Green Scene: Natural selection

At home with nature: Ryan Lubbers’ home is one of the buildings to be featured in the Hickory Nut Forest eco-community during ECO’s Green Home Tour, set for Aug. 20. The house makes extensive use of wood harvested on the site, including the bark shingles, exposed beams, and the timber post seen through the door in the corner of the living room, above. Photo by Jonathan Welch

If the dog days of summer have left your home place looking a little tired, the Aug. 20 Green Home Tour just might provide some inspiration (see box, “The Grand Tour”).

Organized by the Environmental & Conservation Organization of Hendersonville, the annual event aims to show local homeowners how they can enjoy a comfortable, attractive living space while saving money on their monthly bills.

The self-guided tour, says Executive Director David Weintraub, will “showcase beautiful homes demonstrating that building green or renovating green doesn’t have to cost a lot and can save big-time in the long run.”

Besides featuring a smaller carbon footprint, these structures work closely with nature — both by using green technology and by deliberately integrating elements of their surroundings, as the area’s early settlers did. “Local old-timers understood that huge homes on mountain ridges weren’t a practical solution,” he notes.

The tour comprises five homes, some new and some newly greened; three are in Hickory Nut Forest, a 200-acre eco-community in Gerton (near Chimney Rock Park). Also on view will be the Laughing Waters Community Center, built on the site of a 19th-century gristmill; like several of the homes here, the handsome structure was built mainly from wood harvested on-site. Plans call for tapping an adjacent mountain stream to supply all the electricity for the center.

In addition, workshops on sustainable living, green technology and permaculture offered as part of the tour will be presented here. The tour also includes the Hillandale Elementary School in East Flat Rock, one of the first LEED Gold-certified schools in Western North Carolina, according to the architects.

Hickory Nut Forest founder/developer John Myers envisioned a community of green-built homes emphasizing renewable energy, nestled in an extensive mature forest that’s contiguous with a network of protected lands in the area. Residents share the existing 10-acre organic garden and heirloom orchard.

Ryan Lubbers’ home, for example, displays both passive- and active-solar elements. Radiant floor heating employs hot water provided by the sun. The stucco-and-shingle exterior uses clay and wood collected on-site, and the great room’s massive, exposed beams were harvested from rot-resistant hemlocks (recently lost to the hemlock woolly adelgid, a non-native insect pest). Almost all the waste wood produced during construction was reclaimed, says Lubbers, the lead builder on the project.

Lynn Pall and Doug Allen’s energy-efficient home includes a Trombe wall, builder Sam Koerber explains. From the outside, it just looks like a big, south-facing window. But a concrete “heat sink” absorbs solar energy by day and slowly releases it to the interior at night, thus helping warm the house during cool weather. A living roof will soon be installed on the adjoining garage to provide edibles and medicinal herbs year round.

Lubbers says he’s thrilled to be able to share his passion for the environment. “We don’t want to have a gated, locked-off place,” he explains. Visitors drop in frequently to use the miles of surrounding forest trails, he reports. “The people who’ve come out here are very respectful. We plan to continue that as long as we can.”

— Send your local environmental news and tips to, or call 251-1333, ext. 153.


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