The Milkweed Mercantile
Our Straw Bale building
A showcase for low impact, energy efficient design
Our goal with the Milkweed Mercantile is to build a comfortable, weather-appropriate building out of ecologically benign, non-toxic, earth-friendly, sustainable and renewable materials. This, however, is easier said than done. One of the most important things that we’ve learned living here at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is that there is much more gray area than there is black and white. There are very few easy answers, and many variables.
Given our budget, the local climate (hot and humid in the summers, cold and windy in the winters) and locally-available materials, we have chosen to build a straw bale building and cover it with hydrated lime plaster. Interior walls and ceilings are constructed of either reclaimed and locally harvested lumber, or sheet rock. We expect to use sheep’s wool, blown cellulose (which is recycled newspapers torn into miniscule pieces) and commercially-manufactured batting made of recycled denim for ceiling insulation. The 18” thick straw bales provide the insulation for the exterior walls, keeping the building warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. With their undulating, not-completely-straight lines, they also help enhance the soothing, serene atmosphere. Click here to see photos!
We harvest rainwater and store it in a 7,000 gallon cistern which has been built under the front porch. This is the water that is used for all drinking, cooking and bathing. Our composting toilets are top of the line and demonstrate the beauty and common sense of recycling everything. Our gray water (used water from sinks and showers) is directed to an evaporative pond built for specifically this purpose. All soap, shampoo and cleansers used at the Mercantile are biodegradable and chosen with thought to their final location – back into the Earth.
When designing the building we not only considered the final uses (inn, café and store) but aesthetics as well. Sustainability is not about deprivation, and projects built from reused, recycled and renewable materials can be beautiful as well as ecological. We are excited to share what we are doing.
One of our primary goals is to ensure a comfortable mix between privacy of guests and community interaction. Additionally, the building features the following benefits that come with “green“ building:
- Quiet serenity inside the building
- No chemical odors or residual toxins from building materials, furniture, or floor coverings.
- Plentiful natural light
- Excellent insulation (blown cellulose, which is made from recycled wood fiber, primarily newspaper) providing a cool environment in summer (without air “conditioning”) and warmth in winter
- Onsite generation all of our own power from the sun and wind. If one isn’t plentiful on a particular day, the other usually is. Plus, we almost always have power during storms, while our more conventionally-powered neighbors huddle in the dark
- Thoughtfully planned air flow for warmth in winter and lower temperatures and humidity in summer
- Rainwater is used for drinking, cooking and bathing. It is filtered, and unlike public water systems, has nothing added. It is certified by the County Health Department. It is delicious!
- Locally sourced building materials.
- Window seats and nooks for reading
- A highly-efficient fireplace is used to heat the building. All wood burned has been discarded from local wood industries (a furniture company and a pallet mill) or harvested sustainably from local sources.
Milkweed Mercantile is designed to meet the Dancing Rabbit Ecological Covenants and will far exceed the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) requirements.