Designing and Building a Sustainable Living Space
Just like the food we eat and the products we buy, the buildings we live in and the energy needed to operate them contribute to our impact on the environment.
The idea behind The Firefly Eco Cabin Project is to create an eco-friendly living space for people of all ages to experience and learn about sustainable construction. The Firefly Eco Cabin will be built in rural Nova Scotia, at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts. It will function as an exhibit for visitors to interact with and explore, including information on how the building works. The Eco Cabin will also be a space to accommodate visitors, such as professional art instructors and artists in residency.
Check out the article here!
Acknowledged by Nova Scotia!
The Firefly Eco Cabin Project has been acknowledged by the office of the Premier of Nova Scotia Stephen Mcneil, as well as the Minister of Environment Margaret Miller!
We will be looking into the department of Energy as well as Community, Culture and Heritage for further support of this project.
What will your contribution support?
Our goal is to raise 10,000$ to purchase building materials for the project. To fulfill rewards and cover kickstarter's fees we need to raise 11,500$ on Kickstarter. Supporting this project will be helping to create a small and simple example of eco-friendly construction, but also a learning place for sustainability. Every dollar truly makes a difference and with your help we can bring this project to life!
The Ross Creek Centre for the Arts
The Ross Creek Centre for the Arts is located just north of Canning, Nova Scotia, and overlooks the Bay of Fundy. The centre is a unique institution in Canada, bringing together the best in arts education for youth with community and professional artist programs. The centre runs an arts-focused summer camp, a professional theatre company, hosts community events and workshops, as well as hosts artists in residency.
Once built, the Firefly Eco Cabin will be immersed into the creative, arts-focused environment of the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts.
Project Organizer, Head of Construction
Julien Jodoin-Eng is the creator of the Firefly Eco Cabin Project. Julien is an artist and builder who has experience working with many different materials and mediums such as: carpentry, stone masonry, stone sculpting, landscaping, natural building/eco projects, fine arts as well as large-scale mural painting and conventional construction.
” The Firefly Eco Cabin Project will be an opportunity to introduce sustainable building into the creative and youth-focused environment of the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts. For me, as an artist and builder, this project is about learning to interact with nature in a responsible way. I hope for this to be the first of many community-based eco projects. “
Engineer, Green Building Consultant
Michael Barton has Master’s degrees in Engineering as well as Environmental Studies. Michael specializes in ecological buildings and has been responsible for a number of “firsts” in Nova Scotia, such as the first “Earthship” style house, the first and second hempcrete buildings, and the first true greywater system.
Executive Director at Ross Creek Centre for the Arts
Chris O’Neill, along with Ken Shwartz and the local community, built the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts. Chris and Ken also built Two Planks and a Passion Theatre, a nationally recognized professional theatre which grew from a tiny two person volunteer organization into an award-winning company.
The Ross Creek Centre for the Arts is lucky to have the help of enthusiastic volunteers. International volunteers stay at the centre in the form of a work exchange, while local volunteers visit for the day to help out. This summer, the Firefly Eco Cabin Project will be one of the many things going on for volunteers to get involved with.
Construction of the Firefly Eco Cabin will take place during the summer and fall of 2018, as well as the spring and summer of 2019. The Eco Cabin will be built with the help of a small team of volunteers. The construction of the Eco Cabin will be an opportunity for volunteers to learn about various aspects of sustainable construction, as well as gain some hands-on experience. This project will be made possible through the support of people like you!
Once built, the Firefly Eco Cabin will be used as an accommodation, in addition to the existing accommodations, for the many artists, staff and volunteers that stay at the centre. The Eco Cabin will also be used as an exhibit for visitors to learn about sustainable building. Each season, the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts will determine periods of time when the Eco Cabin will be open for tours, and when it will be occupied as an accommodation. This will depend on how busy the centre is at different times of the year.
Some visitors stay at the centre in the form of a work exchange, where they work for the centre 25 hours a week in exchange for room and board. Artists also stay at the centre in the form of a paid artist residency, while some work for the centre. Because everyone's experience and arrangement with the centre is different, anyone that wants to visit or stay in the Eco Cabin will have to make arrangements with the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts.
Eco-friendly construction projects usually aim to be environmentally responsible in both the materials used, as well as the use of resources once built. Here are some of the elements that make this project eco-friendly!
