When Jim Wetzel and Nancy Wood head home in the evening and pull into the driveway leading to their home, they experience something very special.
That's because the unique structure they live in on Redlands Mesa represents something more than the years of dreams and planning, and three years of work so far that has gone into it.
It's something more than a house, and more than a home.
Jim and Nancy's living space is a personal expression of who they are and of their shared view of the world as an extended neighborhood. Their comfortable and inviting work-in-progress home serves as a retreat and an inspiration, as a center for their busy professional lives, and as proof that living an energy conscious lifestyle does not mean sacrificing comfort, security, or style.
Jim and Nancy developed the design of their home to be, first of all, energy efficient. Living with a smaller carbon footprint and utilizing "green" principles and technologies in their personal space is more than just a dream or a slogan for Jim and Nancy. They are actually doing it.
Jim and Nancy explain that when they began getting serious about looking into types of alternative design and construction they considered a geodesic dome configuration, and also looked at straw bale construction. But those technologies weren't right for a variety of reasons.
Jim worked out the basic design of the house. They feel very fortunate to have had their neighbor, Joe Gogenola, agree to serve as general contractor. He also did the final engineering plans for the house, designed and ordered the custom roof trusses, and made the 6,000 construction blocks their house is built of. The blocks are fabricated nearby on Redlands Mesa.
Those 6,000 blocks are the main construction material in the home. They are an innovative and highly energy efficient product made of shredded paper, ordinary Portland cement, and water.
The blocks are 10x14x4 inches in size. They are light weight and provide an insulating factor of R-55 through their 10-inch cross section. The entire house has a feeling of rock-solid sturdiness, and it seems to convey its own unique sense of "place." The home provides an interior environment that is separate and well insulated from its natural setting, but which provides a complete visual connection with the environment by ample natural lighting and expansive views in all directions.
The most obvious feature of their home's uniqueness is its eight-sided footprint. The eight sides make the design basically round, which maximizes the volume of interior space contained by the structure. The design provides convenient and spacious interior "nooks" for both Jim's and Nancy's individual home office set ups. The only actually square room is a guest bedroom upstairs.
The interior of the house is open and expansive. There is no space wasted in hallways. The upstairs provides a sweeping panorama of Grand Mesa to the north, and the Raggeds, West Elks, Gunnison Gorge, San Juans, and Uncompahgre.
The layout provides a conventional four-bedroom, 2.5 bath configuration with a large kitchen/gathering area and about 1,500 square feet on each of the three levels. The walls are finished inside and out with stucco.
The locally made and recycled building blocks were transported only three miles to the construction site. There, local workers made the mortar to cement the blocks on site. That was also part of the plan for resource efficiency – at every step in the process, Jim and Nancy were able to find a local, recycled, or energy efficient benefit to take advantage of in building their home.
There is minimal interior framing in the structure. The roof trusses are of conventional materials, but each one is individual and they are on a central support radiating outward like the blades of a fan. They were designed and manufactured locally in Delta, another plus for the home's local sourced character.
The above ground structure is built atop a type of energy efficient foundation wall that is gaining popularity in all types of construction. It is a system that creates a hefty concrete foundation wall insulated inside and out by thick sheets of rigid foam. The walkout basement has the same feeling of comfortable livability as the upstairs stories do.
The home's propane-fueled radiant heat circulates through polymer tubing looped and run between the first level floor joists. The semi-underground lower level combined with the natural convection of the first floor heat adds to the energy efficient design. Summer cooling is provided by a simple ceiling fan.
The home is ready to have photovoltaics installed to provide electricity from the sun. That part of the project is still in the future. Electric supply runs either through conduit-encased wiring whose channels were simply cut with a router into the lightweight block walls, or through an unobtrusive central support pillar.
Jim and Nancy's theme of efficient, low environmental impact, and energy efficient living carries through to the interior fittings as well. There is tile through most of the house. And while the bamboo flooring in the main master bedroom and bamboo accents staircase didn't come from local sources, the material is made from a plant that grows quickly and in abundance – actually a grass and not a tree. Bamboo is in no danger of becoming rare, and the neatly machined tongue-and-groove floor boards have a warm, lustrous appeal that accentuates their durable hardness.
Jim and Nancy are reminded everywhere in their home of the earth-friendly feelings of harmony and completeness that are sheltered within the living space of their Redlands Mesa home.
And significant as well, Jim and Nancy's handsome home would be a welcome addition to any upscale neighborhood, with the added attraction of energy efficiency designed right in.blog comments powered by Disqus