Building an eco-friendly Montana vacation home
One family built a dream vacation home together on the upper banks of the Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley, Mont.
The approximately 3,600-square-foot home was built by the Zimmer family, with Gary Zimmer as the architect, and other family members participating in the project.
"We wanted the project to be as ecological as possible," Gary Zimmer said. "Paradise Valley is a semi-arid and extremely sensitive environment. We decided to build our home on the upper banks of the river to minimize environmental impact on the amazing wildlife, native cut-throat trout and vegetation right at the river's edge."
Zimmer's goal was to make the house as sustainable as possible. The home needed to be heated with a renewable fuel, so they choose wood. "Foremost, we wanted a stove that was environmentally responsible," Zimmer said.
"We chose a Tulikivi for many reasons," the architect remarked. We can burn wood salvaged from the construction process in order to heat a large portion of our house instead of letting it rot in a landfill." He said the unique engineering and potential for zero-carbon footprint with use made this decision a total green addition.
The Tulikivi's soapstone has a rustic feel with a custom carved livestock brand from Augusta, Montana. It invites all into the kitchen. "We strategically placed the Tulikivi there for all to enjoy. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that the Tulikivi is the heart of our home," Zimmer added. "Our whole family looks forward to build-your-own-pizza nights around the bake oven."
The green features in the home include reclaimed interior wood, polyurethane spray foam insulation with a HRV for fresh air circulation in the tight building envelope, natural, unstained wood siding, radiant concrete flooring, triple-paned windows and a metal roof.
"I'm not sure about a metal roof being the primest example on the environmental side of things, but it does last a long time and it's zero maintenance," Zimmer said. Stained concrete interior floors were chosen for a similar reason, because it eliminates the need for additional floor coverings and the off gases that can be produced by non-green carpet and flooring choices.
The fact that the Zimmer family put in long hours to construct a dream home from scratch is quite remarkable. Gary's architectural firm designed the house, and his brother Brian, an art teacher with extensive construction experience, helped make Gary's designs a reality. His sister Carol helped with interior design, including selecting lighting fixtures, paint colors and tile work. Gary's father, Lew, an accomplished woodworker, helped create a dry bar, the dining room table and shelving. And Gary's mother gave valuable design input.
A slideshow of images of the Zimmer home is available on ProudGreenHome.
For more information, see our Building a Green Home research center.
Teena Hammond Teena Hammond has published more than 2,000 articles in People and W magazines, Women's Wear Daily, and in dozens of newspapers and books. She also wrote a home improvement, remodeling and decor column that ran in Gannett newspapers nationwide. She's interested in all things green and would love to hear from you with your story ideas.