Calliope Ecological Farmhouse

Calliope Ecological Farmhouse

1335 Overhulse Rd NW, Olympia, WA 98502
Open May 19 only

Joseph Becker and architectural designer Wolfgang Kahler of Ion EcoBuilding Alliance drew upon a combination of modern and ancestral building technologies to construct Calliope Farm’s new residential farmhouse, including a wall system that exceeds insulative standards while also managing moisture with an innovative vapor-permeable wall.  

Installation of holey plywood shear wall

In this ‘ecological building’ the walls are built with layer upon layer of natural materials:  2x6 walls are filled with a clay straw mix manufactured on-site, and finished on the interior with an earthen clay plaster.  To the exterior, a custom perforated “holey” plywood layer wrapped with 3” of cork insulation maintains vapor permeability throughout the wall.  The final layer is a wooden rain screen system designed so nay moisture can freely drain and evaporate. 

Aaron Weaver, owner of Calliope Farm wanted a new farmhouse that reflected their values of promoting local resiliency, so the decision to build with locally sourced straw/clay and the sustainably manufactured cork was only natural.

Exterior insulation wrap of compressed cork

To provide hands-on education and a community ‘building’ experience, Joseph recruited 25 volunteers to help mix, fill, and form the walls in a barn-raising style workparty over 3 days.  They manufactured the clay-straw insulation using Becker’s special tumbling machine affectionately known as “Rumplestiltskin” - turning straw into gold! See pictures below.

This site also features a working organic farm, a Puget Sound-inspired tiny home featured in a reality TV show (secret treasure not open for visits) and plenty of good energy!

Farmhouse Innovative Green Features: 

  • Small footprint and simple design 
  • Innovative use of attic trusses for low-cost 2nd story
  • Super-insulated, airtight wall system
  • Small heat-recovery ventilation system
  • Hyper-healthy home using least-toxic indoor finishes
  • Earthen plaster interior cleans air and regulates humidity
  • Custom-built masonry heater will last as long as the home
  • “Factory second” cedar siding treated with only mineral salt to minimize maintenance

This system is great for an alternative approach, but for a more conventional process, site sponsor ShelterWorks will be on hand to show their Faswall product, a manufactured block designed around the clay-straw concept during post-WWII reconstruction. The blocks are made from 85% recycled pallets and 15% cement, stacked like Legos and reinforced with rebar, making it accessible for contractors and owner-builders alike! Faswall was used to construct the GRuB Farmhouse!

 Read more about how this project was permitted - the subject of the case study in the NW EcoBuilding Guild's Code Innovations Database!




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