click the images to check out these cool videos
Downpours & community resilience – now with added apps!
Even though only a few people are living in or near Narara Ecovillage, there are more than enough to create a community. During the recent storms, the wind and water were wild, and the power was cut off to the area for a day. So village members Rob & Steph invited everyone within app-range for gas-powered barista coffee! A number of us arrived wet and bedraggled on their doorstep. I love this Community!
When some of the village members couldn’t leave due to local roads being blocked, or couldn’t return after picking up children, others were able to help with offers of shelter or a 4WD transport for the stranded.
One village member commented that events like this really bring home the reason why most of us have chosen to be part of this community and build up true resilience by supporting each other.
Communications via WhatsApp were running hot during the flood, with information flowing, requests and offers of help and get-togethers to help keep adults and children sane. Some examples:
- DC: Worried about the chooks. (GS: Photo taken and response ‘chook cage is well above for now’)
- JJ: I still have power at home. All welcome to come and use it. About chooks, they could all be moved if needed.
- SW: thinking of having a sock puppet-making workshop at my place for the children.
- TH: Anyone want to pop up to our place to play a game of pool, do a jigsaw puzzle or play games, let us know.
- CD You guys my house is flooding on back wall and big stone near sewage pipes could damage it. Need help before change of wind to north (Immediate responses from 8 neighbours, who came over to help)
- RO: I am about to grill a quantity of chicken which I would love to swap for some green stuff. Any takers around 6ish?(meal enjoyed by 6 with salad, spuds, carrots and red wine).
- MW: If anyone is with Jazz, can they let her know her phone is on her car seat.
Flood & heat: extreme weather resilience for ecohomes- Lessons from Narara Ecovillage
-Tanya Brockmeier & several others
A group of owners of new-built homes at Narara Ecovillage recently swapped notes on how their houses have held up so far in 2020: heat, humidity & flood. We enjoyed an afternoon of laughs and sharing about how our homes fared in the recent glaring high heat of summer, which was followed by wild wet storms, flooding and power outages.
Here are some of the useful points that emerged:
- It’s most important to keep summer heat out in this region of Australia. This means designing for a quick release of heat- set your NatHERS rating for Brisbane (subtropical) rather than Sydney (temperate weather zone), as that is where the climate is heading.
- Have eaves angled to cast shade on walls, doors and windows during summer (but not winter), resulting in less heat coming inside.
- Concrete slab floors (‘thermal mass’) were consistently cool during the high dry heat days, as long as the sun is kept off them.
- But with this caveat: even in the shade, thermal mass can warm up considerably over many consecutive hot days & nights, so take care NOT to open windows and let in hot breezes that further heat up the home.
- Windows placed high are useful for venting heat from inside the house. These can be used at night if it’s cooler outside than inside.
- Most home-owners still experienced heating through north-facing double glazed windows during multiple high heat days. Triple-glazed windows were found to be valuable in these conditions. (Single glazed windows are not recommended, but if you have no choice, stick-on window films can be effective.) <more>
- Heavy-weight, good quality block-out curtains used during the day can also prevent the concrete slab heating up. Even better: block-out curtains that sit inside window frames.
- Other effective cooling systems include air exchange units, such as the HVAC Air Exchange System, or earth cooling systems, such as Earthships’ Venturi Tubes system (which brings fresh cooled air from underground tubes into rooms, remembering it’s 17°C 1 metre underground).
- Berming (burying one side of the house into earth) like the Earthships’ west wall was also effective, but installing excellent quality water protection is strongly recommended.
- Insulation batts were also commended.
- A Green Wall is useful for cooling the west side (keep 1 metre away from house for mould prevention). Kiwi fruit (female & male vines) was one suggestion, as its big leaves drop in Autumn & Winter.
Strawbale & hemp homes’ performance in the heat:
- 2 storey home, with full strawbale earth rendered interior & exterior walls with concrete floor downstairs, and strawbale panels, rendered exterior walls with timber floors upstairs: In dry heat, internal temperature was still comfortable, but in the humidity with no cool air at night, the 2nd storey was uncomfortably hot.
- Granny flat, with strawbale panels, rendered exterior walls with concrete floor on earth: Temperature on single high heat days was comfortable; yet when multiple high heat days with nights not under 25°C, it felt “hot & stuffy”.
- 1 storey home with strawbale panels, earth rendered interior & exterior walls and concrete floor: Internal temperature in Winter is comfortable.
- Granny flat, with strawbale panels, rendered exterior walls and suspended timber floor: became too hot & stuffy around 4pm on the high heat days.
- 1 storey home, with hempcrete walls, concrete slab floor, and windows placed high that enable ventilation of high heat: internal temperature felt moderate all the time.
- Having solar panels connected to a home battery system was very useful when the power cut off during the floods. (Flicked over to battery during blackout, whilst being able to feed the grid, & increasing green energy in the national system, at other times.)
