Sustainable design.
Solar power.
Green Building.
Environmentally sensitive amenities.

If you are thinking of having a new home designed and built (or even just remodeled), you may have heard these phrases from family, friends or professionals. These “buzz” words are more and more common in the design and construction industries and are touted as the best way to build for the future.

But what do these buzz words really mean?

In the simplest of terms, they describe a way of designing and building homes that are more energy efficient, use recycled or healthier building materials and are more cost-effective to maintain than conventionally-built homes.

Unlike what you may picture in your mind from poor press in the past, homes made to be environmentally-friendly don’t need to look any different that their conventional counterparts. The design of an eco-friendly home is still entirely up to the tastes of its owners and not dictated by the materials used.

Sustainable building is really a way of thinking about home building – a way of using design to maximize space and utilize nature’s free natural heating and cooling cycles. It’s also a way of using the healthiest materials not just to reduce indoor air pollution but to create a sense of “home” and place.

Building your home with smart design and healthier materials saves you money and time in the long run. Your utility bills will be lower and you will spend less time repairing and more time enjoying your home.

The movement toward a “greener, cleaner” way of living is becoming more of a necessity as nation’s worldwide look for ways to save energy, reduce pollution, and maintain healthy public lands so future generations can benefit from their beauty and resources as well.

Earth and Sky Architecture specializes in building homes that fit into the neighborhood but perform to higher standards, the rewards of which you will happily reap for a lifetime! Environmentally-friendly building is the wave of the future, and everyday we help our clients stay ahead of the curve.


In an effort to spread the word, we’ve compiled a great resource list that will help you learn more about some of the materials and methods being used today to construct environmentally friendly homes.

Or, you can simply contact us at Earth and Sky Architecture to put our expertise in beautiful, sustainable, environmentally-sensitive design to work for you.

Environmentally Friendly Materials

Straw Bale Construction

The effort to find more sustainable ways to build has brought a number of new options for construction. One method that is becoming more popular is building the exterior walls of the house out of straw bales and finishing them with a traditional stucco plaster. The primary advantage is that the wall material can be grown in a single season compared to twenty years for wood studs. The resulting straw bale wall is monolithic with a conservative R-value of about R30, which is substantially more than the R17 stud walls required by the Model Energy Code (M.E.C.). Further, the walls do not have cold spots where the studs sit between the batts of insulation as in traditional construction.

People often have concerns regarding bugs, rodents, rot and fire. None of these issues are a problem in a properly designed wall system. The key is the same as in all good construction--attention to details. If the walls are properly stacked, flashed and finished, water and other nuisances cannot get in. While a loose bale will burn readily, a bale that is stacked tightly in a wall and plastered does not have the air required to support and maintain combustion; it is like trying to burn a phonebook.

Do straw bale walls provide strength for the long run? There are straw bale homes in Nebraska that are over a hundred years old and still being lived in! Recently, the U.S. Postal service has begun two new Post Offices in Albuquerque, New Mexico out of straw bales.

Environmental and Efficiency Building Methods

The Efficiency of Wall Panels

Recently there has been an interest in considering new ways of building houses. The interest is in building a house more quickly, more accurately and for less money; sound familiar? One method many builders are moving to is using wall panels because there are so many advantages.

A house built with wall panels takes approximately 1/3 less time to erect. The wall panels can be constructed while the foundation is being formed. When the foundation is set and ready to build on, the bundled floor system and the wall panels will arrive at the job. A single contractor builds the floor deck in the field. Then the wall panels are erected and the second floor is set in place. The second floor wall panels are then set into position followed by the roof trusses in rapid succession. The framed house is ready to have the roofing installed and the electrician, plumbers and mechanical contractors can begin their work.

Improved Quality Control
The wall panels are built on tables at a comfortable level for the workmen. By not bending over and reaching over their heads, they can concentrate better on their work. There are jigs to ensure squareness and layout diagrams which show where every stick of wood fits into the panel — headers, fire blocking, t-wall connectors are all illustrated and dimensioned. The work is largely done indoors so that the material is not exposed to the weather, dragged through the mud or stolen.

Labor Advantages
In a tight labor market, it is hard to find enough experienced framers to get the job done. In a wall panel plant, labor is more readily available. The work is being done under one roof where a few skilled framers can direct and ensure good results from many less skilled framers than in the field. This less skilled, and therefore less expensive, labor can accomplish the same job more accurately than a field crew. Skilled framers are still needed to direct the panel erection and standing the trusses, but the bulk of the crew can be trained in a few days.

Reduced Waste
Since waste disposal on a job site is charged by the dumpster load, less waste equals more savings. Wall panels have very little waste that ends up in field dumpsters. The sawyers in the panel plant cut their material to length and set aside the ends into a scrap bin; when it is time to cut fire blocking, pressure blocking and other short pieces the scraps are trimmed to length. The only material left over is four-inch stubs and sawdust — everything else is used!

The project can also be coordinated with the mechanical, plumbing and electrical trades to simplify and speed up their work. Studs can be pre-drilled for wiring, copper and plastic pipes, and blockouts built in for the ductwork.

A common misconception about wall panels is that everything has to be in even two-foot increments in order to maximize efficiency. Since the material is well managed, there is very little scrap at the panel plant or the job site.

Building Material Resources:

Earth Construction Resources:

Strawbale Construction Resources:

Professional Organizations and Agencies:

Outlets to buy sustainable products:

Recommended consultants:






Earth and Sky Architecture, Colorado's leading sustainable residential home architect, specializes in evocative, compassionate, and environmentally responsible house design. The Rocky Mountain Colorado passive solar home designer is committed to designing homes that harness the energy of nature to create a serene sense of comfort and significantly reduce long-term maintenance expenses. The sustainable home architect in the Denver Metro Colorado offers custom luxury homes and residential passive solar home design for a reasonable price. Front Range Colorado green home architect can offer passive solar home design. Paul Adams, licensed Colorado architect, was a leader among his peers serving as president of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS). He was also a finalist in the Walter Wagner Education Forum, a national educational award for architecture. Paul Adams is a sustainable architect. We design Colorado solar homes.