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Design #5

 The Bath-house & Citrus Garden

Client: Myself and Guests
Location: Finca Florecer
Date Started: Sept 2012
Date Finished: On going
Design process: S.A.D.I.M.

During my time travelling, without access to a normal bathroom, we would find places to bathe and wash. Public swimming pools, lakes, rivers or at a friends house, for a 'Shit, Shower and Shave' (generally a male term). Of course we would have our daily 'bucket washes' with the more feminine approach, 'Face, Fanny and Feet'. But it is always nice to soak away the grime and rest those tired muscles. In may countries there is a tradition of communal bathing, such as: the Moroccan Haman or the Roman baths….... In the west we have lost this tradition, making the experience of washing ourselves something to get over and done with, or a waste of resources. It is a lonely place. Privately checking in the mirror for blackheads or weighing ourselves when no-one else can see. A routine so you don't offend the person next to you on public transport or in the office. There is no pleasure in it, no time for self connection or connecting with others or the environment around us. It has become sanitized,

The ideas behind the traditional Japanese bath appeals to me the most,

Japanese Bath-house

Japanese baths (Furo)are designed as a place for contemplation and social interaction, a place where issues and thoughts can be shared in a calm and relaxed atmosphere. It is about family and community. Bathing alone or sharing with others 'Sukinshippu', it's a ritual, a prescribed order of rinsing, washing and soaking. Taking your time and caring for oneself and others. The bath is a place not only to wash the body, but also to cleanse the mind and the soul.

Traditionally in the Japanese home the bath is in an independent building, away form the main house, a garden is place along the route, to integrate the bathing experience with the outside world. A window that opens at eye level, when submersed in the bath, provides privacy, but with a view connected to the natural world beyond and its changing seasons.

Sounds and scents have the power to conjure up memories and feelings, the tinkling of wind-chimes and the trickling of water, bird song and the rustling of leafs in the wind.

Thoughts and concerns difficult to speak of elsewhere could be mentioned or silent contemplation of our inner selves.

Bathing is to be done with care, taking time and pleasure, and should be valued as a prescribed part of one's daily routine.

The four steps of bathing:

  1. The Journey begins in the 'Datsuiba': a transitional space between dry and wet. Where one take off their clothes and steps into the the washing area next to the bath 'Furo' , sits down on a low stool, dip one's hand into the hot bath to check the temperature of the water. One pours water from a wooden bucket over the shoulders. This is repeated several time to rinse dust off the entire body and acclimatize it to the temperature of the bathwater. before entering the bath shared by others.

  2. The bather climbs down into the hot 'Yu' bathtub water, slowly. If too hot (normally 110*f) cold water can be added from the tap. Until the heat penetrates the bodies core. This is the time when the body is ready to be scrubbed.

  3. Feeling heavy and slow the bather leaves the tub and sits again on the stool. This time collecting a bucket of cold water from the tap. Rubbing soap into a loofah and begins to scrub, it is not unusual at this time for an other member of the family or bath to come and help scrub the bathers back. Taking care not to splash soapy water into the bath, this scrubbing can take as long as needed to rid the body from dirt and grime. Rinsing again before re-entering the tub.

  4. This time the body is ready for the heat of the water, and slips into the clean water more quickly. The body feels soft and fresh, the nerves and muscles begin to unwind from the accumulated tensions of the day. After this last soak, one might pour over some cooling water before drying off, putting on some comfortable clothing ' Yukatas' and relaxing for the evening.


Furo: bath. Physical structure.

Yu: hot water (or sacredness) also used For 'bath', but as the experience of bathing.

Yukatas: bathrobe

Sukinshippu: Skin-ship, the camaraderie achieved through being naked together.



Currently the terrace has a caravan, washing line and area for parking the car.

The terrace is one step down and opposite the cabin but on the the same contour to the house.

Established trees include, an olive tree, a carob tree and a olive sapling, approximately 5 years old. I have planted a few agaves along edge of the terrace wall. And two suffering citrus saplings (an orange and a lemon), which are struggling just to survive.

The elevation from the rock on the lower side of the terrace wall is approximately one metre deep and the rock at the bottom of the wall protrudes for 2m at its widest point.

JBH location.jpg

Wants and needs:

Even though I have a compost toilet already, it is roughly built and basic. Situated inconveniently, two terraces down slope from the cabin. The track down is steep and rocky. This has worried me with some of the not so able bodied guests and friends. As the original toilet as being a bit basic is a little out of some of my guest comfort zone.

With the bath-house I would like to show the average punter that going 'Ecological' does not not have to be rough looking or basic.​

  • Bath for social use

  • Secure storage for batteries, solar panels, charge controller, inverter

  • Compost toilet for guests

  • Directional roof for the solar panels

  • The site for the building needs to be in close proximity to house and cabin for easy access.

