BUSTI - It was a big day at the site of a new home. Everybody wore their work clothes, winter coats and brought food to share. They were there to place straw bales in some of the walls. The project reminded me of the old-fashioned barn-raising except that men and women were stuffing straw in the bare frame.
This is the home of Paul Hedburg and Ruth Lundin. Let's go back to the beginning.
Lundin wanted a retirement home. She asked Dick Rose to give her an estimate including fees and his role in the project. Even before she married Hedburg, her dream was to build a house with green architecture, looking out to the trees on her property.
The front of Ruth Lundin and Paul Hedburg’s environmentally friendly home in Busti is pictured.
Photos by Ann Beebe
The first folks involved were the architects. They were Kevin Connor, from Buffalo, and Rose, from Lakewood. Some years back, Rose lived in the Buffalo area and had worked with Connor, when he lived in that area.
The builder was Empire Development. Mica Meredith, its owner, is from Ashville. This is his first totally green house, although he has stuck green ideas into other houses.
Greg Salva, educated at Jamestown Community College and from Stedman, was project manager. This was the first straw-bale house with which he was involved.
This is a partially Earth-sheltered berm house, meaning that the first floor is protected by dirt in the north. The dirt came from the land when they leveled a spot for the house. That dirt, kept away from the house by a strong cement wall, will help protect the house form the northern winds.
While they had the larger mixer on the grounds, they mixed the concrete for the foundation. The sand was bought locally, and the water came from their property.
Local, natural products were utilized as much as possible. Shipping and transportation by truck or train, which produces carbon dioxide, was avoided.
Next, the framework of the house was put up. The roof is composed of structurally insulated panels, SIPs. The structure of the building is post and beam with vertical posts and lateral beams.
The siding is composed of local larch trees. Plastic windows and siding were avoided. The plastic is made out of oil and produces harmful fumes and liquids. Natural wood from local trees that will grow back is sustainable. Larch trees grow fast.
All this provided more work for Meredith and his crew from Empire Development.
Now, the straw-bale volunteers were invited. It took several Saturdays to get all the outside walls filled with that natural insulation. David Lamfear, from Buffalo, was the expert brought in to supervise. He studied at Empire State College and Hilbert College, so he was a good person to lead this work. The straw will last as long as the house. Clay form the property was applied over the straw bales to finish the walls.
Hedburg and Lundin wanted a high-performance, low-impact house. This mostly applied to the energy. Structural insulated panels, called "sips," provided tight enclosures. Light, super-insulated wood for windows and the green roof were important. This home is expected to utilize about 25 percent of the energy of a comparable home.
The solar energy includes solar panels on poles to the east of the house. They heat the water. Passive solar heat is a result of the sun in the south entering through the many large windows on the south side of the house. All that straw keeps much of the heat from escaping.
As much as possible, materials used were recycled. Old church pews were utilized for woodwork around the doors and window sills. The pipes form the old church organs were used for railings to the upstairs. Drill piping, from drilling wells, was used for structural support.
The living roof is a mixture of ground up countertops and corn silage, into which plants are placed. Rainwater will be absorbed by the plants, which reduces the impact on the watershed. Lundin has said that she never weeds gardens, but now she has to weed her roof. That seems to be the only disadvantage in this house design, so don't feel sorry for her. Rain barrels will catch run-off and then be recycled to water for the roof plants.
Now, let's discuss how the electricity will be used. Light bulbs will be the compact fluorescents or LEDs (light-emitting diodes). They use 25 percent of the electricity compared to standard bulbs. The incandescent bulbs are the hottest ones on the market. the fluorescent ones are still a little warm. The LEDs produce all light and no heat.
All of the appliances are very efficient. The will be labeled Energy Star.
Panels to heat water are located on the north side of the house. They are above the roof so that the natural sun heats the water. Then, the water goes to a heat exchanger in the utility room where heat can be added to the water and radiant floors. When the sun does not shine, a gas line provides alternative heating.
During the summer, a passive solar design overhangs the windows. That design is made of short wooden strips with spaces between them for shading windows in the summertime. I love that idea because I'm tired of opening and closing curtains every day.
The utility room houses a heat-exchange coil, solar hot-water heater and pipes that bring in the electricity. Any excess electricity is sold back to the power company's grid. Then, if you, at some time, need more electricity, you can buy it back form the company. Ventilation provides a high catwalk to release warm air and low winds that can be opened.
The last recycling that needs to be discussed is for the interior design.
Wooden organ pipes are used along the balcony.
In 14 years, they plan to go totally sustainable.
My congratulations to Lundin, Jamestown Audubon president, and Hedburg, for putting into practice the building practices that are advocated by the Audubon.
Maybe I'll see you at their open house on Sunday, July 22.
It will be held from 1 to 3 p.m., at their Busti home. Call 569-2345 or visit jamestownaudubon.org for more information.