Let Faswall Be Your Foundation For a Green Home

Photo Credit: Robert Laporte

Note the exposed Faswall green building blocks visible in the foundation. Photo Credit: Robert Laporte.

Faswall green building blocks are perfect for homes, outbuildings, commercial centers and many other types of structures. But if you already have the perfect building material in mind, or have a beautiful home that simply needs a new foundation, we can help.

Several properties make Faswall green building blocks ideal for foundations. They are made with a blend of concrete and wood, which means they are strong, long-lasting and will not rot. Their mineralized wood construction means they resist mold, mildew and pests such as termites and carpenter ants. If you plan to finish a basement in the home, you can rest assured knowing that Faswall makes warm spaces with superior indoor air quality.

EcoNest in Ashland, Oregon uses Faswall green building blocks in many of their homes’ foundations. They are a perfect example of why the product creates a long-lasting, stable and sustainable base for your home.

EcoNest was founded by Robert Laporte and Paula Baker-Laporte FAIA in 1996. The company specializes in helping professional and DIY home builders create homes with straw-clay walls, timber framing, earthen walls and other natural materials. Their motto reads, “Why leave nature behind when you go through your front door?”

Paula started exploring natural, non-toxic building materials out of necessity. She developed extreme chemical sensitivity after working as an architect for many years. “I thought, ‘If it’s making me sick, it’s probably not good for anyone,’” she says.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Shaw

Photo Credit: Jonathan Shaw

That led her to explore building biology, or the art and science of building natural, ecological, healthy homes. “It’s about human health in the built environment,” she says. “It’s not just about using non-toxic materials, but looking at things that will really help people thrive.”

According to the International Institute for Building-Biology and Ecology, this philosophy also encourages people to do things like use natural cleaning products, create nurturing places to sleep and incorporate health-supporting color schemes into their homes.

A carpenter by training, Robert found out early in his career that most building materials were made from “really nasty, toxic ingredients.” He started researching natural building materials and discovered the clay-straw blend in the 1990s. It was an ideal complement to timber-frame construction he loved. He made building with those materials and teaching others to use them his life’s work.

If Robert could, he would build with nothing but timber, clay and straw. But all of them would rot if placed directly in or on the ground. That’s where Faswall green building blocks come in. For nearly all his buildings, Robert begins by pouring a concrete foundation. He then uses Faswall for the foundation’s stem wall. Three to five rows of block are dry-stacked, depending on site conditions and grades. Once in place the hollow cores are filled with concrete and rebar as required. Just like that, the stem wall is finished.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Shaw

Photo Credit: Jonathan Shaw

“Right away I really enjoyed working with Faswall,” Robert says. Since he was trained as a carpenter, the blocks’ high wood content made them seem familiar. The fact that they can be cut with normal wood saws and drilled with normal wood bits is a definite plus.

Faswall green building blocks fit right in with EcoNest’s philosophy of using non-toxic ingredients that provide great indoor air quality. Faswall’s wood-concrete mix is completely inert and will not off-gas into the home.

That’s one of the many things Paula appreciates about Faswall. They’re vapor-open, which means they do not allow moisture to build up in the home. They’re made with 60 percent recycled wood, which makes them more eco-friendly.

“It’s a sublimely simple system,” she says. “I feel comfortable recommending it in different parts of the country where I don’t know if there are skilled professionals in different fields” such as masonry work.

Paula and Robert’s own 1,710-square-foot EcoNest is an example of all their recommended building techniques. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom structure has timber-framed walls, straw-clay insulation and a Faswall foundation. Walking through the front door, the first thing you notice is a picture window with an inviting window seat on the far wall of the living area. Next to it is a small kitchen with a deck and a path that leads to the garden.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Shaw

Photo Credit: Jonathan Shaw

Paula’s office is located near the front of the house. She’s grateful to do her design, consulting and writing from home, especially since it’s such a comforting environment. Her favorite features include a masonry heater and earthen walls. “They give the house a very peaceful, settling feeling,” she says.

