Going Green: The Eco-Nest Home

This is the first in a series of blogs in which I'm going to cover some of the most interesting and cost effective innovations in the greening of our homes.

I've done some blogs in the past on green building, from renovations that you can make on your existing home to reduce its "footprint", to reducing your energy usage in your current home without renovating, to building green from scratch, including such things as radiant heat and other new technologies that save energy and resources. Now I'm going to bring together lots of ideas and thinking in one series, to help you when you are mulling over your next renovation or your next home.

Over the next couple of weeks, we'll review what you can do to save both money and the planet, and what's coming in new construction and new home designs.

We'll start off the series with a bang: I may just have found the ultimate eco-friendly home! The developers of the Eco-Nest took inspiration from birds' nests -- literally. The home is made with walls built from clay, straw and timber. The combination is incredibly resilient and very energy efficient, while also allowing for a number of stylish and comfortable designs.

While it may seem similar to straw bale construction at first glance, this is a whole different kind of building. In addition to the many other benefits of the Eco-Nest approach, the home controls humidity and dampness if built correctly. The clay in the walls has the ability to keep water away from the wood and straw, and can later release moisture back into the air when humidity is low. In fact, the Eco-Nest walls act as a climate control network throughout your home to attract, hold and then release moisture. All this happens in the first couple of inches of the wall so that no significant amount of dampness ever penetrates. So, your walls stay dry but your internal environment is balanced and comfortable.

Like many green upgrades or renovations, using the Eco-Nest approach is not cheap. However, it is a construction built to stand. According to Econest.com, this is the kind of house to build if you want to hand it down to the next generation because it's built to last for centuries.

The developers of the Eco-Nest host seminars to teach people how to build these homes, and can work with you to design the home of your dreams. You do need to live in an area with a reliable dry season, and with local clay, in order to build these homes. However, since that describes a wide swath of North America, this really could be the kind of home that the environmentally-friendly will look to.

There are still questions about getting insurance on homes with new building techniques. If you decide on a home like this, you could have to educate your broker and your insurer. You may also have to educate your banker or lender -- since you will most likely need a construction loan and a mortgage later on.  But if you do, you know that we can help you out with good information on anything related to mortgages!

Michael Chantrel 

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