By Mark of the Earth

 “A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.” —John James Audubon

 A New Enthusiasm

There is a nice story about the great naturalist John Muir, building his small cabin over part of Yosemite Creek so that he could hear the sound of running water. A pioneer in many areas, he was a seeker who sought balance, connection, and understanding through nature. It is to our benefit that these eventually came his way, and that he spread the word far and wide. He was not alone and since that time, the sustainability movement has grown considerably.

Of course humans have always been trying to live in balance with nature, with varying degrees of success – but now, as the growing urgency surrounding environmental concerns surges forward, there is also a new enthusiasm developing for greener, more sustainable living options. As ancient building and design techniques merge with more modern ones, and new sustainable technologies and materials become increasingly available, the future of our Earth-ship is growing greener everyday.

Along with this wave of enthusiasm, come great minds… who form innovative companies …many of them Canadian. Ontarian, Chris Vander Hout at Evolve Builders Group Inc., was one of the pioneers leading the maiden voyage into the sea of green eco-housing possibilities.

Straw Bale Building

Markedly an age-old method, straw bale construction goes back to our earliest times as humans; but it has come a very long way since those small huts and the cows that liked to munch on them. You surely can do ‘sustainable in style’ – but it is the combination of energy efficiency, affordability, health and ecological viability, that make straw a favourite construction material amongst green builders. If you feel the pull to get your hands dirty, the fact that you can get in on the construction yourself and have it be a community building experience as well, is a nice benefit.

In fact, it was during a musical, community-building experience that I was first exposed to some of the possibilities of straw bale construction up close.

About thirteen years ago, a (musician) friend and I were asked to play at an event in Northern Ontario. We had the pleasure of staying with some old friends, Chris Vander Hout and Christine Hoy, in their still-under-construction, straw bale home.

The gig was fun, but it was the stay with our friends and learning more about their eco-home that left the lasting impression. Upon entering the fortress of fresh air that is their greenhouse, I actually remember thinking, “Yah, this is the way it should be done”.

Not long after this, an inspired Vander Hout decided to focus his company’s direction solely on ‘green’ construction and joined forces with Ben Polley of Harvest Homes, a company dedicated to straw bale building. Since then, Evolve Builders Group Inc. and their knowledgeable team of specialists have been building beautiful, natural green homes.

As an inventor interested in green technologies, one aspect of their work that I find particularly impressive, is that they bring together everyone and most everything you would need for your project… all under one roof!

This may not sound that unusual, but in order for ‘green’ to go mainstream and for the underlying infrastructure of the eco-housing industry to grow and be healthy, this is very important; even more so when considering the custom aspect of almost every green project.

This integrated approach allows for a good deal of creative synergy between all parties, and eliminates much of the guess work that can push back deadlines and budgets on any building project – especially when dealing with unusual or unique materials. To this end, one of their sister companies, Fermata, works with earthen floors, natural plasters and hand sculpted cob construction, while other companies, such as Torus Ecosystems, deal with green roofs and rooftop gardens. There is a plethora of information to investigate. Has the time come for all of us to give this serious consideration?

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” —Jane Goodall