Justin and Kim like to travel and their work as Naturopathic doctors has taken them to several third world countries. In their work and travel they have seen families living without electricity or other basic “necessities” that westerners take for granted. This has given them an appreciation of simplicity in their own lives.
They are an active couple who enjoy kayaking, skiing and other outdoor pursuits and try to get outside as much as possible.
When they were ready to settle down, Frisco, Colorado seemed like a good place to raise their growing family. The couple proceeded to rent while looking for the perfect spot to build their home and found a picturesque piece of land fronting a beaver pond, adjacent to the community bike path.
They had already decided they would be their own builder/contractor and Justin took over the majority of the building details while Kim worked to support the family. The neighbourhood where they chose to build is called Bill’s Ranch and has a historical significance in the area.
In the early 1900’s, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas had a lot of land and very few neighbours. They wanted to change this. The Thomas’s offered small plots of land for free as long as you built your summer home here and continued to maintained it.
The area was advertised as: “what thousands have described as the prettiest and most picturesque spot in the entire Rocky Mountain region. You could get your eggs, milk, butter, cream and vegetables from the Thomas family and other items from the nearby town. Your cabin could be built by Bill or by yourself.”
Now, our couple didn’t get free land, but they did find a pretty nice spot to build their home. They proceeded to build their home out of a Rastra Block. Justin’s father had experience with this building method and helped with the foundation and other unique elements.
Rastra is a form made of recycled polystyrene. These forms are then either laid vertical or horizontal in 10 foot sections, 10″ thick and 15″ wide. Steel rebar and poured concrete are then inserted into the form at 15-inch intervals. Justin chose to lay theirs horizontal.
Rastra is a remarkable insulator, which greatly reduces your energy costs and it is practically indestructible. It is fireproof and resistant to high winds (laboratory tests showed that can withstand a simulated earthquake of 8.5 on the Richter scale). Better yet, termites can’t eat it, nor can mold grow on it
After the walls were built, Justin spent considerable time putting the trusses together for the roof. These large beetle killed logs were milled and delivered by a local mill and Justin cut them to fit. These were then put together with a steel plate and the couple hired a local crane company to place them on the two-story roof.
As the family had a limited budget but were able to find used and repurposed items for the kitchen sink and gas stove as well as other appliances. The local Habitat for Humanity ReStore was one of their major resources and has a local Colorado store (as well as others all over North America). Local garage sales and information from friends and family also helped them save.
Justin used his artistic talents to add character by creating custom vanities, shelving and other unique details to the home.
When they could afford it, the couple installed Solar Photovoltaic panels and this helps to supplement the power usage in their grid-tied home.
Fortunately, the couple had a lot of good friends and family to help with the building. Although it was a lot of work to build your home while raising a family, they are really happy with the results.
When we visited the couple, we found Justin adding a natural rock to the outside of the home. This was one of those chores that he did when he found the time, as it was mostly a visual element and not important to the integrity of the home.
Justin and Kim are a great example of people living in the house of their dreams. Dreams created by their hard work and natural talents. Their home is well insulated and very well-built in a wonderful natural area. Their power bill is considerably lower than their neighbours and they live and raise their 2 children in a well insulated home. And because they did most of the work themselves, their home was affordable, showing it doesn’t always have to be expensive to live in a green home. They are a great example of Reduce, Recycle and Reuse.
Your Eco Friend Note: Justin and Kim did not have any supply problems but it has come to my attention that there may be a problem with getting Rasta Block (unsubstantiated but do a search before you order). Check out Eterna Building Systems for another source (again do your research and ask to speak to their former clients).