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TitleThe econest home : designing & building a light straw clay house
Author
File Size36.2 MB
Total Pages322
Table of Contents
                            Front Cover
Praise
Title Page
Rights Page
Contents
Dedication
Acknowledgments
Foreword
Introduction
Section 1: The EcoNest Philosophy
	Chapter 1: Defining the Biological Home
	Chapter 2: Applying the Principles of Building Biology to EcoNest
	Chapter 3: Designing Your Nest
Section 2: How to Build an EcoNest
	Chapter 4: The Workshop Experience
	Chapter 5: Foundation Systems: “A Good Pair of Boots”
	Chapter 6: The Timber Frame
	Chapter 7: Introduction to the EcoNest Light Straw Clay Wall System
	Chapter 8: Matrix Framework
	Chapter 9: Formwork
	Chapter 10: Wall Production
	Chapter 11: Delivery
	Chapter 12: Filling
	Chapter 13: Drying and Prepping for Finish
	Chapter 14: Completing the Exterior Envelope
	Chapter 15: Crafting the Interiors
Section 3: Case Studies: 2005–2013
	New Baker-Laporte Residence, Ashland, Oregon
	Prajna Yoga Studio, Santa Fe, New Mexico
	The Hoffman Residence
	EcoNest Stock Plans
Resources
Notes
Appendix A: Workshop Checklist
Appendix B: Door and Window Openings in Matrix
Appendix C: Excerpt from the 2015 International Residential Code (IRC)
Index
About the Authors
                        
Document Text Contents
Page 1

D E SI G NIN G & B U IL D IN G A
LI GH T S T R AW CL AY H O USE

Paula Baker-Laporte and Robert Laporte
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Paula Baker-Laporte
and Robert Laporte

www.newsociety.com

US/CAN $49.95 SUSTAINABLE BUILDING

BUILD YOUR OWN BEAUTIFUL, ENVIRONMENTALLY
FRIENDLY, HEALTHY NATUR AL HOME

This masterpiece is recommended to [both] novices and experts.
— Franz Volhard, architect; and author, Leichtlehmbau

While the rest of us look desperately to new technology to save us from ourselves and solve the
problem of sustainable housing, Paula and Robert have found the answers in ancient technologies.
Their beautiful homes, built of timber, clay and straw, have all the comforts we’ve come to expect,

but they sit lightly on the land, and will do so for a long, long time.
— Kevin Ireton, former long-time editor, Fine Homebuilding

An EcoNest is not just a home – it is a breathtakingly beautiful structure that nurtures health and
embraces ecology, bringing together time-honored traditions and modern innovations for the best of
both worlds. This unique approach to construction combines light straw clay, timber framing, earthen
floors, natural plasters and other natural techniques with the principles of Building Biology to create a
handcrafted living sanctuary.

The EcoNest Home is a complete theoretical and practical guide for prospective designers and build-
ers, including:

• A detailed explanation of the nature-based science behind EcoNests
• Fully illustrated, step-by-step instructions to guide you through construction
• Dozens of inspiring photos of completed projects.

The most comprehensive North American resource on light straw clay construction, written by its lead-
ing proponents, The EcoNest Home is a must-read for anyone considering building their own healthy,
affordable, environmentally friendly, natural home.

…every aspect of creating a beautiful, sensible, and healthy home is explored and demonstrated with
elegance and clarity. Filled with practical information… informative, beautiful and inspiring.

— Martin Hammer, architect; co-author, Light Straw-Clay and Strawbale Construction appendices in
the International Residential Code; co-director, Builders Without Borders

Paula Baker-Laporte and Robert Laporte are the creators of the EcoNest concept. Robert has built over 50
houses using the EcoNest system and has trained hundreds of professional builders and aspiring owner-builders
in using the techniques. Paula has worked as the architect for the EcoNest Company for nearly two decades and
is the primary author of Prescriptions for a Healthy House.

To help bring you the very best inspiration and information about greener,
more sustainable lifestyles, Mother Earth News is recommending select
New Society Publishers books to its readers. This book is one of them.

Page 2

Praise for
The EcoNest Home

I have found this publication extremely inspiring,
easy to comprehend and well-illustrated. The
authors describe their sophisticated LSC wall
system in great detail and place it convincingly
in a wider context based on their philosophy.
Impressive is the systematically future-focused
advancement of timber construction in conjunc-
tion with natural climate control and principles
of Baubiologie/Building Biology combined with
ambitious aims of aesthetic design. This master-
piece is recommended to novices and experts
respectively.

— Franz Volhard, architect,
and author, Leichtlehmbau

We are moving away from eating synthetic foods
and applying synthetic cosmetics because we
believe that what we put into our bodies matters
to how we feel and function. We can taste the
difference between an irradiated, genetically
modified tomato and one naturally grown. So
why do we live in synthetic buildings and breathe
synthetic air? We have discovered the magic of
living and working in EcoNests. The gatherings
we host in these inspiring and refreshing spaces
produce completely different outcomes than
those we convene in synthetic environments.
In this remarkable book, Paula and Robert offer a
radi cal paradigm shift worth seriously considering
for better health and a more sustainable world!

— Cindy Mercer, co-founder,
Planet Heritage Foundation www.planetheritage.org

Imagine a house more comfortable, and
comforting, than any you’ve ever been in
before, so well built it could last for centuries,
and a house that, at the end of its life, could
be absorbed back into the earth as simply
and safely as an apple core. Now imagine
two people who have been designing and
building such houses for 25 years sharing
all of their hard-won lessons. That�s what
this book is.

