Couple taps into sustainable building trend

October 11, 2018

There is an old Iroquois philosophy that promotes the idea that the decisions made today need to be cognizant of how they will affect seven generations into the future.

How does a person build a house with the next seven generations in mind? Jake Christiansen and Yvonne May are not professional builders, they’re homeowners. But they have built three homes, one in Ferne, British Columbia,Canada, and two in Whitefish. And they have built them to be as simple and environmentally friendly as they possibly can.

Their current project arrived via one and a quarter shipping crates from Europe. It was assembled in nine hours by four guys and one crane. And although it is not yet finished, their home will be one of three environmentally efficient homes on the Climate Smart Glacier Country tour on Saturday, Oct. 13, in Whitefish.

“We want to educate; that’s the reason we’re doing this tour,” Christiansen said.

Jake and Yvonne quickly switch from laid-back, at ease, skier types into building and technology geeks. They talk about the program that helped them decide what angle to the sun they needed to lay their foundation, the calculations that measure how far the eaves hang over the house and how that affects the heating, the way the house breathes and how because of its construction, it will never get mold.

They talk about the psychological studies that show wood houses have an effect on a person’s mentality. Apparently such studies are becoming noticed in the world of school construction. And they talk a lot about wanting to keep things as simple as possible. They talk about the conversations they had with Chad Guymon of G&G Construction and all of the ideas he brought to the table. They show off the cross-laminated timber from a company in Europe that is designed to be both functional and beautiful; it does not need to be covered by drywall, something that was very important to the couple. They talk about the triple-paned windows while standing on their concrete floor that will be heated in the winter.

There are three main principles the couple want to impart to visitors - three questions to ask when shopping or building.

One: the building you live in affects your heath. If you are going to live in a space for 30 years, what effect will that house have on you and what is that worth?

Two: Is it sustainable? How will the building affect the environment? This is in reference to one’s carbon footprint.

And three: How will this affect your pocketbook, not just at the beginning, when it can be really expensive, but over time.

“Building isn’t as simple as we thought,” May said. “It’s about more than picking out your color scheme and what kind of countertops you want.”

Christiansen chimes in that when he tries to envision his home seven generations down the road, he imagines the rest of Whitefish will have grown up around it by then, but he hopes someone will look at what they built and say “this was a well-built home.”

For more information on the Climate Smart Glacier Country tour go to: https://climatesmartglaciercountry.org/happenings/events-list/ The event is free. To secure a place on the tour contact Karin Hilding at khilding@cityofwhitefish.org or call 863-2450.

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