Nearly every day at 3pm, Vincent and I sit down to watch Youtube videos about house construction. We call this “Coffee Construction Hour.” With a homemade latte and slippers on, we watch all sorts of videos. The ones that I find the most engaging are those about energy usage.

There is an idea, or really more like a set of standards that is called “Passivhaus.” It is a German and Swedish idea that involves a set of five principles that a house must have in order to be considered a passive house. These are principles that are concerned with energy usage, such as having a thermal envelope and not letting too much air flow from the inside to the outside of the house. I am especially keen on this idea because I worry about us having to take down trees to build a house. I know we are impacting an eco-system and so, we want to take care of this land better than before. We plan to plant more trees, flowers and herbs as we build the house. Vincent has also researched and constructed a bat house so that we can more naturally take care of the mosquito problem that we have, while also inviting a helpful species into our forest.


There are so many definitions of a house. People are really doing some innovative and interesting ideas. Part of us buying this land was my interest in buying a plot of land and putting a container house on it. There are some excellent examples in Buffalo of container houses and I just find them appealing. I love the idea of taking something industrial and re-purposing it for a domestic space. However, we decided not to build using a container house for various reasons.

Out west, in New Mexico, Earthships are beautiful examples of innovative architecture.  These are buildings that are built using old tires, old bottles, and cans. My understanding of them is that they function with minimal energy. They are built into the ground so there is excellent insulation. Many earthships have spaces to grow your own food. I love these so much and I would love to go back to New Mexico and stay in one.


We decided to build using a Den plan. Den is a company that is creating cabin plans. Den houses are popping up all over New York State (and elsewhere). We really love the Scandinavian look of these cabins and decided on the Barnhouse Plus model (see photo to your right. This is an image from Den. We haven’t built it yet). This allows us to have two bedrooms and two bathrooms, all on the ground floor.

We are building in Livingston county where, we perceive, there is a shortage of short term rentals. We met with a couple who turned their farm into a wedding venue and they said that they really needed nice accommodations for their guests. This farm is only a few minutes from Story Road, so we are hoping that the wedding guests will want to stay at our house.


So, we are trying to build a house using as many environmentally sound ideas as possible. We see this as a huge advantage to building a new house. We can use innovative construction materials.

I love going to Story Road and walking through the forest. I feel such a strong desire to protect this land, to be a steward of it and yet, we also have to balance this with building a profitable business. The questions that propel me in this project are the following: how do we balance luxury with environmental responsibility? How do we create a refuge for our guests, and ourselves while adhering to permit standards in Livingston County? How do we make this process joyful while still productive?

I would like to have a hot tub there, but I don’t know how environmentally sound this is. I imagine going outside and night and sitting in the warm water, looking up to the stars. I don’t know if it’s feasible, but perhaps.

Let’s end on that: perhaps. There is so much possibility here. I want to enjoy this feeling of wonder as we build a house, a home, a shelter: somewhere quiet and in harmony with nature.


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