Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Scaling back in Todays World.

There is a lot of chit chat about low impact housing, building sustainably with repurposed and recycled materials, reducing our carbon footprint by using alternative energy, and environmentally conscious living. I have found that it is difficult at best to build a house by these principles IF you are building to your local and State Code and you don't have a bottomless pit of money.
Fact: it's expensive to do the right thing according to building codes. There are many "alternative" communities around the Country, where the County looks the other way and allows people to build shelter with  low impact and sustainable materials. I love that, and I wish that there were more communities like that out there.
I will also say that there are actually good things about knowing how to build to "code", though one can also just read up on local code and read books like "Structures, Or Why Things Don't Fall Down" by J.E. Gordon. Checking out books such as Tiny Houses and Tiny Homes, Simple Shelter, or the movie Tiny will also provide a new builder with inspiration on how to build in an ecologically balanced way.
In an area festooned with Earthships, Taos is on the map for it's alternative off the grid homesteads. Some are intentional, some are to code, some are mansions with the murky duality reflected of wealthy ideals trying to bond with sustainable concepts. 
Others are humble, built out of necessity, possibly red tagged, and reflect the real world dichotomy of building something according to your beliefs vs. what you can afford.

This is my third house, and I wish I could say it was all built out of recycled or repurposed materials and was completely off the grid....but we had a finite budget to work with, as well as inspections to contend with, and this is what we came up with.
The house is passive solar (situated for maximum South facing sun light). We cut corners by installing used windows and doors. We are going with wood heat, rather than propane. We are using an on demand water heater to cut down on propane (and they rock). We are going mostly Solar (PV system) to cut out the Grid and its bills. We are using cellulose insulation, way less toxic and better R value for the money. We have a pantry for food storage. We will have a green house for basic herbs and greens. We will catch our roof water for the trees and plants. We are using all the tools and experience we have as builders and metal workers (and artists) to make things rather than buy them. 
I think in the end it will work out for us just fine. The main idea was to cut our house bills to almost nothing as well as living with the lightest footprint we could contend with. 
The end result should be something beautiful, functional and as environmentally sustainable as possible with a limited budget and four hands.

 Cedar and Chris helping with the soffits.

The house as is today.