Master craftsman Robert Laporte and architect Paula Baker-Laporte moved the headquarters of the EcoNest Company, their design/build firm, to Ashland, Oregon in 2010. Last year they completed a new nest of their own. Featuring a timber frame, clay/straw walls and extensive use of natural and local materials, the two-bedroom home measures 1,510 square feet, and includes the EcoNest business offices.
Laporte adapted his wall system from traditional timber framing and wattle and daub.
“It’s a versatile material,” he says. “The clay/straw mixture combines the insulating properties of straw-bale and the heat-storing properties of cob in one wall system.” Builders can adjust the proportions according to the solar opportunity; for instance, the south-facing wall contains more clay, increasing its capacity as a thermal mass. Larsen trusses minimize thermal bridging in the 12”-thick walls.
Ninety-five percent of the materials by weight come from within a 100-mile radius, including clay harvested in the Applegate Valley. To minimize concrete, the foundation consists of a perimeter footing in conjunction with a stem wall of Faswall blocks, made from recycled wood mineralized with clay.
The Laportes follow the 25 Principles of Baubiologie (Building Biology), a set of guidelines created by Anton Schneider and others in response to a surge in illnesses linked to hastily built dwellings in post-war Germany. Concern for health and building longevity drive their material choices. Houses made from natural materials don’t off-gas toxic materials or require mechanical systems to import fresh air, says Baker-Laporte.
“The key to longevity isn’t in sealing things up,” adds her husband. “It’s in how well they breathe.”
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