YalaSofa – Australian Living

Hi – Thanks for dropping by. I am James Bryant I work in green technology and design and thus have developed an affliction with modern, sustainable home design (both interior and exterior), innovation, new ways of living and enjoying life in Australia.

I am best known for my design of sofas but have been involved with Industrial design , green technology and human sciences for over 30 years. I live in Glebe, Sydney and am currently available for freelance design work.  I hope you enjoy browsing my blog.

Return From My India Trip

I really very happy to say i have just returned from India and loved the country and culture and i would love to talk about it. I think the design and textures of that country are magnificent and can lend themselves well to Australian lifestyle. Usually, the middle class people don’t spend much money on decorating their homes. Indian Home Interior DesignThey will decorate with what they have and get as presents like statues(Lord Ganesh statue is very popular), wall decorations,etc. Almost every house has a showcase in the living room with many little dolls, artificial flowers,etc.They don’t spend much money on furnitures, curtains or other decorations. And about painting, they like light colours on the walls, usually plain without any designs.(the walls of the temples will be very colorful and decorative and some old, royal houses will be like that) They don’t use wallpapers at homes. Most of the people just whitewash their house once a year. Or they will paint the house when there is some function like wedding.(Our house are built with bricks only not with wood). And those who can and like to spend money, they decorate either in the traditional style or western style. I love the traditional style with terracotta tiles, cane furnitures and brass pots and plants and terracotta figures. If you let me talk about those things, i will keep talking forever and you , dear reader will get bored.

argyle sofa

On Design and Decoration:

Many young people ask me about how to get into the industry. What matters most to me on this subject is whether you are looking to become an Interior Decorator or Interior Designer; huge difference.If you are wanting to be a decorator, then whether you choose a physical school or distance ed shouldn’t matter as long as they are an accredited school. What you would be doing boils down to color, texture, and look of an area. (Not knocking any decorators out there; just trying to give a very brief explanation!).If you want to be a designer, you’ll need a 4 year degree by an accredited school. The extra courses (besides basics) are for drafting knowledge as well as being able to know about ergonomics, plumbing and electrical standards, building codes, etc. You’ll also know about architecture (whether that wall you want to knock out is a load bearing wall or not, etc.). What you would do combines architecture with all the great things decorators do.


New Design Project scheduled for June 2012 – Our New House!

I am excited to report that Jan and i have a new home! We move in, in late June this year. One thing we learned the HARD way, is what to do and what NOT to do when selling your home:

We learned somethings the hard way. Never spruse up too much as people looking for a house to live in will come in and re-do your ideas of decore all over anyway. And I have been turned off when out looking for a house to buy. I do not want the owner to go to extreams and try to cover flaws..and I ask questions on the sly as to why they are selling and what over the years caused problems,etc. Then I also check with the neigbors or some of their friends and family…I do not buy sight-seens as is…heaven forbid. And when I sell our home I am up front wiht them…this was fixed back give a date and year or month. We tried to keep the drains working and when they glogged up we made sure to auger them, or these pipes are mostly all new, some are the older style. Whatever the thing is they are asking about. Electric outlets, and so forth needs to be well addressed. Now make sure you have written what you intend to take and intend to leave. For instance..if you bought a copper ornament and it is attached to the wall that you got in another country…beware..this may be one item that catches the buyers eye to want to buy your property.. We had to leave all my bolted down art work, and some light fixtures, because we had no idea, that is the reason the house sold. However I got smart..on another property…before we showed the house on market…take down everything you intend to take with you, and put something else in that place. Lights fixtures, we make sure now that all is plug ins..ceiling and etc..or a light we care less about if we move. BUT heirlooms..need to be taken down. We even had to replace some brick in a stone wall-as these were my grandfathers and father, when they worked at the brick yard, and made only a few special for bicentanials. Outside is the same..if you have a patio with build in benches that are keepsake..then get them out befor you show the property. Mirrors on walls, furniture and etc, all has to be written keep-or don’t keep. Not always will the appliance go with the house. You also may not wish to sell the air-concitioning unit you installed a year ago. THINK-before YOU put property up for sale. AND never refinish wood floors, or lay carpet…these people will change it anyway…

To do list…clean the house and don’t fret if there is a newspaper or a book left on the sofa, this is home…make it look like you enjoy living here. Bake, or go out and buy some fruits and etc to sit in pretty dishes,…platters of mixed cookies..and have the coffee pot brewing, or a loaf of home baked bread or buns in the oven. Sit on the back burner some vanilla-on very warm heat..the aroma is what always catches my nose, when I walk inside a house to buy.. mabe a candle sitting in a safe place..and Please no animal trails or odors from uncleaned cages or litter box. If necessary have the animals well groomed..and make them behave…barking dogs or cats that rub legs freely is a NO! no when showing your house. And do let the owner know, that you will be snooping in every nook and cranny. This is inside a closet-far corner..checking for cracks that have been previous done over..and foundation..and insulation,,check basement for tattle tail leaking..and etc. If necessary go to the roof and look at the sheeting there, the tiles, and whatever has been used, and how soon will this need repaired. We have found beautiful homes on market, and the roof didn’t sell us, or the fact the heating and insulatuion was not up-dated. Patios, how much sand is around the house to cause ants-to flow in. Water, taste it. Never leave one stone unturned.

