Day 6 Reflections – Ben Law’s House (Shelter #1)


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Awesome. Just awesome… anyone who missed the Grand Designs episode which followed Ben’s story has missed a treat, and we were in for even more of a treat on Sunday actually getting to visit his home and spend the day with him learning about coppicing and woodsmanship!

Before I get into anything, here’s my photos of the day:

My reflections on the day? We were asked to write a couple of paragraphs as Linkwork following on from our visit, detailing two ecological resources in use at the site, their application, and how they could potentially be improved in some way. I have to say I found it hard to be even a little bit critical of what’s going on there:

  • I saw every permaculture ethic in practice
  • I saw every permaculture principle I could remember being used
  • I saw many permaculture processes and tools being used – S.A.D.I.M. was in tha house

But, OK – here’s my thoughts:

  1. Wood: It was everywhere – it was a single element (chestnut) serving multiple functions (building material, fuel, source of income… the list goes on), therefore meeting one of the key Ecological Principles. This was also flipped around though, as Ben was coppicing not only the Chestnut, but also the Standard trees and lower level trees, attempting to diversify the stock of trees so it was more resilient. So this was multiple elements (different types of tree) supporting a single function (the sustainability and resilience of the Wood as a whole). I also noticed that there were beneficial Guilds between certain types of tree and the type of shade and cover they provided.  I really couldn’t see how the element of Wood could have been better used or more sustainably managed.
  1. Solar Power: This was an interesting one – because of the location of the site, the North East side of the hill – it didn’t get much sun. This meant that there were a high number of PV panels needed in various places and the battery storage facility that had been developed for the site was pretty huge. Ben said that if he was on the other side of the hill, he might need a system a quarter of the size. The system was also very expensive (OK, it sounded expensive but as was mentioned, it has to be thought of over the course of it’s lifetime and the fact that the site is completely off grid.

I might come back to this once the Linkwork is properly set and have another think… right now I’m still absorbing everything from the day. Actually, i still feel like I’m absorbing things from days 4 and 5, so I could really do with some practical time!

We also got some more time planning our Final Designs, which personally I found helpful in setting the next steps – I think I had these down in my head but it was good to name them and get them down on paper.  This is what getting things down on paper looks like!

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