The Ecologic House

An in-depth look at a ecologic house British architect Grahame Caine designed in the early 1970s with the aim of maximizing its efficiency and self-sufficiency.

| March/April 1973

  • Caine's water, waste, and energy system
    A schematic of the integrated waste management and power generation system Grahame Caine designed for his house.
  • Caine's greenhouse and pond floorplan
    Floor plan of the Caine house's hydroponic garden, fish pond, and water filtration system.

  • Caine's water, waste, and energy system
  • Caine's greenhouse and pond floorplan

What in the world are the professions coming to? First radical lawyers, then young physicians who thumb their noses at the AMA and now a troublesome breed of architect whose avowed aim is to provide—as one of them puts it—"a realistic alternative to the exploitational vision of the environment".

The writer of those words, a young English designer named Grahame Caine, belongs to an anarchist architect group called "Street Farmer" and startled the British wing of the profession back in 1971 when he entered a competition for a housing development with a plan for a self-growing bamboo shelter. Now he's up to a new scheme that has been two years in the planning and is likely to have much more widespread applications than the bamboo effort. In fact, his current project is receiving a good deal of publicity in England (as well as a surprising amount of support from municipal authorities).

Caine's new idea is his final examination project for the Architectural Association of London, where he's a fifth-year student . . . but the structure he's erecting on the corner of an athletic field in Greenwich (for under $2,000) will also be his home for the next couple of years. This kind of testing is essential because the Caine Eco-House—unlike a conventional building—is planned as a self-contained working system that incorporates plant and animal life (Grahame's own) in harmonious interdependence. Since the 37 X 40-foot timber and plastic dwelling will include a garden that is to supply most of the householder's food, the architect—single and a vegetarian—is his own ideal guinea pig.

Grahame's principles of design—conservation of resources, independence from wasteful, dirty public power, and respect for natural ecosystems—are shared by growing numbers of people in the U.S. and Canada . . . and I'd like to comment on his plans with an eye to how they might be modified for use on the North American Continent. 

The Plan of the Eco-House

No one should use Grahame Caine's exactly as they are. . . unless, of course, he lives next door to Grahame. If you want to build such a dwelling from scratch, you must consider the climate of your site and modify the design accordingly. 

The difference of even one degree of latitude, or 1,000 feet of elevation, will affect some key points in the plan of an Eco-House. The building should be in a position to get maximum sun in cold climates, for example, but might need shelter from the heat in the South. Again, insulation will be needed to keep the house warm with minimum fuel use in the North, and cool without air conditioning in the South . . . but on an island in the tropics, insulation might be unnecessary. It all depends on where you are. 


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