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A checklist for choosing a low-energy, more self-reliant home

The hard work has been done for you - Selecting a house which has a useful degree of low energy living and also of self reliance is not an easy task, calling for a good working knowledge of the science of building and in particular, some knowledge of the way in which solar, electric and hydraulic energies can improve or reduce the occupants’ quality of life.

These complex, interacting forces have been simplified and reduced to a list of simple questions about any house that the potential buyer might be interested in, initially selected from a list of other external factors such as locality, transportation, schools, shops etc.

The checklist is simple and effective - The checklist cannot be comprehensive - it would become far too long and complex, defeating its main purpose, but for those wishing to know more a more detailed explanatory book is being prepared and will be available later.

How to use the checklist - The checklist is designed to be downloaded and printed on A4 sheets and photocopied to assist the evaluation of more than one house. The answers can then be compared, making it easier to select the house that is the most effective. Most importantly it will also help to select a house which is able to be retrofitted in future when personal finances might be more available - a critical factor in relation to roof styles and the effective use of photovoltaics and solar water heaters.

Using one checklist for each short-listed house, the 28 simple questions can be ticked off as each house is inspected so that the buyers can more easily assess how it performs in the relevant and significant areas of solar energy utilisation, orientation, shading of windows, insulation, internal mass, ventilation, heating and cooling storage and use of rainwater.

A secondary effect may be that builders will also use the checklist to evaluate any house at the design stage which they are planning to build.

The checklist is available on several websites, free and copyable from Nature and Society Forum (see below) and hard copies can also be obtained from ACT Planning and Land Authority, 16 Challis St. Dickson, ACT, Australia 2602.