Slab wood table

David Rasmussen Design

Confluence Architecture got to go on a tour of the new shop of David Rasmussen Design. David makes some really beautiful custom furniture. We had a redwood slab that needed to be planed and sanded. David suggested we use his CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) router. And we jumped at the chance to see a demonstration.

Here is a shot of David pushing the slab through an enormous belt sander…

kitchen table slab wood

Thanks very much David! Stay tuned for posts on what happens to this chunk of wood after this…


Light Clay Straw Wall Raising

natural building


Confluence Architecture witnessed a natural, owner-built home get one step closer to completion last week when we participated in the wall packing on Dominic’s house in Paonia, Colorado.  This house has been on the drawing board for over two years and it is great to see it under construction.  Confluence Architecture worked in partnership with Energy and Sustainable Design, Inc. and home owner, Dominic Anthony, to develop the efficient home plans for this Light Clay Straw building. Mark and Angela pitched in with a group of great volunteers to mix the straw with clay slurry, hoist the material to the wall cavities, and then foot pack the walls.

A light clay straw (or modified cob system) is a wall using minimal wood and consisting of primarily clay and straw.  The 1′ wide walls are framed with wood larsen trusses.  Temporary plywood forms are applied to the interior and exterior of the wall.  The voids are foot packed with a mixture of clay soils and straw.  Then the forms are removed revealing the dense straw and clay wall.

Natural Building

According to EcoNest “this combination of thermal mass (the clay soil) and thermal insulation (the fiber) is called “dynamic insulation” because in combination these qualities create very comfortable interior climate and a high level of energy efficiency.” The home uses abundant local clay and straw to form the insulation and wall surfaces.  It eliminates the use of petroleum based products for insulation, building wrap and waterproofing that are so typical in modern construction. The team of volunteers was lead by a Crested Butte based contractor (Smith Works Natural Building) that is knowledgeable in the system.

Congratulations Dominic!  We can’t wait to see the finished product.





LEED for Homes Carbondale Colorado

The Confluence Architecture team is working on two LEED for Homes projects both located on Missouri Heights near Carbondale Colorado.  We are providing consulting and HERS rating services. LEED for Homes has  not gained traction in this area’s custom home dominated market.  The Roaring Fork Valley lags behind the rest of the state with only 6 certified homes (see USGBC data). So it is exciting to be working on two projects in the area that will be certified in the next year. Other members of our LEED team include David Zilar of Today’s BLDG acting as our Green Rater and Energy Logic as our LEED for Homes Provider.

LEED for Homes has several challenges in LEED for Homes reference guidethis area.  The focus and costs associated with the certification push those seeking LEED certification into the high end custom home. These homes tend to be larger than average and located on large, rural tracts – both LEED no-no’s.  To make up for these shortcomings, Confluence Architecture focuses on energy efficiency, indoor air quality, sustainable materials, low water landscaping, and innovative design.

Like any certification program, the LEED for Homes rating needs to be tested against smart design for each home. For example, the LEED for Homes point “Building Orientation for Solar Design” has proved to be a challenge for both projects.  This was initially a surprise as both homes are smartly designed with both passive and active solar in mind. But the LEED requirement for 90% unshaded glazing at the winter solstice and 90% shading at the summer solstice has proved elusive. That balance is not necessarily the correct balance for a given home. One project has an expanse of southern glazing to capture extraordinary views, a 90% unshaded summer condition would result in overheating and a less sustainable home. At Confluence Architecture we strive to give clients direction on finding the LEED points that compliment and strengthen their project.  We will keep you updated and various LEED ironies and triumphs as the projects proceed.