Many people dream of building their own home, but few actually bring that dream to fruition. If you're looking for some DIY inspiration, look no further than this post -- Inhabitat writer Rachel Ross proves that building a beautiful, healthy and sustainable abode is well within your reach. Rachel, who is a design consultant and co-owner of Mandala Homes, worked with her husband on creating not one, but a series of sustainable and ENERGY STAR rated yurts that fully embrace their beautiful wooded site located in Nelson, B.C., Canada! Jump ahead for Rachel's first-hand account detailing both the process and design, and get motivated to get your own yurt going!
Meet our house, the Magnolia 2300. It’s a three bedroom, round, passive solar home located in the lush green forest of Nelson, B.C. Canada. Myself, my husband Lars, and our 15 year old daughter, Poppy, designed our house using Slow Home principles for building houses that are healthy, designed to exactly fit the inhabitants and are gentle on the environment. The design was ‘slow’ but the construction process was quick because we pre-fab built the wall panels off-site with the insulation, doors, windows and siding included. Prefab-ulous!
Some glowing benefits of prefab are a lower environmental impact on the site and less construction waste. It goes up fast, and a speed build to weather-tight means that no valuable building materials were adversely affected by rain and snow — which happens in many places, but especially in Canada through the winter. We started pouring the concrete for the ICF foundation in the fall of 2011 and we moved in 150 days later.
This is the first ENERGY STAR Qualified home in B.C., which means that it uses 30% less energy to function as an incredibly comfortable living space. In addition to a passive solar design — 10” thick walls and “tuned” windows — it’s wrapped in a 3” blanket of Roxul Rock Wool. It has a continuous air-sealed envelope that includes the insulated doors and Low E windows. The walls are an R34 and the ceiling is a whopping R66. The whole house has an EnerGuide rating of 84. This means that our family can head to bed on a winter’s evening with the household temperature at 20 degrees C (68 F) and when we rise in the morning the household temperature is 19 degrees C (66 F).
The house is also a round home, meaning that it literally “embraces” the human beings who reside within it. Lars has been building round homes since 2000 and this home is his culminating dream home. Every aspect is designed to perfectly match the needs of our family.
Why round? As Lars says, “Living in the round is a way of living more closely with nature. Everything around us is round- the moon, the earth, eggs in a nest, the trunks of trees. As a lifelong nature enthusiast, I want my home to connect me with nature, not separate me from nature.”
We recently spoke with a beekeeper who reported that her group was experimenting with round shaped bee hives (as compared to the conventional rectangular beehives), she said that the bees in the round hives were less aggressive, more healthy and produced more honey than the same variety of bees in rectangular hives. Just like the bees, we experience greater harmony, more creativity and more flow by living in our round home. And, we love the fact that the natural thermal dynamics of a round space contribute to the overall energy efficiency of the space.
A visitor’s first indication of the “GREENness” this house comes from their nose. It smells like beeswax, non-VOC Yolo milk paint and soycrete stain. The floors are non-formaldahyde floating cork which is neutral in temperature and astonishingly springy. The cork on the kitchen floor is finished with ceramic designed to naturally protect from potential moisture.
The countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms are patterned bamboo finished with beeswax. The wood used for the timberframe details is locally sourced fir and the wide stair planks are crafted from salvaged wood. There are connected outdoor rooms and every room has natural lighting from skylights and suntubes.
No living trees were cut down to create the space to build this house, there was a natural round opening in the forest of grand fir trees that perfectly fit the 31’ diameter round center with 12’ wide radiating wings of the Magnolia design.
Our home is also an art home — when you wander around the house, you’ll see details like a Japanese Spirit Post in the living room, an inlaid pebble stream in the entryway, a custom Bamboo marquetry door, Shoji doors throughout the home, curved hallways and stairwells, handmade handrail brackets, niche-like window seats, Italian Porcelain in the ensuite spa, and a kitchen deck that has a 300 hundred year old Ponderosa Pine tree growing through it.
It’s one of four round buildings on our 1.5 acre property, which includes a round studio, a round garage, and a round greenhouse. For us, this is an ongoing project that promises to keep sprouting up round, green and energy efficient structures for years to come!