Passive Solar Design
” Passive solar design refers to the use of the sun’s energy for the heating and cooling of living spaces. In this approach, the building itself or some element of it takes advantage of natural energy characteristics in materials and air created by exposure to the sun. Passive systems are simple, have few moving parts, and require minimal maintenance and require no mechanical systems. ” – sustainablesources.com
The Firefly Eco Cabin will utilize typical passive solar design for heating and cooling. South facing windows will let in maximum sunlight during the cooler months to heat a thermal mass inside the cabin. Thermal mass refers to dense materials that can store heat energy for extended time. When the temperature inside the cabin starts to drop below that of the thermal mass, the heat stored in the mass will naturally radiate into the space.
To prevent over-heating, a calculated roof overhang on the south-facing wall will shade windows during the summer months, yet allow sunlight to enter when the sun is lower in the sky during the winter. Additionally, operable windows on the north and south walls will allow for cross-ventilation to help cool the interior space.
Straw Bale Construction
“ Straw bale construction is a building method that uses bales of straw (commonly wheat, rice, rye and oats straw) as structural elements, building insulation, or both. Research has shown that straw-bale construction is a sustainable method for building, from the standpoint of both materials and energy needed for heating and cooling.” – Increase in Buildings Sustainability Using Renewable materials and Energy, Edita Milutiene, et al.
Straw bales are popular in eco-construction projects due to their excellent insulating properties, low-costs, and because they are a waste product of the agricultural industry. They are also a natural building material. The Firefly Eco Cabin will incorporate straw bales into the wall system. The bales will be fit in between the wooden structure of the Cabin. The bales will be covered on the interior with a natural earth plaster, and on the exterior with sheathing and siding. The straw bales will provide an ample amount of insulation as well as a surface to apply the earth plaster.
The Firefly Eco Cabin will include a very basic, gravity-fed rainwater harvesting system. Rainwater will be caught on the roof and collected in a water tank outside the cabin. Water will be accessible from a valve near the bottom of the tank. The Cabin will include a rainwater filter inside where rainwater can be manually filtered for drinking. The rainwater can also be used for gardening and growing vegetables outside the cabin.
The Firefly Eco Cabin will be completely off-grid. It will not be attached to any electrical grid, municipal water supply, gas line or utility service. The cabin will be a space for its inhabitants to experience living off-grid, while still having access to the modern amenities and creative environment of the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts.
Natural and Recycled Building Materials
A significant part of what makes up a building's environmental impact is the materials used to build it. Many eco-construction projects utilize natural, recycled and salvaged building materials as opposed to new, conventional building materials that use energy and resources to manufacture.
Building with recycled materials makes use of something that is destined for a landfill. Recycled materials are also usually low-cost or even free, making the overall building more affordable.
Natural building materials have a low environmental impact because they do not have to be manufactured, and can often be sourced on-site or close by. Building with natural materials also improves the quality of the living space, due to the fact that they are non-toxic.
Straw bales are both a natural and recycled building material. The Firefly Eco Cabin will utilize straw bales in the wall system, which will be covered on the interior with an earthen plaster. Earthen plaster is a blend of clay, sand and fibre (usually chopped straw). One of the benefits of plastering a wall with earthen plaster is its vapour permeability. This, as well as other aspects of the wall system, creates a highly “breathable” wall, which improves indoor air quality and regulates moisture.
Please check out the support section to see our different rewards for backing this project!
We're offering the chance to leave your own mark on the Eco Cabin! Some of our rewards range from having your name painted on the inside of the cabin, having your logo or original artwork painted inside the cabin, or even having a life-size line-drawing of YOU painted on the outside of the cabin!
Risks and challenges
The main challenge here is time.
The construction of the Firefly Eco Cabin will be simple and straight forward, but waiting for permitting and approvals may slow us down. We've talked with local building officials and discussed the unconventional nature of this project. We have everything we need for a building permit, including engineer approved plans, site plans and the required letters of undertaking. Once the project is funded, waiting for the county to process our permit could take some time.
Also, we will be using natural earth plasters to finish the cabin. Natural earth plasters require a long drying period and are ideally done during the summer when temperatures are highest. Plastering the interior will happen near the end of construction, so by the time we are ready to plaster it will most likely be too late in the season to apply the earth plaster. Once winter hits we will have to put construction on hold and wait until next spring/summer to finish the project.
So waiting out the winter is going to be our main setback.
Because the rewards either document the project or are part of the project itself, rewards will be fulfilled once the project is complete.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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