Ecohome Tour Stops (West to East) – 2016

Pick-up your map brochure (with street addresses) on event day at the Stick in the Mud Cafe.   Formal tours at each stop will begin roughly on the hour, every hour, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Please drop in anytime for informal tours and chats with your hosts. 

1. Kemp Lake Road: Designed and built by Otter Point’s Keary Conwright (KC Natural Homes), the house is built with natural material only. It consists of heavy fir timber framing, 12” light clay exterior walls with natural lime plaster finish, and 12” thick rammed earth clay/sand/cement thermal mass interior walls. Heating is provided by way of a radiant in-floor hot water system with the hot water generated by roof mounted solar vacuum tubes. Homeowner Martin Bissig will offer tours on the hour, and will be joined by Keary for the 2 p.m. tour. Visitors to this farmyard setting can also see a small outdoor solar cooker and a solar drying station for herbs.

2. ALM Organic FarmStep inside the charming, sweetly curved, magical yet fully practical cob house at ALM Organic Farm. In 1996, after attending the first Natural Building Symposium in Cottage Grove, Oregon, ALM’s Mary Alice Johnson, her late husband Jan, and Holger Busch (a founder of the Sooke Country Market) built the dwelling from clay, straw and (the primary expenses in the $3k project) a tongue-and-groove ceiling and cedar-shake roof. In addition to Mary’s tours, you’re invited to browse her library of books about natural homes — including Lloyd Kahn‘s Van isle classic Buildings of the Pacific Coast and architect Ianto Evans’ The Hand-Sculpted House (in which the ALM cob house is featured). Elsewhere on the farm is a 12×12 tiny home, a cob oven and cob sauna. Edible bonus: Choice fare from ALM’s fall harvest will be available at a special farmgate stand set up for the day.

3. Michaelson Road, Otter Point: Site of a work-in-progress rammed earth home (aka “The Cabin in the Woods”) now being built by Otter Point’s Tony Johnson. Just prior to our tour, his property will be a featured stop on a southern Van Isle outing organized by the Architectural Institute of British Columbia. Tony is documenting the project from inception to completion at his Earth House Holdings blog.

4. Henlyn Drive: For the last eight years, Lee and Stephen Hindrichs have been slowly transforming an ordinary 30 year-old house on a 1/3 acre lot in suburban Sooke. What started as a mainly treed property with a small garden has evolved into a diverse oasis of annuals and perennials. Using permaculture principles, the Hindrichs have designed the food gardens and supporting infrastructure to include rainwater catchment, grey water irrigation, water filtration, solar power and a team of industrious worker chickens. Guests: Henlyn Dr. neighbour Brian (showcasing a Sunmar composting toilet and garden composter) and Viridian Energy Cooperative solar expert Clayton Fischer.

5. Ella Road: “Beautiful, reliable, affordable, environmental and lightweight” are the words Forest Adam uses to characterize the tiny homes he builds through his local company Homes With Love. A case in point is the 135 square foot dwelling created this summer for wildcrafter Dante Chicano and his family. Features include a king-size loft bed; a downstairs bed that folds, in turn, into a bench and storage unit; comfortable hemp/jute fibre walls; solar, grid, and wood stove power; separated gray and black water systems; and no polyurethanes or other offgassing synthetic products inside.  Dependent on finishings, Forest’s tiny homes cost between $15 and $25k.

6. Banner Road: Early this year, the Stick in the Mud Cafe‘s Dave Evans hired Viridian Energy to install a 25-panel, 7.2kw array of solar panels atop his home. The array immediately began funnelling upwards of 45kw hours per day into the BC Hydro grid, covering Evans’ own energy needs while also earning him a bonus 4000kw hours of credit that will help keep his bills low this coming winter. Evans and Viridian’s Steve Unger will be on hand to discuss how the initial outlay ($18k) will pay off in the long-term and how solar might work for you (given certain factors such as roof alignment, access to the sun, etc.). Parking is extremely limited here, so please park vehicles elsewhere and walk in.

7. Harbourside Cohousing: This newly completed senior-oriented cohousing community features 31 units housed in an apartment building, three duplexes and three fourplexes. Tours of the site begin on the hour between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. with a slide show and presentation in the Great Hall of the Common House. Follow the signs at the entrance lobby. Refreshments will be available. A guided tour follows that highlights the green features of the Harbourside complex.

Visitors are not allowed to wander on the site unless they join a tour.  Parking is available behind the Anglican Church off Murray Road or in the public parking lot at the corner of Murray and Horne roads. No parking is allowed on Horne Rd. in front of the Harbourside Apartment.  

Cohousing is a neighbourhood design that combines the autonomy of private dwellings with the advantages of shared resources and community living; it encourages community while maintaining the option for privacy. Cohousing is an alternative development model where the future residents participate in the planning and development so that it directly responds to their needs and goals.

One goal in the development of Harbourside was to build highly energy efficient structures and facilities that would keep the carbon footprint to a minimum using the best green technology available. Harbourside can be a model for how to build a complex to a high standard by investing wisely at the front end so that the running costs over time are kept low. Harbourside is certified Built Green Gold.

The tour will highlight the major contribution that Harbourside is making to the Sooke region by building a highly energy efficient complex while creating a unique social innovation in the forming of a senior cohousing community based on the values of sustainability, resilience, cooperation and mutual support as the residents age in place. Being on the green building tour represents part of Harbourside’s outreach to the larger community. Harbourside is already supporting a founding group which intends to create another cohousing development in Sooke. This suggests that cohousing is a community model whose time has come.