Gunnison, CO

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So Many houses

We are not advocating to tear down all homes and build new. On the contrary, after decades of experience with remodels we see a massive need to improve the homes we have which is usually a 'greener' choice. However, new homes are still being built with little forsight for the everychanging world. New homes are being built under the same standards for the last 4 or 5 centuries, the energy crisis will likely continue as it is only a matter of time before the paridigm shifts.  There are many that are still building homes with little concern or consciousness about the future challenges and we see multi million dollar homes that leak energy and are a resource sink and waste generator. According to US Energy, 76% of all power plant production goes to our buildings. At our current rate we need 5 earths to support our ecological footprint.
We can change this! We can improve the buildings we have and when we build new we can design buildings that are resource generators and waste sinks. It's much more enjoyable to be part of the solution and no more difficult!
Everything under the sun

Everything we use in our lives has been effected by the sun. Our homes are solar whether we are conscious of it or not. The wood or straw that builds the house, the textiles in the house and the oil, gas or wood that we heat the house with is all stored solar energy. There are ways to maximze the use of the sun, Such as passive solar orientation of a structure. Passive solar design orients the home to take advantage of the suns heat throughout the day during the cooler months of the year and shades the living space during the warmer months. To take advantage of the suns free daily heat a house needs orientation, approriate glazing (windows), mass to store the heat, and insulation to keep the heat gained. Straw bale construction is the perfect marriage with passive solar. with the use of a slab foundation such as concrete or better yet adobe, the plaster skin on the inside of the wall as mass and the straw as insulation.
Living materials

There are some great understandings and research to humans living with natural materials. See the links below for Biophillic design. Straw bale houses are commonly very tight building envolopes with the use of plasters. Using a plaster for wall coveringsHas many advantages and is another perfect marraige with strawbale construction. First, a plaster is for protection from the elements, fire, rain,sun, impact,etc...
The plaster also adds to the structural integrity by adding compressive and lateral strength. Plaster also controls water vapor, air infiltration, sound and acts as a thermal storage. There are many different materials used for plaster such as earth, lime, gypsum, and cement.  Each material has it's advantages and disadvantages. Living in harsher climates may lead folks to a lime or cement stucco on the exterior and earthen(clay) ,lime, or gypsum on the interior.

Life cycles, and the view along the way

There is now a movement to better understand the lifecycle of materials that we use. One source says that 1% of what americans buy is still in use after 6 months. Cradle to cradle is the idea of re-using or recycling materials.  As we have gone along through these industrial years we have been developing products that are high in function for there life and when there life is over they are difficult and/or costly to re-use and recycle. Furthermore, many materials have been using up precious limited resources. Causing adverse effects to the surrounding environment, regardless whether you belive in global warmiing, high production materials leave higher traces of compounds that were not present pre production. Lastly, they are showing adverse effects in human health, see sick building links below.
Natural materials tend to be more cradle to cradle in their lifecycle. At the end of there life they simply return to the earth from where they came, just like our human structure.
Visualize the difference between a vacent mobile home in 100 years and a unkept stone wall.
Baby Boomers

For the next 20 or so years we will see the baby boom begin to retire. During the same time we will see energy prices increase, healthcare stress and new solutions develop along the way. Super energy efficent, natural homes are part of the solution on all fronts. During one's retirement the concern for monthly spending needs to be addressed  and a super energy efficent home addresses part of this burden by reducing energy bills.  Health and quality of life is another area that needs to be addressed. The more natural the home the better for dealing with increased sensitivety to chemicals,  Stronger immune response and psychological well being.  Strawbale homes can be easily made ADA complient, single story and be designed to fit the needs of generations to come. The maintance on these homes can be similar to any other home, but it is possible with the appropriate choices to reduce these costs form the onset.

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