- Fully charged camping power packs will run household basics for 3 – 4 days, and the initial cost of $600 is much cheaper than an off-grid inverter & battery.
- Ensure wires from solar panels to inverter are long enough.
Some random observations
- Have flyscreens installed internally so you can clean them.
- Penetrating oil finish on a polished concrete floor: floor is still absorbing oils after 2 months, so kitchen cooking oils are now staining the floor.
- Choose a builder that you can contact and who will revise.
Humidity, Rain & Mould
- Air conditioning (run on solar panels) is very useful as a dehumidifier (thus mould preventer) in humid weather.
- Ceiling fans were appreciated on hot days, both dry and humid, for keeping the “feel-temperature” comfortable, especially in upstairs bedrooms.
- A well-ventilated sunny upstairs bathroom fared well in regards to mould prevention.
- A shower with no door in an open-style bathroom receiving plenty of air also fared well in regards to mould prevention.
- Upvc sliding windows did not drain well during rain storms, so research into enlarged drain holes is underway.
- Carports received a lot of rain from all sides during storms, so home-owners are investigating cost-effective environmentally-friendly materials to construct sides to better protect stored contents
- Some timber-framed windows swelled in rain storms and became sticky to open- ensure they are protected, for instance with storm windows
- Ensure rendered exterior walls are sealed properly to safeguard against interior leaking.
- A timber-framed flyscreen facing west separated from the wall during rain storms, so insects are not being kept out. Further investigation into a solution is occurring.
- Louvre windows with no eaves leak during rain storms, so make sure they have decent overhang.
Other wet things
- Over-engineer your sub-flooring, as one house’s footings have subsided.
- Ensure tradie seals wall outlets well for outside appliances (eg. air con units, heat pump) cabling through wall.
- One exterior earth-rendered wall has been hail pocked.
- Landscaping for wind break to house is especially useful during wild wet storms.
- Swales on land contours worked well during rain storms.
- If you are interested in learning more about these and other elements of resilient building design, contact
Find more info about some houses at the village (posted in 2019)
This year, Sustainable House Day 2020 is on Sunday, Sept 20, and once again Narara Ecovillage will have several open houses. More info will be forthcoming in future Network News editions.
- Meanwhile, why not put the date in your calendar!
Designing for fire: the house that didn’t burn
-from a reader
Paul Whitington and Kerri-Lee Harris’s house after January’s fires tore through the surrounding forest at Wonboyn, NSW. The house is unscathed apart from the melted plastic downpipes.
This article by Paul Whitington, published in Southern Forest Life on January 27 this year, is strongly recommended by a reader. The article begins:
“Building a house in a natural environment such as the forest in which we live involves many decisions. Following the wildfire that swept through our forest on 5th January 2020, I’d like to share some of the key choices we made about our house construction.
Our house was exposed to an intense fire. The forest bears witness to this. Everything green is gone. The entire shrub layer has been destroyed along with many trees. The fire burnt right up the trunks of most of the trees still standing, leaving only brown leaves in their crowns. Despite the ferocity of the fire, our house survived without any intervention. We were not here to defend it, having evacuated to Canberra two days before the fire impacted. There was no aerial water bombing and RFS brigade members were busy defending their own homes and the village. The building had to survive on its own merits.
The sight of the virtually unscathed house after the fire has astonished most people. We were greatly relieved but not surprised. The house was designed to withstand such a catastrophic event.
I am sharing my reflections on how and why our house survived to help others make appropriate design decisions when building or rebuilding in a bushfire-prone area. The events of the current Summer show that this includes most of the coastal areas of the Australian continent.”
The article continues with detailed descriptions as well as photos and drawings of key bushfire resistant features, including the overall shape, construction and materials used. Highly recommended: read the full article here
Ecovillages and resilience in fire
Resilience in fire – How Ecovillage principles can help fire impacted towns become regenerative resilient communities – Ecovillage examples in Australia
Introduction: About GEN
The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) catalyses communities for a regenerative world. One of its goals is to serve as an incubator and platform for international projects and initiatives that accelerate the shift to sustainable lifestyles and more resilient societies. The recent devastating bushfires in Australia could be an opportunity for rebuilding communities to design for resilience and regeneration in both a changing climate and world.
GEN’s contribution to designing resilient communities is in its research and application of the principles of sustainability. See more information about GEN here
Examples of current eco-community resilience in the recent Bushfires
Narara Ecovillage is situated on the Central Coast, NSW. It is a unique property surrounded by bushland and rainforest an hour and a half from Sydney. The village is relatively young and is currently in the first phase of building infrastructure, houses and community. The years taken to get subdivision has allowed the co-operative to invest in forming a strong community, adopting Sociocracy as its governance model and dedicating time to building relationships to ensure social sustainability.