EcoNest homes, just like many other homes built with Faswall, follow the trend toward homes that are better for the planet, but better for people as well. “There’s no price for health,” Robert says. “You can talk about cost per square foot all day long, but what’s the cost per square foot for your health?”

Would you like to discuss using Faswall for your foundation, basement, or even your whole home? Please contact us.

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Faswall Featured in Wine Business Monthly


wbm_cover_2015-3-1Faswall green building blocks were featured in the March issue of Wine Business Monthly, a trade magazine that serves wineries and others in the U.S. wine industry. Read the article by clicking this link and going to page 76 (you will need to create a free account to access the article).

The article describes a wine barrel storage room built with Faswall green building blocks at South Seattle College’s NW Wine Academy. The architect, Joe Chauncey at Seattle-based Boxwood, chose Faswall because of many properties that make it great for wine barrel storage. The blocks resist mold or mildew that could harm the wine. They will not rot even in very humid conditions. Plaster can easily be applied to the side of the blocks, which makes walls easy to clean if there are spills. Faswall green building blocks can be cut with wood saws and take standard wood screws, meaning contractors don’t need special equipment to work with them.

Chauncey and Regina Daigneault, the program’s wine technology coordinator, liked Faswall’s green building characteristics. It creates extreme energy efficiency structures that keep heating and cooling costs to a minimum. Faswall is made with 60 percent recycled materials, including recycled pallet wood and some recycled cement.

Both parties agreed that Faswall also creates beautiful structures. The wine barrel storage room is inside the NW Wine Academy’s tasting room, and the exposed mineralized wood walls serve as conversation-starters inside the newly renovated space.

Is your winery looking to build a new wine barrel storage room or any other structure on your property? Faswall is also great for foundations, commercial centers, homes and outbuildings. Do-it-yourself builders love how ease it is to use. Contact us today to learn how we can help your winery meet its goals.

Tibetan Buddhist Monastery Chooses Faswall


We’re honored that the nuns at Sravasti Abbey, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Newport, Washington, chose to construct their newest building with Faswall green building blocks. Chenrezig Hall provides a dining hall, commercial kitchen, administrative offices, and temporary residences for visiting nuns and monks. (Watch the video below to learn more about the project.)

Project contractors Alpha & Omega Construction from Oldtown, Idaho recommended Faswall green building blocks because they offers several beneficial characteristics that were important to Sravasti Abbey’s residents. Faswall blocks create incredibly strong, durable structures that will last for generations. They are made with a blend of wood and concrete, which means they resist damage from pests – a plus since the abbey is surrounded by forestland.

Abbey entry Chenrezig HallFaswall is a made from 60 percent recycled materials, which is only one of the things that makes it an outstanding green building material. The blocks have unrivaled thermal mass, which means they create warm, comfortable buildings. No cold air seeping through cracks in this building! Structures built with Faswall green building blocks are also extremely energy efficient, which helps keep utility bills low.

The word “Chenrezig” means “The Buddha of Compassion,” and we have no doubt that all who enter this sacred center will feel compassion and love from its residents.

Chenrezig Hall is a great example of how Faswall green building blocks can be used for commercial buildings. Can we help you build an office, medical or dental center, shopping plaza, industrial building, or your own place of compassion? Please contact us today for more information.


Do It Yourself Home Builder Shares Benefits of Thermal Mass


Do it yourself home builder shares benefits of thermal mass As you read about the advantages of building a home with Faswall green building blocks, you’ll notice we give a lot of attention to the product’s superior thermal mass. What is thermal mass? And why is thermal mass an important thing to consider when building an energy efficient, environmentally friendly home?

Your Home, a green home building website developed by the Australian government, defines thermal mass as “the ability of a material to absorb and store heat energy.” If a material takes a lot of energy to heat up and cool off (like bricks and other types of masonry), it is said to have high thermal mass. On the other hand, if a material does not require much energy to go from hot to cold (like wood), it has low thermal mass.

