How to Design and Build Your EcoNest

If you dream of living in a home tailored to your needs, your site, your values and aesthetics, then creating it from the ground up is a wonderful adventure…one that has often been compared to giving birth!

Your criteria for wanting a natural, healthy and ecological home places you in a unique position that sets you apart from the world of conventional building and has lead you to EcoNest. You are about to embark on a very significant piece of work. Although building with nature is the “path less traveled” and therefore a little more challenging, your efforts will be amply rewarded with health, comfort and beauty every day that you spend in your new home. We have mentored hundreds of people through the natural homebuilding process. This is the joyful work that we do. We are here to help you too! The following are the four steps to EcoNest Ownership.

“Building a home is a very intimate endeavor. Working with Paula and Robert was a peak experience that resulted in the most wonderful living space one could ever imagine.”

– Andrew Hoffman, Santa Fe NM

Step One: Gathering Information


“Building an Eco Nest was an exhilarating experience. The construction process is educational and fascinating. The end result is a living structure of beauty that brings me joy every time I see it.”

– Scott Allison Ashland, OR.

Step Two: Designing your Home

steptwoA good home begins with a good design. An EcoNest begins with an exploration of your dreams, your needs, your budget and opportunities and constraints presented by your building site. Thoughtful decisions during the design process will serve you well, throughout the life of your home. We will guide you through the process and help you to get it just right.

With over 30 years of award winning custom home design Paula Baker-Laporte FAIA heads the EcoNest Architecture team and is ready to support you in the design of your custom home at every step along the way from conception to move-in day. In looking through our portfolio you may note features or a general feel that you would like to have in your home. This information, along with other information-gathering exercises that we teach in our Homing In Seminar will help get the design process rolling. If you are planning a modest home, you may wish to begin your journey by looking at our sample EcoNest plans. These compact homes will give you a sense of what can be accomplished with a small footprint.

“Our favorite place to hold key meetings is in an EcoNest! The solidity of the earthen walls, serene acoustics, pleasant smells, natural lighting and colors have a magical way of fostering an unhindered connection that leads to clear and peaceful communication. If only our conference rooms across the nation were built this way!”

– Cindy Mercer Co-Founder, Planet Heritage Foundation

Step Three: Choosing the Right Builder


“The EcoNest provides just the right support for our yoga practice and livelihood–the earth provides ground, the wood posts stability, and the windows light and space. Our home feels not only nourishing but is truly a source for ongoing inspiration.”

– Tias and Surya Little, Directors Prajna Yoga, Santa Fe New Mexico

Step Four: Building Your Home

stepfourAlong with very detailed drawings and specifications we offer our full support to your builder who has taken our training. We will be on hand to answer any questions that come up during the process. We are also available to consult in person on projects throughout North America to home owners who wish to hire us for on-site consultations.

Our architectural office offers a variety of services during the building process including assistance in making and organizing all of the materials choices from electrical fixtures to tiles to color schemes.

Hosting an EcoNest Workshop

Workshops are based around an EcoNest contracted project.  What the Owner gets in return for hosting is hundreds of free  “people hours” on their project and a “joyous jump-start” to the construction of their Nest. It is an opportunity for the Owner to be a catalyst in spreading knowledge about natural building , providing a valuable learning opportunity for others.  As a workshop host we will help you plan for the event from the beginning and we will work closely with your local builder to make sure that the event goes smoothly and joyously.

As a workshop host you will contract with our architectural branch to design and draw the project and with our building branch to construct the shell of the building.  Our company guarantees that the project will be taken through to the enclosed shell, either at the end of the workshop or in the next couple of weeks following the workshop.  EcoNest can either contract with you to take the structure through to completion, if you are in the vicinity of our Ashland, OR headquarters, or you can use your own local professional builder who will follow our project specification manual to finish out the building.  Our Affiliate Builders are trained to host a workshop and their projects are given highest priority.

We also give high priority to workshop projects where the host has already attended an EcoNest workshop prior to their own project.  The EcoNest Straw-Clay Workshop or Homing In Seminar will prepare you to be a good host for the students who will participate in your home construction.

Please call Robert or Paula at 541.488.9508 to discuss your project.

“When all the workshop participants came to help us put up the walls of the Econest guest house we felt we were wrapped in a warm embrace and this positive energy of support still radiates into our lives and into our place. The longer we live with this building the more we realize how well it was planned and built and how deeply it sustains the people who come as guests. It has given many people the chance to experience this exceptional building. They have been delighted and sharing this experience is part of our mission towards sustainable living.”

– Earnie and Edith Martin, Owners Riverstone Retreat Center Durham Ontario Canada

FAQ’s about the Design/Build Process

Will you support a builder who has not taken your training?

We strongly advise you to select a builder who has taken our full 16-day training prior to the construction of your house. Occasionally we are contacted by builders and design professionals who to consult on straw clay homes and we are happy to do this. However only homes designed by us and built by a builder who has taken our training are allowed to bear the name “EcoNest”.

What is an EcoNest Affiliate?

An EcoNest Affiliate is a professional builder who has taken our 16 day professional training and has proven their abilities in the EcoNest construction system. If you are considering building an EcoNest and there is an Affiliate in your area then we highly recommend you contact them and interview them for the job. We are happy to work with our Affiliates to make your project an EcoNest Workshop.

What if there is no EcoNest Affiliate located in our area?

If there is no-one trained in your area then we suggest that you select a high quality builder with a keen interest in ecology and health, who is able to take our training. They may be interested in reading more about our Affiliate Program for Professional Builders. Once they have been through our training we will offer our support throughout your project by answering their questions, helping them to source all of the healthy and ecological building materials and potentially in making the construction of your shell an EcoNest Workshop.

What are the advantages of holding an EcoNest Workshop to build my shell?

There are many reasons why Owners choose to hold a workshop for the building of their EcoNest shell.

How can our home qualify as an EcoNest Workshop Project?

In order for your EcoNest home to qualify as a workshop project the following must occur:

Note: Workshops are scheduled well in advance of the event. Our schedule for the year’s workshops is posted on our website in early January. If you are considering a workshop then we can start planning with you well in advance. Feel free to call us to discuss further 541.488.9508.

What are our responsibilities as workshop hosts?

Your responsibilities will be as follows: