Don’t fence me in

Callum Dowie & Jessica Rose at their Arran St eco-home

Working in Mt Albert, Jessica Rose has been a vocal and active member of the Albert Eden Local Board. Considered a young representative at age 39, this year, as an Avondale resident, Jessica has put her hand up for the Whau Local Board on the Green Party ticket.

If Jessica’s face is not familiar to you, her house may be. She and her husband/architect, Callum Dowie, have been building their dream eco-house in Arran Street for the past few years and people often wander by to take a closer look. A labour of love that is nearing completion, the couple are vocal about the benefits of such homes for all Kiwis.

“We love living here – it’s sunny, warm, spacious and modern. Yet it was affordable to build and has left us with low costs leading into the future.” Indeed, the couple pay just $50 a month for their power bill – now that is something to turn you green!

Because of the double height ceiling, the mere 70 square-metre home appears much larger than it is. It is full of sunlight. North-facing, a large roller door opens the house up to the sun and aids the sense of openness. Concrete floors soak up the sun’s warmth, while the walls (insulated well beyond spec), enormous double-glazed windows and cool store panel roofing ensure the warmth stays.

“I can’t believe how warm it is,” says Jessica. “Both of us have grown up in various states of housing, so we know exactly what it’s like to be at 0 degrees inside your house. The point is, that none of this is new technology and all of these things could be going into new buildings.”

But this eco house is about more than just the insulation, there’s a well-considered social component too. The pair believe we have essentially been building ourselves into anxiety and depression through the disconnectivity provided by walls inside and out. Hence, the house has an open plan design with minimal inside walls to encourage communal living and sharing. Outside the home, the heavy, tall hedge has been replaced with short fences that encourage neighbourly interaction. The increase in two-way visibility has helped to reduce crime at that end of the street and provided a greater sense of safety for its owners.

“It’s made a huge difference,” says Jessica. “When we’re outside in the garden, people stop and say, ‘Hi.’ Shorter fences create a much greater sense of connectivity with your community.”

It’s part of Jessica’s broader belief that our streets need to return to being our neighbourhoods, encouraging communities to reclaim that space.

“For example, if we want to have a street party, then traffic management shouldn’t prevent us from doing so,” says Jessica. “Our sense of community should prevail over our regulations.”

As a representative on a high-functioning Local Board, Jessica would bring a great deal of experience to our own.

“I’ve learned a great deal in the past few years, I guess it’s the difference between being an apprentice and knowing how to do your job. I know how public consultation works and why it’s important; I understand how council works and how to make projects happen.”

“I also bring a pair of ears… The role of local board representative is to be a strong voice for the people. It’s about being able to achieve what you want. So, when people see me around, I hope they will come say hi, and talk to me about the Avondale they want for the future.”