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Eco-Conscious Architecture

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While meeting the steadily increasing demand for environmentally conceived single-family residences, Living Architecture (Bates’s company) has promoted the green agenda to larger audiences, advising on all details of the environmental and interior health aspects of the new county courthouse annex in Hailey and developing the 33-unit community housing complex at Pine Ridge in Ketchum. The success of this latter project persuaded the owners of the Clear Creek Meadows parcel just south of St. Luke’s hospital not only to hire Living Architecture to design and oversee the whole project, but also to dedicate among their planned 126 single-family homes and duplexes as many as 35 percent for community housing.

Most likely, the form these projects have taken would not have been considered in the Wood River Valley even a few years ago. Living Architecture, for example, prefers to employ a product called Durisol, which is an amalgam of wood remnants and Portland cement. As advertised, it can be molded to any shape, and is lightweight and porous; also, it neither harbors nor emits any toxins, and resists fungus, rodents, and insects. For use in housing, it is stacked dry in interlocking forms that resemble cinder blocks, and then filled with rebar and concrete to create a solid, structurally secure wall that is also a natural thermal and vapor seal. The product sounds like a wonder, yet it has taken years of persuasion to develop local acceptance. Now, fortunately, the reluctance to use nontraditional materials and techniques has lessened, and the number of contractors and sub-contractors who are willing and able to adopt a green approach has increased correspondingly—leading, in turn, to a fall in construction costs.

Durisol, of course, is just one manufacturer in a burgeoning market of green products. Garth Callaghan, a contractor with fifteen years of local experience in both commercial buildings and custom homes, has for the past two years been promoting and using a reflective foil insulation manufactured by a company called Environmentally Safe Products. The insulation makes use of the foil’s versatile thinness as well as its ability to reflect 97 percent of radiant heat. When the foil is heat laminated to a 1/4-inch layer of closed-cell polyethylene, it easily rolls onto any framing surface to keep the heat in during winter and out during summer. Callaghan is so convinced of the trend toward environmental consciousness in building that he has formed a separate company, Energy Savers of Idaho, to facilitate that part of the business.

The faith and efforts of Callaghan, Bates, Brown, Flannes, and others will continue to be rewarded only if support continues to grow for healthier building environments long-term. This, in turn, will occur only within an enlightened community and as a result of ongoing shifts in traditional thinking. Though patterns of thought and construction may not be evolving as quickly as the underlying “green” technology would allow, it is to be hoped that the seeds of change that are sprouting today will prove to be of lasting benefit and consequence.

Bill Lowe has lived in the Wood River Valley for twenty years and is a frequent contributor to Sun Valley Magazine. He is currently working on the design of a solar/hydro, green-built residence on the Hamakua coast of Hawaii.



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