As part of our mission statement, we have designed our house to the highest feasible standards of sustainability. Sustainability extends beyond renewable energy – embodied energy, functionality, environmental safety, biodegradability and transportation must be balanced. In the comparison between natural and technical products, nature often prevails as the most sustainable choice. From the structure to the finishes, Self-Reliance makes use of locally-harvested natural materials. Timber from Middlebury College lands, slate from southern Vermont, and wood finishes from northern Vermont are just a few of the local resources that are featured in our home.Local Woods (Top)
Sustainably harvested wood from local forests provides a low-energy, low-impact solution for building the fundamental structure of the house. Sugar maple harvested from the College's Bread Loaf campus is used for flooring, while spruce from nearby college-owned forestland is used for the frame. White oak, known for its natural rot-resistant properties, has been harvested less than a mile away from college-owned property beside Porter Hospital. It is being used for the outdoor decking. In this way, what we have taken from the forest will be given back once the house is no longer inhabited.High-Performance Glass (Top)
In Vermont's cold climate, high insulation values are key to energy efficiency. Self-Reliance features high performance triple glazed windows with insulated frames. We use glazing with high visual light transmittance values to allow abundant natural daylight to enter our home.Recycled Insulation (Top)
The home's insulation is composed of blown cellulose. This material offers the perfect blend of functionality, sustainability and safety. Conventional insulations such as fiberglass or spray-in foam contain particles hazardous to all forms of life. They are also non-biodegradable and require tremendous amounts of oil and energy to process. On the other hand, blown cellulose is made from recycled newspaper. The only other additive is borate salt to make it fireproof and insect repellant. Cellulose insulation is safe, low-energy, cheap, and – most importantly – natural.Natural Finishes and Paints (Top)
We have no need to look further than nature to protect the wood in our house. Linseed oil from the flax plant, a crop commercially harvested in the Northeast, constitutes the main ingredient in our vertical wood finishes. Natural hard waxes are used for the flooring. Paint made from eggshells is used on the interior walls. In all cases, these natural finishes are safe for the environment and are made from sustainable materials.Foundation (Top)
When constructing Self-Reliance on the National Mall, we will need to create a temporary foundation to compensate for the natural elevation change of the ground without damaging or making a lasting impression on the earth. Our simple, yet innovative, solution is to set up a system of jacks spaced evenly underneath the house on top of cribbing made from wood milling scraps.