Plastic & Czech off-grid homes

Before Christmas I flew to Mexico for a short break with a good friend. We visited a small, family-run resort on a deserted beach in a nature reserve, two hours' drive down a bumpy dirt track from Tulum, the nearest town. A couple of days into our stay, a couple of explorers appeared on the beach and casually strolled up to the bar. They had walked down the beach from town over the past 48 hours, braving crocodiles in the water and jaguars lurking in the Mayan ruins in the jungle. As you do.

The beach at Xamach

I don't think this is how recycling is supposed to work (photo: Holly Harris)

But they - a Czech couple, Pavel and Anna - were much more than just adventurers. It was the plastic that got us talking. Even in such a remote location, the endless stream of waste washing ashore - carried up the coast from the north-eastern tip of Brazil - was a sobering reminder of our global consumption. The amount of plastic we have produced in the last 70 years is enough to coat the planet in cling film and will be one of the defining markers of our own man-made geological epoch. I had seen this sort of scene in documentaries - like this beautiful and difficult-to-watch short film on Midway Island - but seeing it first hand really brought home the need to reduce what we use and what we throw away.

Reducing consumption, it turns out, is very much part of Pavel's mission. He has just set up the first ever Czech off-grid homes competition, working with architectural students and experts at CVUT and VSTE, and with support from the Czech government. We quickly got talking about green building design. Although much of my research has focussed on non-domestic buildings like office blocks, libraries and theatres, there are clearly many areas of overlap with energy-efficient domestic building design. Before long I was implicated - being invited to participate as a guest speaker and judge.

I recorded my guest speech as a video, sharing some of my thoughts on sustainability and natural ventilation design.  Take a look below and do feel free to drop any comments my way. Here are some useful links to accompany the video:

The competition has just started - I'll try to keep the blog updated as things progress. Thank you to Pavel for inviting me to be involved!

Visit the Czech off-grid homes competition website HERE (in Czech).