Damp houses; Ecovillage stories; Building, Facilitating, Energy workshops & more; eye contact

August 24 2020 Network News

aerial view of Narara Ecovillage

In this newsletter

Healthy Homes #3

In this six-part series, Narara Ecovillage member Mikala Dind shares her knowledge about what makes houses healthy or unhealthy. While this article is about existing homes, the information will definitely assist anyone seeking to build a home.

Drainage, Eaves and Gutters – and Roofs too! 

One of the most common reasons for mould problems in a home is water finding its way into the building.  In fact, keeping water out of buildings is one of the most fundamental aims of building/landscape design.  If these principles are skipped or corners are cut, then the home will become a ticking time bomb, with potentially cascading problems and increasingly expensive repairs.


As you know, water will find the path of least resistance, so if you don’t redirect it away from the home, it will find its way in, either directly or indirectly.  

Sloped sites

Sloped sites need both surface and subsurface drains in ground that is higher than the home in order to move surface and subsurface water around it.  These sites have the benefit of gravity at their disposal. 

Something that’s occasionally overlooked is including a drain at the front of the garage where the driveway runs downhill towards the house.  I get concerned when builders rely solely on angling the driveway to direct the water away from the garage.  Again, it may work 90% of the time, but it’s that 10% that causes trouble –  when water gets into the garage it can damage items stored there, and dampen the slab, increasing humidity in adjacent rooms.

Flat sites

Flat sites also need drainage.  However, they need to create their own “fall”, using either drains or earthworks to make the land go downhill from the home, so water is drawn away from the house.  

Termites building their way past the cement slab to enter a home

Keep slab edges and the base of walls exposed at ground level

A house built on a cement slab needs 75mm of the slab exposed, both to reduce the likelihood of water intrusion, and to make any termite attacks easy to see (as in the photo above). 

Often gardens are built right up against the home, which can lead to water ingress into the home, increased humidity in rooms behind that wall, and hide termite incursions.  Keep gardens, mulch and compost well away from walls. Another consequence is that airborne mould spores from the garden (eg decaying mulch) can enter the home through windows.

Garden built up against a wall, causing flooding inside the home

During one mould audit it started to rain (usually something that makes my job more difficult).  However, my client, who rented the property, was thrilled.  Why?  So she could show me how the downstairs laundry (that we had already inspected) gets its own little river coming out from under the laundry cabinet when it rains.  The real estate agent had not believed her claim of the flooding, but there it was for all to see about 30 minutes after the rain began.  

The reason?  The owners had built a garden up against one of the home’s walls (see photo), covering the weep holes in the brickwork.  The result was that water now trickled into the double brick wall cavity, rather than weeping out of it.

Eaves, Gutters and Roofs


Somewhere along the line, eaves started being uncool.  That’s a shame because they protect your home.  They keep your windows (particularly wooden framed ones) dry, thus reducing the likelihood of water ingress (eg through wood rot).  They also keep the ground abutting your home drier, reducing the likelihood of bricks and mortar becoming damp and increasing the humidity in the home.


Gutters and downpipes may not be aesthetically pleasing, but they perform a vital function – to remove water off the roof and into storm water pipes before it can do any damage.  Not enough downpipes, or guttering with a higher outer lip, can almost guarantee that rain will find its way into the roof cavity, potentially damaging the structural integrity of the roof and encouraging mould growth.

Flat roofs

Another fad with even more drastic consequences is the flat roof and/or hidden guttering.  Please run a mile from either of these architectural catastrophes.  Roofs need to have a decent pitch/fall (15% or greater) so that rain is forced by gravity towards the gutters, and wind cannot easily push rain uphill and into the roof cavity (eg via the ridge cap).  I did an audit once where the roof over the outside entertainment area (connected to the building just above the back door) was actually pitched towards the building, creating really bad humidity and water damage issues.

I always recommend that my clients spend the money to over-engineer their drains, gutters, and downpipes so that they reduce the risk of water getting into their home (either via the roof or the floor).  It only takes one event of water ingressing into the home and much damage ,(both seen and unseen,) can be done.

