EcoNest Natural Building Workshops and Timber Framing Workshops

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Paula’s Interview with Elaine Brett


Elaine, congratulations on your article in the Last Straw!  It is a great article in describing your journey from the conventional “American Dream” life and house to the holistic and ecologically prioritized life that you now lead. Your story is an inspiration.


Can you tell me how you first found EcoNest?

One of our neighbors was building a home and Don Smith was the wall contractor.  I participated in the wall stomping event and took Don’s card. The Owners lent me the EcoNest book. I started looking at it and was intrigued by simplicity of designs.  We were looking to simplify every aspect of our lives so we resonated with the design.  We had the sense that we could do this! We were especially drawn to the health aspects because we were already eating healthy and it made sense that our home also be designed for maximum health.


What has it been like for you to work with Don Smith, your local EcoNest Affiliate?

We were committed to using a local contractor and Don had the expertise in both light straw clay construction and timber-framing that is so integral to the design. He was the natural choice. He has been very good to work with. He has a balanced approach…assertive in his areas of expertise but not pushy. We talk often. He has been helpful in every aspect of design and materials and he has been open to looking at new alternative (like wool insulation) that we have brought to the table. He was a great match for us in his commitment to local and healthy and to the Econest principles. As we near the final phases of construction he feels like more like a personal friend than a contractor.


How did you choose to work with a stock plan rather than a custom design?

We saw what we needed and just made a few changes so it could works for us. We visited another EcoNest created from the same stock plan that we were considering.  This helped us to visualize our future home. With a few small changes it fit our site, our views and our needs and so we didn’t feel the necessity to go the more expensive custom design route.


Can you describe the process of modifying that stock plan to suite your site and your program?

Looking at the building site and orientation of views we decided to make adjustments that complimented our site and this was accomplished by mirroring  certain elements ot the stock plan. The EcoNest architectural office made the requested adjustments and sent them to us for review. A few more tweaks back and forth and we were there!  .



Do you have any words of wisdom for people who are contemplating building a new home?

The biggest piece from our learning experience is to really examine what the full range of your options are. Previously we had had new tract houses built and we just made our selections from the limited choices that were offered to us… paint color, cabinet style etc.  We have now discovered that there is a whole world out there of healthier more ecological alternatives.  Choosing what is best for you and best for the planet is not necessarily the path of least resistance but if you stick to your principles you can probably find what you need.  It may cost more because its not high volume or cheapest quality  but the choices are there and its worth “pushing back” until you get to yes. It helps to find a builder who shares the same values and is receptive and excited about making your home all that it can be!