After two years of hopeful experiements with conventional houses, Barbara Finlay, a retired college professor, could not find a living space compatable with her chemical and electrical sensitivities. Feeling that she had exhausted all options on existing homes, she retreated to her family homestead, camping on the land she grew up on, and began to look for builders. Through an interest in strawbale she found us.

Knowing this house was very much an experiment for Barbara, Kindra designed small, the first design a 400 sqft loft style strawbale with lots of porches. Then through testing of materials it became clear that clay, for unknown reasons, would not work for her. Barbara is quick to acknowledge that the symptoms of every chemcially sensitive person are unique. Clearly, this was more of an experiment than any of us had expected.

Therefore we scaled back even further, cutting the footprint in half leaving only the essentials: a sleeping room and screened in porch. The total footprint is just slitghtly larger than Thoreau's historic cabin by Walden pond. This plan was much smaller than Barbara hoped for, but if this worked she could always build larger with confidence in method and material selection. Like Thoreau's venture into the woods our immediate goal was shelter constructed with simplicity and economy.

In material selection Kindra and John used "conventional green" materials familiar to Barbara: drywall floated with non-toxic gypsum, kiln dried lumber, concrete foundation, Enviro-Safe paint, denium insulation, Hardi-board siding, recycled concrete roofing tiles. There are several things that were specifically NOT included in the house: metal roofing, rebar (or other metals) in the floor, elecricity or wiring of any sort, aromatic cedar, vinyl, aluminim screen and fiberglass insulation.

As a specialist in mud and straw, Kindra is often asked, "why/how did you get involved in this project without mud?" The answer is two part: we believe that very modest structures of any construction are ultimately more sustainable for our planet than large structures of perfect material selection. Also, we are willing to "think outside the box" in order to meet our clients needs. Barabara needed flexible, creative, problem solver-builders.

We are happy to report that our process produced successful results, Barbara is happily sleeping in her new 'safe' cottage and busy plotting future expansions!

photos (click to enlarge)
foundation... rebar kept to the perimeter
Kindra and Monki facing the wind
recycled concrete roofing tiles
framed structure w/ roof
freshly milled native juniper siding...proved a bit too fresh and was set out to age
South West
inside the screen porch looking SW
entry between porch and interior room
interior with concrete paver floor