An Eco-Friendly Home

This couple drew on existing materials, technologies, and principles to build an eco-friendly home in southern Illinois.

| November/December 1980

  • 066 eco friendly home - main view
    By digging the north side of their eco-friendly home into a hillside and covering the south side with glass, the Yamberts have cut their need for commercial power sources.
    PHOTO: JIM MURPHY
  • 066 eco friendly home 6 2x6 framing
    The use of 2 X 6 framing made it possible to put an even thicker layer of insulation in the walls.
    JIM MURPHY
  • 066 eco friendly home - solar collectors
    Solar collectors will cut the family's use of electricity even further.
    JIM MURPHY
  • 066 eco friendly home - wood storage
    A double-door wood storage room helps prevent heat losses.
    JIM MURPHY
  • 066 eco friendly home - stone fireplace
    A massive stone fireplace that stores both heat from the sun and burning wood
    JIM MURPHY
  • 066 eco friendly home - cistern water system
    A cistern water system collects the liquid from their roof.
    JIM MURPHY
  • 066 eco friendly home - solar altitudes diagram
    Diagram indicates how the home captures or deflects sunlight through the year depending on the angle of incoming light.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 066 eco friendly home - solar path diagram
    Diagram indicates how the positioning of the home captures or deflects sunlight depending on the time of year.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

  • 066 eco friendly home - main view
  • 066 eco friendly home 6 2x6 framing
  • 066 eco friendly home - solar collectors
  • 066 eco friendly home - wood storage
  • 066 eco friendly home - stone fireplace
  • 066 eco friendly home - cistern water system
  • 066 eco friendly home - solar altitudes diagram
  • 066 eco friendly home - solar path diagram

When Carla and Paul Yambert moved into their solar- and wood-heated, earth-bermed eco-friendly home in mid-1979, they regarded the event as yet another part of a lifestyle that has — through the years — increasingly translated the couple's eco-philosophy into actual living in accord with nature.

The Yamberts have always been lovers of the outdoors (Paul's an environmental studies professor at Southern Illinois University), and they raised their family in the woodsy setting of Shawnee National Forest, which runs across Illinois's southern tip. Though the couple found the locale to be ideal, their original dwelling was fairly conventional ... so — when the youngest child left home — the senior Yamberts began building the smaller, tighter, more ecologically sound, and more self-sufficient nest they'd been planning for years.

Perhaps the most fascinating (and instructive) feature of the Yamberts' new home is the manner in which it combines a variety of existing technologies and materials to provide both efficiency and comfort. Nestled into a south-facing hillside for natural insulation, the house also makes good use of passive solar techniques, relying — for storage — upon the thermal mass supplied by a huge stone fireplace that's heated on the outside by the sun and on the inside by wood.

The extensive insulation, a solar greenhouse, two heat-lock vestibules, and — of course — the earth sheltering help the sun-wood combination provide all the building's space heating. And other systems — including a cistern and a composting toilet — allow the couple to further reduce the burden they place upon nature.



Now that the house and its occupants have completed a year-long "shakedown cruise", Paul and I — I'm a university colleague with a long-term solar infatuation of my own — both feel compelled to share the story of this success with MOTHER EARTH NEWS' readers. What's more, since we can take advantage of 20/20 hindsight, we'll pass on a few suggestions and cautions to help other folks who might embark upon similar projects.

Quality Construction

The rectangular house — which has a shed-style roof — is a sturdy structure containing 1,360 square feet of floor space including the loft. Its quality of construction far exceeds that of today's average frame building: Consider, for example, that the exterior walls were built from 2 X 6 lumber on 16-inch centers . . . or that the main floor is slate (a material which doubles as a second heat sink) . . . and that rough-sawed cedar siding is used extensively inside and out.






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