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10 homes that integrate with nature

With all the modern products and technologies available to today’s homeowners, you might wonder why on earth anyone would choose to build a home from modest materials such as straw, clay, timbers and stone.

Robert Laporte and Paula Baker-Laporte would say the answer is simple: Because otherwise you wouldn’t know “how good, how strangely familiar and right, a natural home feels.” The authors of The EcoNest Home: Designing and Building a Light Straw Clay House are among the leading proponents of healthy building in North America.

“When we build with nature’s unadulterated materials and a deep understanding of her laws, we can build homes that nurture us and respect her,” they write. “We call these biological homes.”

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(Photo Credit: Catherine Wanek)

While so many people have rediscovered the value of local, unadulterated foods, why do North Americans so unwittingly settle for so much less in their homes, the Laportes ask.

(Photo Credit: Eric Millette)

(Photo Credit: Eric Millette)

This 872 square foot off-grid cabin is a getaway home for a San Francisco couple with two active young boys.

(Photo Credit: Eric Millette)

(Photo Credit: Eric Millette)

Built into a forest glade of straw bales and timber, the home integrates into its surroundings and is powered by solar energy.

In this eco-home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the ceiling transitions from a vaulted space over the living room and dining room to a dropped ceiling over the kitchen. (Photo Credit: Kim Kurian)

(Photo Credit: Kim Kurian)

In this eco-home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the ceiling transitions from a vaulted space over the living room and dining room to a dropped ceiling over the kitchen.

(Photo Credit: Mike Dembeck)

(Photo Credit: Mike Dembeck)

This house in Memramcook, New Brunswick, uses pine timber beams that – in a Japanese tradition known as ‘taiko’ – honours the natural shape of the tree from which the beams came.

(Photo Credit: Semmes & Co. Builders)

(Photo Credit: Semmes & Co. Builders)

Straw bale homes like this one in Atascadero, California are renewable, cost-effective and have high insulation value.

(Photo Credit: Ira Goldstein)

(Photo Credit: Ira Goldstein)

Green roofs, like the one found on this church in Iceland, absorb rain water and provide insulation, are a popular natural building technique.

(Photo Credit: Nils Finne)

(Photo Credit: Nils Finne)

Biological homes also use passive solar techniques, which take advantage of the local climate to attract heat in winter and reject it in summer.

(Photo Credit: Gettliffe Architecture)

(Photo Credit: Gettliffe Architecture)

In this straw bale home near Crestone, Colorado, the dining area opens onto an outdoor deck via a 14-foot-tall glass garage door, bringing the outdoors in.

(Photo Credit: Garrison Hullinger Interior Design Inc.)

(Photo Credit: Garrison Hullinger Interior Design Inc.)

Using reclaimed wood is one of the simplest ways to retrofit an older home with natural building materials.

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