You may be wondering why I keep harping on about humidity … well, you’ll need to wait until the next installment as I will discuss the relationship between humidity, dust and mould.

Narara Ecovillage stories

Snippet: After school at the ecovillage

-by Megan Wallace

My son rushed in the door, so animated after sharing a ride home from school with our neighbours. 

After a quick chat and snack he hears our home schooling buddies riding by and rushes out to play. I take the opportunity to walk over to our common area and am delighted to progress our idea of a forum for our children with some villagers there so the kids can lead the way for their new playground. 

After a while I head back to spy my boy in the garden munching on snow peas with his friends. Soon, “Mum, Mum’ … he is like Peter Rabbit in Mr McGregor’s garden – he’s pulled about 20 young carrots from Dad’s wicking beds and is over the moon with his treasure. 

I’m fortunate an elder is dropping off egg cartons for our village chooks and kindly explains how some carrots might have wanted to grow big and strong like him and the joy of eating them fresh each day. 

My son listens and learns but he is too excited for a lesson to dampen his spirits. He says, “Let’s give them to Candy (the member who runs our café) and our friends”. I am thrilled he is developing such generosity. He leaves a bunch for mum, grabs a bag and rides off to distribute his good fortune. 

Later I get a message on our parent channel. “R playing lego here”. So grateful I get to finish making dinner easily. Soon, “R leaving for home now” beeps my phone and not long after a happy boy runs in – “Mum, Margo gave us some sweet potatoes”. I give him a hug and think how lucky we are to live here.

Why people are joining Narara Ecovillage

-Lyndall Parris (Ecovillage founder)

As spring is emerging at the ecovillage, houses are shooting up everywhere. When our colourful central cluster of 18 homes is occupied in the next month or two, our population will jump significantly. We are also expecting the Development Application for Stage 2 to be approved in about that same timeframe. 

Some of us living on site have felt the anchoring and pleasure that our ecovillage offers, especially in these unfamiliar times. You may tune-in to some of these too. 

Things like:

  •  easy connection through intermittent chats with our neighbours, random meetings around our coffee cart and careful, physically-distanced drinks, social gatherings and meetings 
  • ‘extended-family’ benefits to the children living on site (we have around 35 children here). I love that several of the children have real jobs relating to our Coffee Cart, for example Theo (7) empties the chook bucket for a biscuit, and Sophia (16) works as a coffee barista for money.
  • access to the broad range of education paths chosen by parents living here (State, Steiner, selective High, home schooling….)
  • bulk-order quality produce from our co-op shop and fresh produce from our gardens
  •  the joy and satisfaction of being involved with something bigger than ourselves and living more in alignment with our values  Many Nararians feel that living here is a win for ourselves and our families, for the community and contributes a tiny, demonstration beacon of light for our world.

If you are interested, the time for getting involved is now

For this small, niche, extraordinary community housing project so close to Sydney, Newcastle, the coast, forests and public transport, the time for getting involved is now.  

During the period of coronavirus, we have had unprecedented, serious enquiries around living here in Narara Ecovillage. Already we have 22 lots accounted for, out of ~40 planned in our second stage. 

Families, please don’t hesitate to contact us – while there is the reality of commercial property costs, we can show you creative ways to live here that you may not have considered.

See our website for further details, including a Frequently Asked Question section, and how to visit for one of our Open Days, or contact us on 43281588, by email: info@nararaecovillage.com   I also welcome your calls. Lyndall Parris 0419 279 711

Events – What’s coming up at the village and elsewhere

Hands-on building workshop Fri Aug 28 – Wed Sept 2 at Narara Ecovillage

Contact Benjamin on 0490 537 598 or via email bcfs24@gmail.com for further information.

This unique building was designed by Integrated Biotecture and is currently being owner-built with their assistance.Framing timbers, windows, doors and flooring have been carefully re-purposed from demolition sites and given new life. 

