Our discussions have centered around the topic of building codes. Codes exist for a reason, and those who enforce them really do have our best interest at heart. I know this. Hell, government departments know more about building a house than I do, so it's hard to start criticizing their guidelines. The conflict, and there IS a conflict, starts with the concept behind our mission.
As a short refresher, our mission is to look at building a home in a new light, use unconventional, found and recycled materials and integrate new technologies in hopes of creating the most environmentally friendly home we can in a way which will prove to be sustainable for us and our surroundings.
Building codes and inspectors, as genuinely good-hearted as they may be, are generally on the duller side of the cutting edge and much more risk-averse than us. We can spend hours extolling the virtues of home-milled lumber, alternative insulations, biofuel heating or composting and greywater systems. Unfortunately, it's not you we have to convince, it's the skeptical professionals in charge of overseeing our work.
IF they oversee our work....
We own MFW outright. No bank has any vested interest in how it is developed. Only one house can see anything we build and it belongs to Dane, who sold us the land and has said very plainly "I'm not going to to tell anyone" if we take liberties with our building design. Here in lies the dilemma: Do we go about our business, hidden by the shade of trees, in pursuit of a goal not yet recognized by forces that be, or do we work in the open and take on the extensive task of convincing regulatory bureaucrats of the virtues of sustainable building?
The answer: Work in the open and force the system to accept us. Yeah, sounds great, huh?
There are a few reasons for our plans. Since this homestead is going take every last cent Christy and I have, we want to have at least the small safety net of home insurance. If anything happens to our house that we can't afford to fix and we didn't have any insurance, it would mean living the rest of our lives in a Yome. Even if we do decide sometime in the unforeseeable future to sell MFW, it would be damn near impossible with a house on it that's not built to code. Lastly, it would shroud our project in secrecy. A large part of this project for us is in sharing what we learn and encouraging others to follow in our footsteps. We wouldn't be able to do that, or even keep this blog if we were constantly worrying about someone knocking on our salvaged door and asking for our certificate of occupancy.
We now have that settled. We are officially on the up-and-up, the high road, swimming up stream, bending the laws to our own wills, making waves, challenging the status quo, acting as thorns in the socks of the county's governmental agencies whose job description involves the repression of new ideas, the discrimination against experimentation and advancement.... you get the idea.
The most immediate consequence of this decision is that we will now have to convince the county, before they approve our building plans, that it's possible to live without a septic system. It would cost us all of $15,000.00 to put in a septic system for our house, and what really hurts is the fact that we don't plan on using it. We will be composting all of our blackwater via our composting toilet and a yet-to-be-figured-out sink composting system, and routing our greywater to the garden.
The health department told me, in a cursory phone conversation, that it's possible, in theory, to create such a system. We would still need to keep a 100% reserve area on the land which could hold a septic system, and a county-approved expert would have to do yearly inspections of our composting systems to make sure they are working effectively and not creating a health hazard.
Well, at the moment there is no such expert that the county knows of or recognizes to do any sort of inspection. That's a bit of a hang up, eh? The plan for now is to collect as much information as we can from other people who have built similar systems on an experimental basis, drop a boat load of research proving the safety of composting on the desk of the health deartment and work with them to find someone we can both agree on to check up on our decompositioning.
This is just the beginning....
In lighter news, we're pickling green tomatoes for the first time and will be sure to report on our results!