A tale of two homes: ‘Green’ and cordwood

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11073589759696.jpg’, ‘Photo provided’, ‘Alan Stankevitz’s energy-efficient cordwood home with solar panels in Minnesota.’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-110735901818413.jpg’, ‘Photo provided’, ‘Trombe wall of Kent and Kathy Lawrence’s home (used for passive solar heating).’);

Supporters of renewable energy and efficiency frequently wonder whether their advocacy is making a difference. This month, the Illinois Renewable Energy Association had cause to celebrate. Two new homes presented in a workshop and as a field trip at Renewable Energy Fairs, Alan Stankevitz’s cordwood home in Minnesota and Kent and Kathy Lawrence’s “green” home in Ogle County (TRRT, Sept. 8, 2004), were featured in internationally circulated magazines.

Owners of both homes wanted to build environmentally responsible, energy-efficient homes using renewable energy. We didn’t create the values in these people. They came to us with those values and were willing participants in the Energy Fair.

We were eager for their participation to provide a venue for them to share what they did with a larger audience. Little did we know how large that audience would become!

Stankevitz’s cover article, “Solar-Electric Vision Becomes Reality,” can be found in the February-March issue of Home Power, “The Hands-On Journal of Home-Made Power.” The Lawrences,’ “Off the beaten path,” is in the January-February issue of eco-structure, a professional magazine directed toward “those in the architectural or building industry or related fields.”

Both articles were well written and accompanied by photographs that clearly illustrate a picture is worth 1000 words. Both homes are beautiful and livable, dispelling the outdated concern that ecologically sound homes must be crude and ungainly.

While the homes are similar in their “green” approach, they represent two different approaches. Stankevitz designed and built his and wrote the article. The Lawrences hired consultants to help them achieve the goals they set. They held an architectural competition and guided the creative process that was implemented by their architect, Thom Greene. They hired local contractor Rick McCanse to build it. Their article was written by a professional writer and accompanied by professionally shot photographs.

The Lawrence home, built of natural colored wood and native limestone, was designed to blend in with the woodland surroundings. It features a passive solar/Trombe wall. The 16-sided Stankevitz home is built of double walled cordwood with sand bed solar heating. Both use fixed angle photovoltaic systems to produce electricity; the Lawrences also use wind power. Both are grid-connected. Both were built after much serious research.

Not everyone is in a position to build a new home and incorporate the principles these people have chosen to have integral to their homes. However, many of the products and energy saving applications can be applied to remodeling an existing home. In the May-June issue of eco-structure, restoration of 19th century buildings in New Jersey is chronicled in “Rehabbed Zero-energy Home Could Be Nation’s First.” Photovoltaic systems, a wind turbine, improved heating and insulation and energy efficient appliances prove older structures can be made as energy-efficient as new ones.

People such as Alan Stankevitz and Kent and Kathy Lawrence are helping shift the building paradigm to integrate sustainable living principles into the housing of tomorrow.

Editor’s note: One of the sources for the Jan. 26-Feb. 1, 2005, article “Concrete—the world’s most widely used building material” was Alexandra Goho, “Concrete Nation,” Science News, Vol. 167, No. 1 (Jan. 1, 2005).

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