Now, the next step is to fill the walls with straw and clay using the light-straw-clay technique, with bamboo as permanent form-work.

This workshop is an opportunity to learn about the light-straw-clay building technique, which is low-cost, safe to install, non-toxic and arguably one of the most sustainable building solutions around. Apart from enjoying the work and camaraderie, there will be opportunities to discuss and learn about other aspects of the build, including:

  • passive cooling: earth tubes and thermal chimney
  • mass heating: solar passive design and cob rocket benches
  • earthen floors
  • creative carpentry and window making
  • water saving: rainwater harvesting, compost toilets
  • wiring choices to reduce EMF exposure and healthy material choices.

And after all this, if we get enough done we might also move onto cobbing the internal walls in the ‘wattle and daub’ technique.

The Hosts: Benjamin is the owner-builder for the project, a physiologist by trade and avid health researcher. Carly is a psychiatrist and home-schooling mum who was mad enough to let her husband build this home. Will Eastlake and Kenney LeMire are the building designers and natural builders who designed this special home.

Cost is $120 for the full 6 days and includes morning tea, lunch, snacks, coffee and a selection of foraged and normali’tea(s). 

Lunch will be vegetarian, gluten free, mostly organic and as local as possible (but ask us if you need any special arrangements, if too niche we might ask you to BYO). For less than 6 days, the per day rate is $25 ($20 for NELN or NEV members) but priority will be given to longer duration as capacity is limited. Some safety equipment will be provided but we ask you to bring appropriate footwear, gloves and hearing protection/glasses, if you have them.

Dates: Friday 28 August until Wednesday 2nd September. The working day starts at 8:30am and finishes about 4:30pm but this can be flexible to your needs, but otherwise we appreciate you being on time.

Where to stay: There are local accommodation possibilities including home-stays, hotels and camping at the village. We encourage you to arrive on the Thursday evening if you are not local. Please let us know if you’d be interested in any of these these options and we’ll put you in touch to arrange. Sorry, but we cannot accommodate dogs or other pets.

Contact Benjamin on 0490 537 598 or via email bcfs24@gmail.com for further information. A 50% deposit will be requested to book your place.

Micro Facilitation Skills – Sociocracy in Action Workshop, Aug 29 10am-12pm (before Open Day)

Facilitating a group can be like riding six horses who all want to go in different directions. Balancing each individual’s ideas with the needs of the whole group can be a challenge. How do you bring them to order in a way that gets them all headed in the same direction

The process of Sociocracy offers a number of tools and structures that help groups to work together. Perfecting the implementation of Sociocracy also requires skilled facilitation.

This workshop explores the detail of the many micro skills that make up successful facilitation, within a Sociocracy framework. By practising each micro skill one at a time, you will gain competence in real life implementation. We will do real time practice and feedback on each little skill so you can confidently add them to your repertoire.

What will be covered in this workshop?

Drill into each component of the five skills sets of:

  • Structure and Morale
  • Regulating Participation
  • Focusing
  • Consent Decision Making
  • Emotional Climate  

Suitable for both beginner and advanced facilitators. <more>

Presented by Rafaele Joudry and Deb Mohr from the Sociocracy Resource Circle at Narara Ecovillage

  • When: 10 am to 12 noon. Morning tea and lunch available at our own Ecovillage Coffee Cart.
  • Where: Narara Ecovillage Visitors Centre, 25 Research Rd Narara NSW 2250
  • Cost: $30 per person or $25 for NELN members  The Narara Eco Living Network (NELN) is a not for profit educational and outreach body established by members of Narara Ecovillage Co-operative to promote more sustainable living in all its forms. All are welcome to join. Join the Network here   
  • Numbers are strictly limited, so get your tickets here to guarantee your place. 

Open Day at Narara Ecovillage, Aug 29 from 1pm – Limited numbers

Because social distancing is so important, we are strictly limiting visitor numbers for all tours, so booking is essential.