Solar Powered Subfloor Ventillation – Technology and Design In Action

It is nice to see the convergence of technology, design and good old Aussie know how. I live in a 102 year old house that has, like many older residencies in Australia a predisposition for damp in the winter months. The damp comes up from the ground under my house – it was built in a time when houses were not built on concrete slabs. Therefore damp ground underneath the home makes it way into the house via migration up the wall, through rising damp air and good old condensation which means damp walls and inevitable mould and a generally unhealthy environment.

Solar and D.C. Fans To The Rescue and a Skilled Handyman

Ok, so we have a problem –  a damp sub floor. So how do we fix this? I have seen small muffin fanmuffin style d.c. fans used under houses to blow and circulate air around. I decided to go down this track and purchased 12 Sunon 12 volt d.c. fans and wanted them installed onto the floor bearers under each and every room in the house. I called my local inner west handyman Martin to come round and assist with the installation. He used 10 mm rubber grommets between the fan chasis and the timber floor bearers to minimise vibration and noise when the fans were running. Next, i got Martin to install a 120 watt Kyocera solar panel onto our back shed’s roof in a northerly aspect to maximise power from the solar panel. The solar panel was then wired, via pvc conduit, into the 12 volt d.c. fans and hey presto – a subfloor fan ventilation system that requires NO a.c. power to drive the fans. We now have a damp free house – Q.E.D.


Sydney University Master Of Sustainability

Interesting to see that Sydney University has a post graduate course aimed at sustainability. I am interested in finding out more about this course as sustainability will become an increasingly relevant issue in Australia. It is pleasing to see tertiary institutions offering training in ‘next generation’ environmental and sustainability issues. This will translate to management in Australia’s major companies that consider how future generations will be impacted by the decisions made today.

Wire Wound Potentiometers To The Rescue

11 January 2014 – Using Variable Resistance To Control Irrigation Flow

My friend Ryan Fabris asked my to look at the design of his irrigation system that supplies bore water to his organic saffron crop he is trialling in the A.C.T. The irrigation system is quite simple in concept and uses:

  1. Direct current electrical pump with around 30 litres per minute capacity to pump water through a series of flexible pvc pipes
  2. The pipes are sunk into trenches dug into the soil at a depth of around 15 centimeters and these pipes run approximately 50 centimeters from the saffron plants
  3. The electrical pump needs to be carefully controlled to ensure that the flow of water through the system meets the requirements for watering the crop but at the same time ensuring that water is preserved wherever possible. The A.C.T. has fairly strict water usage legislation and it is imperative that the available ground water is used appropriately.

Controlling The Water Pump By Using A Wire Wound Potentiometer

My early foray into electronic control circuitry came into use in this project. I established that the power rating of the pump was sufficient to achieve maximum water flow to the irrigation system but by carefully controlling the current fed to the pump i could also control the amount of water flow – thereby maximising usage of the available water but ensuring adequate water was fed to the crop. I ordered a wire wound potentiometer from Sydney based Resistor Specialists. The wire wound potentiometer has a 3 watt rating and can be mounted into the irrigation control panel easily via a simple threaded bush assembly on the potentiometer. A resistance value of 330 ohms (ohms is a measure of electrical ‘resistance’, which is the measure of how much current is or is not passed in the electrical circuit). By being able to control the resistance value via the potentiometer, feeding to the water pump from the 30 watt Meanwell power supply, i was able to create an elegant way wire wound potentiometerof controlling the water flow into the irrigation system. The wattage of the potentiometer seems to be important. Many potentiometers are made from a carbon wiper assembly, which controls the available electrical resistance. Most carbon potentiometers have only a small power rating – typically 1/4 watt up to 1 watt (wattage is a measure of electrical power and is calculated by the mulitple of the square of the current flowing times the the resistance, or in mathematical terms Power = I squared times R, where I= electrical current and R = resistance).