The site has a high bushfire attack level (BAL) rating and this has informed many design features of the development. But beyond that, the village’s recent responsiveness at a time of highly dangerous fire conditions can be viewed from the foundations of the sustainability model, principles, systems and relationships.
NEV is a co-operative which combines private ownership of individual lots and houses with co-ownership of the entire 168 acres. In preparing and planning for the fires, the village was treated as a whole, which allowed both scalability and easier co-ordination of resources.
Village members have a passion for the land and are dedicated to their custodian role; therefore, the motivation to work in whichever was appropriate during the crisis was already there. In addition, the collaborative sociocratic decision-making system used allows for clarity of roles and responsibilities as well as open communication, and this was highly useful in the fire preparations.
It is widely considered that these social structures, processes and relationships provided resilience during the time of bushfire threat. These include but are not limited to strong relationships amongst members, a sense of duty of care, trust in leadership roles, and an established conflict resolution pathway as well as an understanding of the knowledge, skill and experience which exists among the membership. This allowed successful communication and economies of scale in not only facing into the potential catastrophe but also in the ongoing maintenance and fire preparedness for the site.
Northern Rivers NSW – 3 intentional communities uniting to fight fire and in recovery
In November 2019 the Mt Nadi bushfires threatened areas of Tuntable Creek and The Channon which are the home to many large intentional communities established in the 1970’s. Notably these fires directly impacted the large eco communities of Tuntable Falls Co-operative, Bodhi Farm Co-op and Siddha Farm where collectively over 100 residents live. Due to the communities having strong networks and co-operation through necessary meetings and shared land care a unique group of ‘community defenders’ assisted the RFS in containing the fire which resulted in no houses or lives being lost. In addition, important areas of world heritage rainforest were also spared from the fire. The community defenders are an example of the ecovillage principals of cultivating inclusive, responsive and transparent decision-making and empowering participatory leadership and governance
I spoke with one of the board members of Tuntable Falls Co-operative and he believes what makes eco-communities resilient relating to the Global Ecovillage Network principals is the communities common value and ethic of ‘engaging actively to protect communities and nature’ and ‘regenerate ecosystems’. The communities ‘communications skills’ and ‘building networks for community support’ are also principals used heavily in defending their communities.
Because the land is shared in these communities (another ecovillage principal being ‘Work for equitable ownership of land and resources’) there is a sense of common unity in defending the land with a large knowledge base of the landscape, best places to defend and many people the RFS could call upon for expert knowledge of the area. Common buildings the community owned were utilized in the fire period and recovery including a communal dam crucial in containing the fire. The knowledge that everyone knew someone fighting the fires at anytime united the community as well as the already established trust allowed defenders to feel safe in sharing child minding, shift relief, meal support and other supportive actions. Now in the recovery phase the community’s ability to skill share in building, revegetation, create shared meals and newly learnt fire defending skills, the recovery is bringing the community even closer together.
For a great report on the work of the communities see the 7:30 report here
Global Ecovillage Network tools and principles in recovery and rebuilding
Currently the Global Ecovillage Network is exploring responses to large-scale disasters such as fires and cyclones, such as this case in the Philippines.
In response to recovery and rebuilding resilient communities GEN would use its 30 ecovillage principles in working with the community, in particular the following:
- Ensure that the four areas of regeneration are being funded and supported equally
- Look at the town/village through an ecovillage lens and identify its weaknesses, strengths and blind spots and how its strengths can be leveraged in rebuilding
- Apply ecovillage principals in rebuilding infrastructure and creating new networks through an ecovillage plan for the town. Include identifying key areas needing funding for long term resilience
- Use examples from GEN’s international network of how communities have built for bushfire and resilience in similar circumstances, including lessons from the two examples above.
- Support new and existing networks, enterprises and structures within the town that are founded in the ecovillage principals above those that are not.
Learning from these two examples some of the measure’s communities could adopt in recovery is skill sharing events like low impact building techniques, shared meals, land care and building trusting networks for support.
Examples from the wider network could include regenerative farming practices (retains more moisture in soil and fire resistant vegetation), green fire resistant building techniques, strong community networks, common meeting places and events, inclusive decision making, local food, water and energy security, local economies and support systems and practicing whole systems thinking. There are many more examples from the greater network to draw upon that would be useful from the network in rebuilding towns that are resilient to climate and natural disaster impacts.
GEN Australia (being the national branch of the network) would be interested in supporting the NSW government in the recovery and rebuilding efforts and welcomes further dialogue on how this may happen.
Other Narara Ecovillage news
Coffee Cart paid off
– Jazz Mozzi
Candy and the Coffee Cart crew would like to thank all of our members and visitors who have consistently donated spare change over the last 9 months. Success, it’s finished! The grand total of $16,205 was collected over the last year.