  • Solar system control panels need to be easily accessible

  • Has to be accessible for both the occupants of the house and the cabin

  • Water recycling

The Land, 2011.07, July 003.JPG


To create a design that will involve as many functions as possible in a small space. Designing systems for water, energy and waste, to show how these system can be used in a beautiful and sustainable way.

SWOC Evaluation
Japanese Bath-house


  • largest terrace close to the house

  • has a water source

  • Easy access

  • good example of ecological design which can be used by guests and family


  • Rocks offered from neighbour

  • can employ friend to do building work

Citrus Garden

  • easy to fence off from animals such as chickens and dogs

  • has a water source

  • can use grey water from cabin to feeds citrus trees via under ground pipes.

  • can use rain water from roof of cabin

  • Close to chickens for waste conversion

  • Good access for brought in materials such as Straw for mulching.

  • Close to house

  • planted with citrus trees of various types

  • shaded in part by olive tree.

  • a few rocks and building materials left over from building of Japanese bath house.

  • sell veg to guests

  • use as example to guests and visitors

  • Annuals can gradually be replaced by perennials and sensual plants.


  • Need to dig into terrace to make chamber for compost toilet

  • too broken to build it myself


  • Power line

  • back of terrace had very little soil (deepest 80cm) and areas of exposed bed rock

  • Soil hard, depleted and compacted

  • Annual harvests need to be replaced every year.

  • Power lines running to cabin

  • Strong weeds such as bind weed

  • bringing fertility back to soil

  • Shade from Olive tree



needs to be completed by spring to get vegetable ready for summer harvest.

Phase 1,

  • Construction

  • solar

  • toilet

Phase 2,

  • bath

Bath house



Building to hold

  • Compost toilet

  • compost container

  • Solar inverter and charge controller

  • solar panels

  • Battery storage

  • bath

  • shower

  • wood burner

  • sink

  • lighting

  • plumbing

  • windows

  • Doors

Solar hot water

  • Solar hot-water panels

  • plumbing

  • Support frame

  • Create vegetable beds between the citrus trees using a no dig bed system

  • follow the contours of the terrace using A frame.

  • Plant using annual vegetable plugs for instant gardening.


  1. Digger work

  2. Building construction

  3. Solar installation

  4. Compost toilet

  5. Solar heated bath

  • By studying the plants that grow and the assessing the yields obtained.

  • State of soil

  • Health of citrus trees

  • Wild life


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  • Materials can be brought onto site to create no-dig beds

  • No-dig beds can be built and planted in one day

The cost of bringing in materials to create beds will be out costed by summer harvest of vegetables which can be consumed by family, sold to guests and swapped with friends.


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Permaculture Principles and Ethics

Using the principle of observe and interact, I identified the need for a more convenient compost toilet for the guests. By combining the compost toilet, the bath house and the solar power, I will be integrating rather than segregating many different and diversifying systems. The solar panels will collect energy, that will be stored in batteries, which will be the electrical supply for the house and the cabin. The bath will be designed for up to 4 people at a time, but require no more water than a regular bath. Circulating the water through the solar hot-water panels on the terrace below will keep the water hot the during sunlight hours by self-convecting the water back into the bath. During the night the bath will be cover with an insulated lid to keep the heat in. All this fits into the principle 'catch and store energy'.

The yield from the compost toilet in form of humanure and grey-water from the bath will be used to irrigate and fertilise the fruit trees on the terrace below.

The design focuses on using and valuing renewable resources and providing a holistic experience. Allowing visitors the chance to experience ecological design in beauty and comfort. The garden using scented plants, can be picked to add to the water for stimulation and relaxation.

Bringing the citrus trees and vegetable beds into a very prominent place and giving guests an area from which to sit, view and enjoy the beauty of the land, taste the produce in all it's natural glory, (bugs and all!), can promote a interest in the way to use diversity between nature and food production.

Earth care:

  • Sustainable energy supply

  • Compost toilet

  • Low water use

  • Recycled water use

  • Good design incorporating many functions

  • Removing over used resources out of the system

  • Having a closed loop system

People care:

  • Beautifully designed building

  • Scented garden for relaxation

  • Place for contemplation and communication

Fair share:

  • A place for guests to relax

  • Knowledge of how a simple ecological systems can be used in a more conventional way.

Relative location:

The building will be sited close to the house to minimise the loss of power through the cables from the solar system. Convenient access for guests to the toilet is very important. The access door to the waste from the compost toilet, will be at the back of the building on the terrace below. It will be composted along with the chicken manure and then used as fertiliser for the olive and fruit trees.