Correct Water Flow Achieved

It is satisfying to be able to assist in a simple engineering problem and find an elegant, cost effective (the potentiometer, wiring and mounting system cost less than $100 to install) solution. The water flowing to the crop can now be easily controlled ensuring maximum crop yield and minimum water wastage. Q.E.D.

Australian Institute of Architects’ 2014 National Architecture Conference – 8 to 10 May 2014

This is a not to be missed event if you have a passion for creative architecture. The team of Adam Haddow, Helen Norrie and Sam Crawford are well respected in the design industry and i for one will be attending. Details below:

The act of making; the dirtiness, directness and honesty of architecture is the inspiration behind the theme for the Australian Institute of Architects’ 2014 National Architecture Conference

2014 National Architecture Conference

The conference will be hosted in Perth for the first time in more than a decade.

Adam Haddow, Helen Norrie and Sam Crawford were announced as the 2014 creative team with their theme, Making, by the AIA’s national president Paul Berkemeier.

Inspiration for the theme came from the process of making architecture, rather than simply the presentation of architecture as a finished product. Additionally, the collaborative relationship and catalytic projects that lead to cultural change and shift the context of architectural practice also contributed.

The team explained, “Our interest lies both in the machinations of the process, and the beauty, delight and surprise of excellence. Making will be a celebration of ideas. It will celebrate approaches to achieving architectural excellence that challenge cultural, economic, social and political environments. It will be through an investigation of the unknown that our own place will be revealed more clearly.

“How do we learn, as practitioners, from these alternative processes, the wins and losses, the mistakes and coincidences that led to better outcomes?

“‘We want to hear from the speakers about other ways of making architecture. How architecture is made in other cultural, economic and geographic contexts, particularly Asia, Latin America and Africa,” they say.

The theme of Making will also explore the expanding role of the architect and consider a broader definition of ‘architect as maker’ – not just of singular buildings, but as the maker of environments and connections that extend the bounds of traditional practice.

Contemporary architects are not constrained to the drawing board, the team say, but are engaged with communities and cross-disciplinary collaboration. Architects are often a champion of political change.

“We are interested in a new emerging role of the architect and the different ways of “making” across a range of circumstances.”

The national conference is an opportunity for architects to celebrate their profession and enjoy a collegiate environment, as well as be inspired and energised from practitioners who share the same ambition, but differ in approach and context, the team says.

Keynote speakers, panelists and the creative team will further investigate ‘making’ through four sub-themes – Making: Culture, Life, Connections and Impact.

About the team

Adam Haddow is a director of SJB. He has received numerous awards and is known most for his work on multiple housing and his engagement in ideas about the future of our cities. He is a contributor to many journals and is actively involved in built form advocacy through the AIA.

Helen Norrie is an academic in the School of Architecture and Design at the University of Tasmania and a writer, curator and architectural critic contributing regularly to national and international architecture and design discussions.

After leaving university Sam Crawford established his own practice. Sam Crawford Architects has since been widely published nationally and internationally and has been recipient of numerous state and national awards including a 2012 NSW Architecture Award and National Commendation for the Smee Schoff House.

The National Architecture Conference – Making – will be held in Perth from 8 to 10 May 2014.


Rex Wheeler – Canberra Sustainable Builder

I have known Rex Wheeler since we studied at A.N.U. way back in 1982 (yes, showing our ages now!). Like myself, Rex has a strong interest in Sustainable Housing. His company Canberra Green Builder has been established in the A.C.T. to build homes for Canberra residents looking for homes that offer a sustainable model, but with all the trappings new home buyer look for in 2013. Rex has sent me this outline of what goes into the design and construction of an energy efficient home:

Sustainability and New Home Construction

First, thank you James for allowing me to talk about one of the subjects most dear to my heart –  Building and Sustainable Housing. My company has a primary objective of building quality homes for Canberra and A.C.T. people who want not only a beautiful residence, but a home that is energy efficient and meet many of the criterion for ‘sustainability’.

Sustainability and New Housing Construction

The term ‘sustainability’ really means (when related to housing) creating a home that is in harmony with its environment and has elements within its design and construction that take less from the environment than traditional housing affords. Sustainability, as the name suggests, also means that the home will continue to operate in this manner Sustainable New Home Building - Canberra A.C.T.(not taking from the environment) for many years to come. The key elements we have adopted in our home construcion include:

  • Energy Efficiency – Implementing the latest technologies to minimise reliance on grid supplied power
  • High level Insulation Usage
  • Renewable Energy Generation In House.

