The Ultimate Eco-House

A visit to a house not supplied by water or any public utilities, May 2007

Ben explains how the wood (copice) grows

This is the house that Ben built
Ben, a woodsman, has an expert understanding in the properties of wood and how it should be handled.  In 2006, he was featured in a British television programme called "Grand Designs".  Grand Designs is a show that features houses being built with an apparent "grand design". 

The show presented Ben's vision made reality, a lifestyle harmonised with nature, yet still having the luxuries of hot running water, electricity, and a warm house.  This house has inspired myself and thousands of others to go seek Ben for his knowledge and to admire the life he leads. 

The woodlands is a wonderland of chestnuts, with occasional beech and oak trees merged into the landscape.  This is the place that Ben sourced the materials for his house. The place that he manages and nurtures, that provides for him and his family. 

Wood unsuitable for building or furniture making is used instead to grow Shitake mushrooms (left photo of dots of mushrooms spores on wood) or in the production of wood charcoal (right photo of kiln)

Front of house
The house is surrounded with a garden for the kids, an ornamental garden, and a tiered layered vegetable garden.  The house sits on anchored stilts, built into a hill. It has an outer exterior of wood lined with an inner straw layer covered in mud that was taken from the stream at the bottom of the hill.  The inner wood supports are themselves interesting in that no nails were hammered into them.  The outer cladding on the front of the house and on the roof is from wood bark.



Back of the house
From the back of the house, the stilt structure is more obvious.  Toilet waste is collected via a large green bin under the house and converted into compost for the fruit trees.  Water from the roof top is channelled to a water tank.  The water tank is heated by solar heating then pumped back to the house for washing purposes.  Grey water (water used in washing) is piped down to a settling tank to allow particles to separate out before heading into a reed pond then finally back into a natural stream.



Energy needs are met by wind turbines and solar panels stored in six 12V submarine batteries.  The batteries provide enough energy to light the house, keep the fridge going and run a washing machine!  We didn't see one but Beth (Ben's wife) assured us there was one and couldn't be without one!  Interestingly Ben found that running an electric kettle quickly ran down the batteries so he doesn't have one, but instead boils water using a wood fired stove.

In the winter, a wood burning stove heats water for the central heating system.

The first photo shows wind turbines in the background and in the second photo, solar panels

An impressive house and lifestyle, I left with organic eggs from their chickens and two tomato plants that are growing well.  Now with two young additions to the family, Ben is looking to build an extension to his this space!