— Kevin Ireton, former long-time editor,
Fine Homebuilding

Paula and Robert’s updated book allows us
the privilege of benefiting from their evolution
as authors, teachers, architects, craftspeople
and pioneers in the natural building movement.
Through their work they manage to balance
the artful and rare combinations of progression
and tradition, professionalism and grass roots.
The Econest Home is made from well designed,
sophisticated techniques rooted in simplicity.
This book demonstrates the outstanding results
that arise to their steadfast commitment to
creating healthy, natural homes.

— Adam Weismann and Kay Brice,
Directors/Founders of Clayworks and Cob in Cornwall,

authors, Using Natural Finishes and Building with Cob

www.planetheritage.org

Page 161

146 The EcoNest Home

2. First roll the sample into a pencil-sized
cylinder. If it falls apart, reject the soil.

3. If the pencil-shaped sample can be bent to
90 degrees without breaking, a higher clay
content is present. This is the threshold of
acceptability for a denser wall.

4. If the sample can be molded into a ring
without breaking, this indicates sticky clay
of good quality that can work with a range
of densities, as desired.

Batch Testing
A simple and effective test that we recom-
mend before committing to a clay soil source
is as follows:

• Make a quart of slip with the sample clay
soil.

• Thoroughly coat a small batch of straw
with it.

• Using two hands, compress the fresh clay/
straw tightly into a 2" diameter by 12" long
cylinder. Hold the end of the “cigar” in one
hand and shake it around to see how well
it holds its shape. If it holds its shape, then
your clay passes the test with flying colors.
If it falls apart . . .don’t despair!

• Now, allow the same mixture to sit over-
night, covering it so that it doesn’t dry
out. The straw and clay mixture becomes
stickier when the moistened clay has time
to “season.”

• Using two hands, compress the “seasoned”
clay/straw tightly into a 2" diameter by 12"
long cigar. Hold the end of the cigar in one
hand and shake it around to see how well it
holds its shape. If it holds its shape well and
resists falling apart, the clay and straw are
binding together well—your soil has passed
the batch test!

Laboratory Testing
The particle size distribution (PSD) test is
a scientific procedure that determines the

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Page 162

Wall Production 147

percentage of clay, sand, and silt in any given
soil sample.

This test is available through private
labs, USDA-soil departments, and Grange
Co-ops, if you have one in your area. It costs
about $50.

Sourcing Clay
If there are birds in your neighborhood, such
as swallows or robins, who build with fiber and
mud, this is a strong indication that suitable
clay soils for construction exist in your locality.

We have now built in 17 US states, 5
Canadian provinces, Central America, South
America, and throughout Scandinavia, and we
have found suitable clay soils for building pur-
poses to be abundantly available. This forgiving
building system is adaptable to a wide variety
of clay soils.

Clay Harvesting
If you have a site with good-quality clay that
lies on the surface, a winter with freeze/thaw
cycles, and dry spring weather—and you have
time to plan ahead—then you can let the
climate do your work for you!
1. In summer or fall, remove the topsoil,

exposing the clay-rich layer to the sun so
that it bakes into hard plate-like pieces.

2. During the winter, freezing temperatures
will expand and fracture the clay plates.
This freeze-thaw/wet-dry cycle renders the
clay into a friable state.

3. The fine powdered clay on the surface can
be collected in the dry spring and must be
kept dry until used for slip. This fine pow-
der is ideal for slip making.

In wetter areas or seasons, clay will come
out of the ground in big, heavy clods, which are
not efficient for slip making. Ideally, the clay
soil should be in a dry powdered or pulverized
form. Most landscape companies have a soil
shredder that can granulate chunky clay into
an acceptable pea-size for use in wall building.

Occasionally we have encountered a situa-
tion where high-clay-content soils are wet and
cannot be efficiently dried out and processed
prior to production. In those cases, we con-
structed an on-site soaking pond. Here’s how
to do it:

• Make a 50–100 sq. ft. soaking pond 12"–
16" deep (an EPDM pond liner works well).

• Soak your chunky clay for 24 hours or
more. This soaking will soften the clay,
making it easier to liquefy.

• Make your slip right in your pond, after the
soaking period, by blending it with a power
drill and paddle.

Purchasing Clay
It is not always cost effective or time efficient
to harvest your own clay, especially for larger
buildings. Over the years we have found a
variety of sources for purchasing suitable clays.

Page 321

A Guide to Responsible Digital Reading

Most readers understand that buying a book printed on 100% recycled, ancient-forest
friendly paper is a more environmentally responsible choice than buying one printed on
paper made from virgin timber or old-growth forests. In the same way, the choices we make
about our electronic reading devices can help minimize the environmental impact of our e-
reading.

Issues and Resources

Before your next electronic purchase, find out which companies have the best ratings in
terms of environmental and social responsibility. Have the human rights of workers been
respected in the manufacture of your device or in the sourcing of raw materials? What are
the environmental standards of the countries where your electronics or their components are
produced? Are the minerals used in your smartphone, tablet or e-reader conflict-free? Here
are some resources to help you learn more:

 The Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics
 Conflict Minerals: Raise Hope for the Congo
 Slavery Footprint

Recycle Old Electronics Responsibly

According to the United Nations Environment Programme some 20 to 50 million metric
tonnes of e-waste are generated worldwide every year, comprising more than 5% of all
municipal solid waste. Toxic chemicals in electronics, such as lead, cadium and mercury,
can leach into the land over time or can be released into the atmosphere, impacting nearby
communities and the environment. The links below will help you to recycle your electronic
devices responsibly.

 Electronics Take Back
 Canada - Recycle My Electronics
 United States - E-cycling central

Of course, the greenest option is to keep your device going as long as possible. If you decide
to upgrade, please give some thought to passing your old one along for someone else to use.

Page 322

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