In 2012 Canberra experienced mean minimum winter temperatures of 4 degrees celcius and for the same year Canberra’s mean summer temperatures were 32 degrees celcius. This huge range of temperature really dictates that home thermal performance is a critical design issue. We have looked at the newest insulation technologies emerging and now have a range of over 25 different products we can offer for insulation in our homes. We target these areas for insulation:

  • Sub floor
  • Cavity Wall
  • Ceiling
  • Roofing
Material selection is important, but the installation and design for acceptance of insulation is equally important. Insulation is a key factor in the initial design of our homes.

Solar Energy Capture Implementation

Our homes are designed to be highly energy efficient. To further reduce the carbon footprint we have found that the use of high efficiency photo voltaic panel systems, both integrated and discrete, can bring the home to close to being energy self sufficient. This is achieved by carefully discussing with new home clients their lifestyle, family size, typical energy usage patterns and their required appliances they would like for their new home. We then do a complex energy audit based on these inputs and from this can determine the optimum solar system size required to achieve minimum electricity import from the grid, whilst also keeping the solar system size to the minimum – allowing of course for growing families and evolving home appliance usage.


These are just some of the techniques and approaches we take in building new homes in Canberra. In my next article i will cover a raft of other factors from vegetation on the land to rainwater capture and water recycling that add up to creating a truly sustainable home that A.C.T. residents will be proud to own and enjoy living in.



Worthwhile Climate Change Article from Michael Mann

I have been closely following the work of Michael Mann, and think he has a very level headed view on Climate Change, its implications and the role that renewable energy, solar power, wind turbines and solar-roof and the likes can play in mitigating the effects of CO2 based electricity production.

Background:Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State
University, and a leading climate scientist thinks that we are on the edge of a major change
in public opinion because of the impacts of climate change that are occurring now.

Extract from the article below:
The impacts are [now] playing out in real time. It is not an abstract
prediction  about the future or about far off exotic creatures like polar bears. We
are talking about people potentially having to evacuate from places like
Tvulu or the Arctic’s Kivalina, another low lying island which is already
feeling the detrimental impacts of sea level rise.”

“It is going to take a little while to sink in,” says Mann “but there is
evidence of a dramatic shift in awareness and the public increasingly Michael Mann - Renewable Energy article
recognises climate change is real and if the public becomes convinced of
this, they will demand action and they are connecting the dots because we  are seeing climate change playing out in a very visible way.
“I think we are close to a potential tipping point in public consciousness
and what will tip it, you never quite know, but another summer like the
one we just witnessed we will see a dramatic shift in public pressure to
do something about this problem.”



Canberra “Green Solar Energy” Seminar

I have been asked to give a talk at the Canberra Green Energy Forum based out of the A.N.U. on November 3rd 2012 7-8pm. I aim to discuss solar power integration with modern building practices as described elsewhere on my blog. The implementation and uptake of Solar panels in the A.C.T. has been phenomenal however, my view is that the next generation ‘thin film’ P.V. panels and solar tiling systems will offer a more integrated and visually appealing way of using solar technology to reduce power bills and domestic “carbon footprints”.

Canberra home With Solar P.V. Tiling System Installed

Canberra home With Solar P.V. Tiling System Installed

The current trend is to use mono or poly crystalline panels mounted on aluminium frames which are then secured to the homes roof. Whilst this has proven reliable and works well (with over 360,000 solar P.V. installations completed in Australia since November 2010) the aesthetics, from a ‘designers’ point of view, leave a lot to be desired.

The ‘solar tile’ technology developed by 3M and the likes integrates solar P.V. into the actual roofing tile and the entire structure can incorporate solar, unlike conventional solar / roofing systems.

Further information:

A.N.U. Solar Research

Seminar Information and Bookings: 0455774342


John’s Solar Power Adelaide Update October 2012

-Update 8 October 2012 . John kindly sent through an update . A couple of people asked about our solar installation and Terry in Norwood, Adelaide asked about the S.A. solar feed tariff – John from his solar panels Adelaide website  sent us through this update yesterday;

There is growing speculation that  the S.A Government will follow Victoria and Queensland in ‘culling’ the F.I.T. – Quite amazing – for a Federal Government, supposedly intent on boosting ‘green – energy’ and renewable energy sources they have in fact actually done the opposite. I spoke with Brian Taylor for Adelaide Solar Supply Pty Ltd – he says he has not seen the industry quieter in over 5 years and a cut to the tariff ill kill the solar industry in Adelaide.

Anyway, the advice is, is you are looking at a solar power installation in S.A. dont leave it too long as it may not be quite as attractive if the F.I.T. is killed off. The popular solar systems sizes being installed in Adelaide are:

  • 1.5KW
  • 2KW
  • 3KW
  • 4KW
  • 5KW

For commercial solar installations, companies have been looking at massive 100KW systems – these are beneficial for businesses using substantial power – up to $4000 per month in electricity bills.

John can be contacted at (08)87668443 or jtaylor@adelaiderenewableenergy.com.au


Canberra Solar Power Consultancy

The A.C.T. Government has announced as of May 2012 that the renewable energy targets set in 2010 have been met and actually exceeded by 4 percent , meaning Canberra now derives 24 percent of its energy production from solar powr, wind power and to a lesser extent bio-mass production.

The Australian National University (A.N.U.) has a significant globally recognised  solar energy research untit (see http://solar.anu.edu.au/ for further information). They have active research programs run by Phil King Phd. on photovoltaic solar cell manufacture and production and concentrator solar thermal technology implementation,

Martin Ferguson (M.P.) at the A.N.U. Solar Facility

designed to increase P.V. output by focussing light onto the solar panels. Their ctivities include defect detection and surface passivation in silicon wafers; high performance silicon solar cells, including SLIVER solar cells; modelling; plasmons and nano PV technology; hybrid PV/thermal parabolic trough concentrator systems; and solar cooling.

Lucas Sena from GoSolar A.C.T. has been detailing his experiences with solar power installation in Canberra and the uptake has been quite phenomenal compared to states like N.S.W. where renewable energy has been side lined it seems by the O’Farrell Government. Lucas claims that larger 5 kilo watt solar panel systems are now increasing in popularity as the cost of solar installation has decreased by 40 percent since 2009, mainly driven by Federal Government solar incentives and the ‘Solar Bonus Scheme’. Over 44,000 homes in Canberra have had solar panel systems installed in the last 4 years. Lucas says the move towards high quality and high reliability systems has been the trend over recent years as the media has run many stories on ‘low quality’ solar inverters and ‘dodgy’ solar installation practices. He mentioned that even without Government rebates solar is likely to become the ‘renewable energy source of choice’ in Canberra as the much touted ‘Carbon Tax’ starts to bite from July this year.

Both Lucas and Paul Davies from the A.N.U. think that solar panel efficiencies has easily reach greater than 30 percent over the next few years and access to carbon credit schemes will drive this research and fund it for several years to come.

I am currently interested in developing a consultancy that can integrate the A.N.U. research with both industrial scale and domestic solar installations, not only around Canberra and the A.C.T. but potentially to a global audience. The solar power initiatives at federal Government levels, supported by quality research at the A.N.U. and ‘ground level’ implementation and installation by groups and businesses like Lucas’s make for an attractive solar ‘co- operative’ that can feed high end solar products into ‘main stream’ Australian renewable energy programs – an exciting thought!



Adding Solar Power to the Mix

The current boom in solar power in Australia has finally come my way. After we designed a new 3 car garage i realised i had the perfect space to install solar panels! It was a north facing area, approximately 30m by 40m – yes pretty huge area. We have an electricity bill of $1220 per quarter which is really getting out of control. The Government is offering up to $2800 for solar installation – this covers most of the cost of the solar panels and solar power inverter. I was going to try and install 20 or 3o Suntech solar 250watt  panels and go the full monty on a 5kilo watt solar system when I saw lot’s of people here in the Adelaide (where i’m on holiday) with solar panel mounted on their garage roofs – Eureka moment. I spoke to John from the solar power Adelaide news site  (see links below)- he recommended using an aluminium frame mounted at around 25 degrees to ensure the solar panels receive maximum sunlight. Coupled with that he suggested a 5KW SMA inverter which he said was one of the most popular solar inverters being used in Australia currently. John tells me that in Adelaide the solar installers are doing around 300 solar panels installations per day! That a lot of solar panels.

Anyhow i now have the solar panels mounted on a nice frame, facing north. On a sunny day they produce 20KW of power per day!!!! Thats absolutely amazing and i think this covers around 50 percent of our average electricity usage , meaning our power bills will be around $200 per month now, from $400 per month previously! A big thanks to John from the solar panels Adelaide resource and his inspiration that has proven to be a great help in cutting our greenhouse emissions and our power bill- cheers John. Johns final words of wisdom were:
1. Use BIG FAT wires, especially if you go for MPPT solar inverter.
2. Know exactly what you want before you enter the solar panel agent’s door. Do not allow them to downgrade quality of the solar panels or solar inverter.
3. Never allow the solar installation company to put a solar panel where it might be shaded by something else on the roof of your neighbours roof like a chimney. Watch out for trees casting shadows.
4. Get a solar inverter with a MPPT charge controller and one that has enough capacity to allow for more solar panels to be added in the future.
5. Get a solar metering controller that is temperature compensated.
6. Get a string of solar power regulators to charge the controller .