The Oregon-based EcoNest Company is the manifestation of an holistic design concept that being implemented in the construction of homes using straw-clay walls, earth plasters, and non-toxic, natural finishes. The concept as a company encompasses Paula Baker-Laporte, FAIA and Robert Laporte, and has grown to become a resource for home building workshops and seminars, design and build assistance, a network of professional green builders, and access to other learning opportunities.
Paula is an architect and author; Robert is a builder, teacher, and author. Together, they teach others how to design and build their own EcoNest homes. Their EcoNest Intensive Workshop lasts for three weeks and teaches a lifestyle and an approach to home building that touches on more ethereal goals in addition to teaching the mechanics of construction.
The first week of the intensive begins with five days of timber framing classes teach attendees timber selection, woodcrafting techniques with hand and power tools, structure assembly, and building erection. Week two focuses on the addition of clay straw walls with natural plasters. Roof construction takes place during the third week of the workshop.
The Laportes adhere to and teach the 25 Principles of Baubiologie (Building Biology), guidelines that were developed by Anton Schneider and others in post-war Germany as a response to an increase in health problems affecting people that were living in the hastily built dwellings of the time.
The clay and straw wall system was adopted from traditional timber framing techniques. “The clay/straw mixture combines the insulating properties of straw-bale and the heat-storing properties of cob in one wall system,” says Robert Laporte. Proportions can be adjusted depending on the availability of sunlight.
Even if you can’t attend an EcoNest workshop, there is much that you can learn from the Laportes on the EcoNestHomes website and you can read their books:
- EcoNest: Creating Sustainable Sanctuaries of Clay, Straw, and Timber, By Paula Baker-Laporte and Robert Laporte
- Prescriptions for A Healthy House: A Practical Guide For Architects, Builders & Homeowners, Third Edition, By Paula Baker-Laporte, Erica Elliott and John Banta
- The EcoNest Cookbook by Paula Baker-Laporte