Tours are $10 for adults and free for kids or Narara Eco Living Network (NELN) members. Tickets are required for all  <more>

General information 

  • The tours involve walking on semi-rural land and are best enjoyed with closed shoes and all-weather clothing. They can also involve visiting spaces with wildlife. So please leave your pets at home.
  • The Open Day is a COVID safe event. Please bring a mask to the event. Masks will also be available for sale at the welcome desk.
  • On the day, our fabulous Coffee Cart will be open from lunchtime to 3pm, selling great drinks and healthy food.
  • If this will be your first visit to Narara Ecovillage, the Open Day Preview with a pioneer members provides an introduction of the ecovillage and its unfolding story.
  • Ahead of the Open Day, you can also find answers to Frequently Asked Questions: https://wiki.nararaecovillage.com/display/FAQ/Frequently+Asked+Questions+Home.
  • The ecovillage also offers personal tours for individuals, families and small groups. These allow you to explore the ecovillage with a resident guide, and bookings can be made here

Central Coast Sustainable Business showcase, Fri Sept 18 & Sat 19

Bringing together a wide range of local industry leaders and local business owners to share and inspire the business community.

  • Sustainability Showcase  – a broad range of exhibitors sharing their stories and showcasing new innovative products.
  • R.E.E.L Talks (Relevant, Environmental, Economical, Local) including game changing technologies and financing sustainable projects.
  • Sustainability Trail –  visit workplace sites to explore local sustainable projects

Where: Open Shutters / Bib’ n Brace, 3/6 Hereford St, Berkeley Vale

More info https://www.sustaincc.org/showcase

Energy Freedom Home Workshop. Sept 19 – Save Money on Heating and Cooling

Affordable Strategies for Comfort Workshop from Beyond Zero Emissions

In this very informative workshop you will learn energy-saving tricks to keep your house warm, even if you are renting. House types covered include cavity brick, brick veneer and weatherboard. Case studies will be presented, including Narara Ecovillage’s “Dorothy”, with a guided tour afterwards. Attendees may also purchase a pdf of the Energy Freedom Home book, by donation.

About BZE: Beyond Zero Emissions is a climate change think tank, showing through independent research and innovative solutions how Australia can reach beyond zero emissions.

  • When: Saturday 19th September 10am-12pm
  • Where: Narara Ecovillage Visitors Centre, 25 Research Rd Narara NSW 2250
  • Cost: $30 per person or $25 for NELN members  The Narara Eco Living Network (NELN) is a not for profit educational and outreach body established by members of Narara Ecovillage Co-operative to promote more sustainable living in all its forms. All are welcome to join. Join the Network here     
  • Bookings essential, as numbers are strictly limited – TICKETS here
  • For more information, contact Liz: learning@nararaecovillage.com 

Sustainable House Day  & Open Day at Narara Ecovillage, Sept 20

Welcome to our Social Distancing Sustainable House & Open Day! 

A limited-ticket Sustainable House Day event will go ahead this year at Narara Ecovillage on Sunday September 20. 

Due to COVID, this event will incorporate social distancing, which means there will ONLY be exterior tours 

  • Guided tours – some free, some $10 (but you MUST book your place – numbers are strictly limited)
  • Drop-in Open Garden: Scribbly Gum permaculture garden and plants stall
  • Talks live streamed from Renew in the Visitor Centre (Please note: limit of 20 people)
  • Self-guided tours
  • Coffee shop: meals, snacks and drinks for sale
  • Conversations
    • Many village members and homeowners will be on hand to talk about the village and our sustainable homes. Look for the “Ask me” buttons, or just ask anyway! And please don’t forget your mask.
  • More information & book tickets here 

The hobbit house under construction July 2020

Do a Thing a Day 

Just one suggestion this month.

Watch a 5 minute film: ′′Look Beyond Borders 

American psychologist Arthur Aron has shown that there was a relationship between two strangers if they looked each other four minutes in the eye. Starting from there, in 2016 Amnesty International created an experimental film to remind that seeing the world through another person’s eyes is always beneficial.

More about this film 


… Courage 

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”
Barack Obama