By Lindsey Marschka
Ever been curious about living sustainably, but find yourself discouraged by all there is to learn? Between the technical jargon, tiny home movement popping up all over, and home design leaning towards the future, it’s never been more accessible to dabble in environmental living – or more intimidating. Maybe you’ve felt intrigued by the sustainable building process, but haven’t had a chance to actively engage in the process. What if you could take a front row seat to the physical building over a series of months and have an active hand in constructing a sustainable home in town? Perhaps you’d feel an accessibility that you previously hadn’t known, or better yet, be motivated to change your lifestyle, too.
Andy and Paula Hill’s mission with their home project is to build an affordable, energy efficient, environmentally responsible home within the city limits of downtown Ely, MN, and share the process through a series of informative articles and hands-on classes. Their goal is to document the entire project through stages, including site analysis, architecture and design, material choices and construction, all while fostering a community involvement that typically would prove difficult in an out-of-town, off the grid home.
Following project completion, Andy and Paula will be performing a 5-year study monitoring the home’s performance. This will result in a once-a-year comprehensive document detailing how the house performs and monitors for energy and comfort level, as well as issues that could be improved upon and what they would have approached differently.
Some of the main project goals that will be top of mind in the coming months are, firstly, that the principle source of heat will be passive solar, hydronic in-floor heat. They’d like to burn less than 1 cord of wood a year, and use less than 100 gallons of propane. The pair are eager to build the house under $200/sq. ft, and showcase durability and sustainability in their building practices and material choices.
Through accessible language void of technical jargon, the hope is for the process to be easy to follow along and approachable to all. One of the main concerns with building sustainably is sourcing the right materials. Andy and Paula have been grateful to the City for their help in the beginning stages thus far, as well as their sponsors locally and nationwide that specialize in sustainable resources and share the couple’s values in conscious building for future generations.
In fact, the Ely Folk School is collaborating with the Hill’s in a class structure that will allow for individuals to participate in the construction and learning process on Saturday’s from June to September. Specifically, June and July will offer teaching on wall and construction design, in addition to floor assembly. August and September will provide opportunities for learning how to install solar hot water and photovoltaic panels, appliances, mechanical and water recovery systems.
In September, the group will move outside and build raised garden beds. More information will be available before the first Saturday class on the Ely Folk School website, set to begin on June 8th. The target audience for Saturday classes are the young and young-at-heart sustainability enthusiasts and individuals brand new to the craft interested in learning more about the process of building green in a residential environment, in addition to those who may have a bit more experience in construction, but are interested in learning the financial advantages of building affordable and environmentally conscious.
With a site located 5 minutes from downtown Ely, MN, adjacent to the Trezona Trail, the hope is for individuals to physically join in while they’re out and about, and actively engage in the process to take away skills for their own endeavors. Stay tuned here for biweekly articles as the home begins its building process from the ground up.
This article was published in the TimberJay Newspaper