The building will have good access to the mains water supply and what comes out as waste will be used to water the terrace below with a basic grey-water irrigation system.

The roof will be sloped for the maximum solar gain during the winter months, and will have guttering to catch rain water run off which can be stored in a container to supply water for the chickens.

Keeping the batteries in an underground chamber will keep them at a cool and regulated temperature helping them to work at their maximum potential and keeping them safe from theft.

Using Biological resources:

  • Using the sun to generate electricity

  • Taking a waste product (poo) and turning it into a useful product for fertilising the olive and fruit trees

  • Using the sun to heat the water for the bath on a self convecting system

  • Taking the waste water from the bath, shower and sink and using it to water the fruit trees on the terrace below

  • Using the terrace slope to have a step in bath and drop down compost chamber



The technical stuff!!!

The bath will be designed to be used by up to 4 people at a time.

Total square metres of

  • bath

  • Battery box : needs to hold 8x 60 amp cells

  • Compost toilet chamber


Water heating using solar panels (SWH) into a water storage tank (bath)

convection driven (Passive)

heated directly from the sun.

Insulator cover to solar panels for night.

Insulator cover for tank.

The idea that water heated at the bottom of a pot rises to the top and returns to the bottom by convection is correct. The convection happens because hot water has a lower density and thus rises up to the surface where it cools and sinks down to the bottom again.

SWOC analysis of Solar bath


  • Constant hot water

  • water can be used for days at a time.





  • understanding the technical side of solar self-convecting

Stage one, The Japanese Bath-house

The implementation of the bath house was started using a digger to remove part of the terrace wall which would be the bath and the underground storage for the batteries and the compost toilet chamber. I was very tired of building by this time and employed some friends who were skilled builder, to do the bulk of the work. Because I hired outside help, we were on more of a time schedule (time cost money!), and a natural building practice could not be employed. The buildings purpose would out weigh any embodied energy that was used to build it.

19 cm thermocilla bricks (the thinnest you can get) were used to build the interior walls, the outside of these blocks was covered in rocks from the terrace wall and from my neighbour who had knock down his old stone casita. These had been brought over by a digger when the channel for the water pipes to the house was dug and I was connected to the mains water supply. This meant that the bulk of the materials were naturally and locally sourced.

Scaffolding had to be used on the lower side of the building as it was getting exceedingly tall. This felt to me a bit precarious but the lads were happy with it and no accidents were made.

The underground battery box was fitted with ventilation pipes, one at the bottom for cool air flow in, and two at the top for battery out-gassing and airflow out.

Once the walls were up (due to the stone they not have to be rendered), water pipes were installed and the interior was plastered. Windows next. I had ordered sliding double glazed aluminium windows for the bathroom as they would help with insulation during the winter months. For the compost toilet I used an old window that I had found, which still had it's shutters. The frame had rotted so I made a new one to fit. Rob a very accomplished alternative building designer, working with me on the project, wanted to have a go at designing a toilet that would look great but also be functional in design. Excited to the challenge of a 'Rob Collier' designed toilet, I let him loose. He took a broken toilet and cut the rim off then using steel and coloured (black) cement made a stall that would let solids fall freely into the chamber, but being cement would make cleaning easy. His use of concrete is exceptional and I was thrilled with the result. (add Robs Website address)

On with the roof. Alway an interesting time!!! The hardest part was fitting the frame for the solar panels and then the panels themselves. This was done in conjunction with Ian the electrician who had come to install the batteries, inverter, charge controller and lay the cables which would connect the power to the cabin and the house. Finally the roof was tiled and the final finishes were left up to me.

Stage Two: The Citrus Garden

The garden located just below the Cabin, is adjacent to the Japanese bath-house and compost toilet and will be visited most days. There is a good supply of water from, mains connection, rain-water collection from the cabin roof and underground from the cabins grey-water system.

There are a few limiting factors as in a big olive tree which could create shade for the citrus trees (which are being feed by the cabins grey-water system).

The citrus trees, although young at the moment will inevitably grow and shade over the site. Until this happens I will underplant with annual vegetables as it is easy to access and has a good watering system already in place. After a few years I can inter-plant these annuals with perennials that will be able to handle the shade and aromatic herbs on the sunnier sides. The grey-water from the cabin will be enough to support this garden without having to add more than a bit of compost and mulch.

By building the beds in line with the contours of the terrace any water run off will be captured within the beds themselves.

Using no-dig beds stops the land from being impacted more than it already is and stops any persistent weeds from getting a hold.

By bringing in extra material such as straw for mulch and making compost, a layer of topsoil will be created, attracting worms and other beneficial insects, which in turn will nurture and maintain soil structure.

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