The Coffee Cart travelled down from Queensland and Candy put up the initial funds to purchase it. There is still a fair way to go before the cart earns enough to pay regular wages to those helping out. Candy donates all her time but ensures that the helpers receive some pay.
The social fabric of our Community has been enhanced by having a place to go for a cuppa, a meal or a snack. It has become a popular meeting spot with Ecovillage members, visitors and tradespeople working on site building our homes.
Recommendations / do a thing a day
Gimme Shelter – giving homes for fire-affected wildlife
-The Nature Conservation Council of NSW
The Nature Conservation Council (NCC) is a team of passionate campaigners and on-ground workers who strive to be a voice for nature across the NSW. With this campaign we hope to place nest boxes of various sizes in northern NSW to provide emergency shelter for hundreds of animals affected by the recent fires.
Species that may use the nest boxes include: Brush-tailed Phascogale (Phascogale are also known as wambengers or mousesacks), gliders, possums and bats
- Find out more here (They also accept $ donations)
Sydney Co-Housing Meetup
Community-led housing in the 21st century
- An information night about co-housing and community-led housing and what to do about (in)affordable land in New South Wales.
- Sydney Co-Housing will reveal the results of our residents survey and which project (or projects) we’re going to prioritise. Includes a short documentary film.
When: Thursday APRIL 2,6-8pm
Where: Newtown Neighbourhood Centre, 1 Bedford St, Newtown NSW 2043
A creative hub at East Gosford
-Therese Gabriel Wilkins
The Makers Studio aims to be ‘a collection of artists and artisans providing a creative hub to make, learn and connect.’
Our workspace provides a communal workspace based on the simple but powerful idea of sharing resources. The workspace is available to members or workshop groups, enabling users of all abilities to learn new skills and network to support the creation of quality Arts, Design & Crafts. We also deliver creative classes for members and the community.
- Contact: Therese <firstname.lastname@example.org> Website
Events at Narara Ecovillage changed to online, or cancelled until further notice
We want to continue to share our space and story with you; however, the community has decided in the short term to cancel all public onsite events and do our bit to limit the spread of coronavirus as much as possible.
We will continue to review as further information become clearer – please consult the events calendar or Facebook for updates, or feel free to reach out:02 4328-1588 or email@example.com
Online course: Sociocracy In Action 2 – Picture forming
Tapping into the wisdom of the crowd:
The term “Picture Forming” is often used at NEV, and we are well aware of the value of expanding on the topic at hand to enumerate all dimensions before moving into proposal forming. But do we really know the correct steps for Picture Forming to make it work smoothly and elegantly?
If you would like to fine-tune your knowledge, please join this fun two-hour workshop on Nailing Picture Forming.
Offered by the Sociocracy Resource Circle and produced by Collective Know-How
- When: Sat March 28th 2-4 pm (Zoom link is provided when you register)
- Cost: $30.00 for the public, $25.00 for Narara Eco Living Network members. Join NELN here ($20 per year)
- You can read more and register here and choose the free option for NEV members in the drop down.
The following events have been cancelled or postponed
Sat MAR 21
- Secrets to Women’s Health in Eastern Medicine
- Walk through the ‘Solar System’ – via Strickland Forest
Sun MAR 22
- Stage 2 Concept Workshop 1
Fri MAR 27
- A Taste of Sociocracy
Sat MAR 28
- Village Open Day
- Climate Heart Circle
Regular Weekly Events at Narara Ecovillage
- Bush Regeneration – Wednesdays 8.30–2pm. Contact: Teresa 0409 998 507
- Heartfulness Meditation with Kerrie Anderson – Wednesdays 6–7pm and Sundays 7.30–8.30am. Contact: Meng 0408 337 955 or Lynda 0421 008 702.
- Summer Food Growing Working Bee. In exchange for some fresh goodies! Tuesdays from 5-6:30pm (Time changed). Contact: Marg 0419 276 242
- Cuppa with the Founder of Narara Ecovillage – anytime. Contact: Lyndall Parris 0419 279 711
- Zumba with Haruko on Tuesday evenings in the Visitors Centre from 7 – 8pm
About the Network and the Village
The Narara Eco Living Network is a not-for-profit educational and outreach body established by members of Narara Ecovillage to promote more sustainable living in all its forms.
Become a supporter of the Network – 12 months membership is only $20 an individual or $40 a family. Networkers are offered discounts to a variety of events at the village, and free entrance to Open Days. Click here to check out upcoming events. The network is 100% run by volunteers so we really appreciate your support!
The village is located at 25 research Road Narara NSW 2250. The Narara Ecovillage Cooperative was formed to purchase land and establish Narara Ecovillage. Joining the co-op costs $30,000, and requires the intent to purchase a lot and to contribute a minimum number of working hours at the ecovillage. Click here for more info about the Narara Ecovillage
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