Welcome to the story of two young dreamers building an unconventional home.

We’ll be adding ideas, sketches, and drawings as they are developed. Feel free to revist this page to look for updates, or subscribe and we’ll let you know when they happen.

Passive House

We are designing our home (which we have so lovingly christened as “The Seed”) to meet Passive House, specifically PHIUS, standards so our home will be built to support energy efficiency.

To help us achieve the Passive House standard and embody as much carbon as possible, the design of our building envelope is of course a priority.

Following Joseph Lstiburek’s concept of a “perfect wall,” our wall will effectively hold up the home, keep water out, and keep it comfortable inside. Our structure, the CLT, which is also our interior finish, will be protected at the innermost layer, with an air, water, and vapor barrier applied directly on top of it. A thick layer of continuous wood fiberboard insulation will set directly over that, penetrated only by thermally broken z-girts which hold up our rainscreen. Our rainscreen is made of horizontal battens and poplar bark shingles.

This wall section not only is a literal drawing of the concept of Lstiburek’s “perfect wall,” but it also creates another concept we’ve created – using the whole tree! CLT can be made from lumber which is less desirable to timber companies like diseased and smaller diameter trees, wood fiber insulation can be made from sawmill saw dust remains, and bark shingles are taken off of already felled trees for timber~ reusing an otherwise wasted resource.

Wall Section

Net Zero

Net Zero Energy: Meeting PHIUS standards, in combination with a solar roof, battery storage, and wind turbines, should give us the potential to be off-grid.

We would like to use Tesla’s solar roof and powerwall for our main source of electricity, but we are still mapping the specific orientation and location of our home to maximize solar energy gain. We of course would like to cut down as few trees as possible.

This is proving to be difficult, though. With plenty of Chestnut Oaks and Eastern White Pines on our property, which can grow up to 100’ tall and live up to 250 years…we are going to have to combine a reliance upon wind energy with our solar. We are especially interested in the Powerpod by Utah-based Halcium Energy, which is admittedly still in development at this time.

We are hoping to be efficient with our heating loads while still avoiding harmful refrigerants commonly found in heat pumps, by using Warmboard’s hydronic radiant flooring.

We also intend to have “a brain” or connected smart home systems’ which will keep track of our energy and water consumption, as well as the status of how much water we have left in our pillow and energy left in our battery.

Net Zero Water: This is our current plan to harvest, use, treat, and reuse our water. We have begun discussing this plan with code officials (both local and state). It will continue to develop as we continue to discuss with officials and manufacturers.

    Net Zero Energy

    Net Zero Water


    We believe that holistically healthy, sustainable homes should be, and can be available to all. Therefore, we are keeping prefabrication concepts in mind as we build our own home~ how can we mass produce a Passive House and Living Building Challenge certified home to make it less expensive, and available to more people?

    NOTE! Our home itself will not be prefabricated, we are just keeping these ideas and concepts in mind as we design and build.

    In order for these kinds of homes…this mentality of sustainable building and living…to become the norm, they must be made affordable to more people.

    Unfolding Module

    Section of Folding Roof

    Modular Prefab

    Small Footprint

    What Materials We Use

    The life cycle of the home will be taken into consideration. First and foremost, The Seed will be built out of sustainably obtained, renewable, healthy, recyclable or compostable, salvaged, and local materials.

    The home will also be built to last as long as possible. It should be able to withstand forms of natural disaster as well as multiple generations.

    These materials will be put together in a way that they can later be easily and decisively taken apart for reuse, compost, or recycling.

    Appropriately Sized Home

    Our home’s overall footprint will be small, the size of a two-piece modular home, but we are attempting to make efficient use of small spaces for an anticipated family of five (as in us and possibly 3 children), while still maintaining ADA accessibility.

    There will be a loft area above the private spaces to the East, which of course is not wheelchair accessible, but the stairs are to ADA standards~ this space is intentionally undefined at the moment. It will house our home battery, ventilation system, and other mechanical items and could potentially be an extra bedroom space or play area for kids.

    We have our kitchen and living space in what we are calling our “Great Room” to the west, with lots of operable glazing, a living wall, and the stair to the loft. There are 1.5 baths, with the full bath being completely accessible. The bedroom to the Northeast would become a kids’ bedroom with bunks, and the bedroom to the Southeast would be our bedroom during the night, and our office space during the day.

    Home’s Foundation

    We are aiming to use a pin or helical pile foundation, which would create less of an impact on soil integrity and groundwater flows. Either of these foundations are also ideal for prefabrication purposes since there is no need to dig.

    Where Our Materials Come From

    To minimize our home’s overall footprint and to meet the Materials Petal of the Living Building Challenge (LBC), we are looking for as many locally sourced materials as possible. To be a little more specific on what the LBC considers “local” certain percentages of our materials must fit within certain distances from our site, you can see those distances here.


    What Materials We Use

    Appropriately Sized Home

    Home's Foundation

    Where Our Materials Come From

    Healthy Living

    Biophilic Design

    This is an interior view from our ‘great room’ looking inward toward our loft area and living spaces.

    The home will incorporate a lot of biophilic design that provides functionality as well as a connection to the land the home is placed upon.

    Living Wall- Brings the outdoors, oxygen, and more green in, while also serving as our ‘absorption field’ for our treated kitchen and laundry effluent. So, it serves a function while also being a biophilic design element.

    Natural Light- Skylights keep the loft area well lit and closer to the open sky.

    Mountain Laurel Handrails- We intend to use the mountain laurel on our land that must be removed for the home and driveway’s placement to make our handrails~ both indoor handrails and outdoor.

    CLT- The wooden structure of our home also is our interior.

    Plywood cabinets- More wood!

    Walnut floors by Steller floors- Hardwood floor sourced mostly in PA which are designed to be easily installed, removed, and reused.

    Raw edge kitchen island and bookshelves- At least a tree is going to have to be removed to put our home and driveway in place. This tree will be reused for the island and (depending on size and quantity) bookshelves.

    Sense of Place

    This is an interior view of our ‘great room’ looking out toward our deck and the forest.

    We will have lots of operable windows that not only provide natural light and ventilation, but they will also expand the indoor living space to the forest.

    In addition to the natural ventilation that the windows will provide, we will also rely on an Energy Recovery Ventilator to maintain the temperature and (especially with a greywater garden wall and sauna) humidity.

    The cleaning products we use will be safe, not only because they impact our air quality and human health, but because it will have to pass through our greywater system.

    Accessibility- ADA Turning Radii, Door Approaches, Clear Spaces

    Our home, The Seed, will meet ADA requirements ~ in a full capacity of not only accessibility to living necessities, but also to the enjoyment and interaction with the forest the home is in.

    A wise building advocate once told us: “we are all only temporarily able-bodied.” This home will be prepared to handle that reality.

    Biophilic Design

    Sense of Place

    Accessibility- ADA Turning Radii

    ADA Door Approaches

    ADA Clear Spaces

    © 2020 Sustaining Tree

    © 2020 Sustaining Tree