If done correctly, thermal mass is an important principle in green building because it can help you increase your home’s energy efficiency and lower your energy bills. Products with high thermal mass absorb and release heat slowly, which is actually to your advantage. On cold days, you have a steady supply of warmth radiating into your home over a long period of time. On hot days, the building heats up really slowly and gradually dissipates that heat once it begins to cool off outdoors.

Faswall green building blocks are made with a mineralized wood product, which gives it a high thermal mass. Each block comes with an insulating insert, and once stacked, builders pour a pea gravel concrete aggregate mix down two cores in the center of each block. This makes the building’s thermal mass even higher. The end result is a home, office, or commercial center that will keep you cozy warm in the winter and nice and cool in the summer. The fact that Faswall green building blocks are made with 60 percent recycled materials is an added benefit for people interested in green, environmentally friendly homes.

Ben Turner, a retired nurse practitioner and do it yourself home builder, can attest to the benefits of high thermal mass. He used Faswall green building blocks to construct a one-story home with a daylight basement in southwest Washington. “This house weighs about 600,000 pounds,” Ben says. “When it gets warm it stays warm. In the summertime, if it gets hot it stays cool on the inside. It’s an amazing place to live.”

“I just don’t have to worry about heating,” he adds. “If I don’t want to build a fire on a day like this, where it’s 40 degrees out, it still won’t get cold inside. It holds the heat that much because again, the house is so heavy. There’s so much thermal mass in there.” (Ben shares more of his story in the video below.)

In addition to using the Faswall green building blocks, Ben put in lots of south-facing windows to allow in light and solar gain. He uses a masonry stove in the center of the house to provide radiant heat in the living space and pre-heat water for the hydronic floors in the basement. The combination of this heating system, the home’s passive solar design, and Faswall’s great thermal mass means he is spending around $100 a month on his electric bill.

Ben notes that he was first attracted to Faswall green building blocks not because they create extremely energy efficient homes, but because they are exceptionally durability. Ben remodeled and worked on all the other homes he’d lived it. When it came time to build the home he would enjoy in retirement, Ben says, “I just wanted to … build it and it would be done and I wouldn’t have to maintain it. So that’s what we did here.”

Since Faswall is made with a combination of recycled wood and cement, it does an exceptional job of standing up to the elements, pests, and other things that can damage a home. Ben used lime plaster, also called loam plaster, for the outside of the structure. The product is made with a combination of sand and limestone, Ben notes, and “it’s been used for thousands of years. The wonderful thing about it is it lasts forever. It just gets harder over the centuries. Like a limestone cave, if it cracks or water runs in it, it just heals up the cracks, so it’s a very low-maintenance exterior.”

Another feature that makes the home so easy to care for is that it doesn’t require painting. To achieve the attractive reddish-brown color on the outside, Ben sprayed the lime plaster with ferrous sulfate, the main ingredient in many brands of moss killer. “It was a very fun process and very easy to do,” he says. Best of all, it cost about $5 to coat the entire exterior.

Would you like to learn more about Faswall’s thermal mass, energy efficiency, durability and other great features? Please contact us today for more information.

Texas Do It Yourself Builder Creates Net Zero Home with Faswall


Real County, Texas homeIn rural Texas, a homeowner and professional builder teamed up to build a net zero, passive solar home using Faswall green building blocks. Faswall’s ICF wall forms met all the owner’s requirements for ease of use, energy efficiency and durability. In addition, he and the builder were able to use them to create a beautiful structure that compliments a stunning hill country location.

When homeowner Ralph started preparing to build a home on the Real County property he owned, he had several goals. They included creating a structure that was sustainable, could hold up to the area’s strong winds and harsh conditions, and allowed him to live off the grid for some period of time. He also wanted to participate in the home building process, even though he didn’t have much construction experience.

Ralph and Ron, a professional home builder who helped with the project, agreed that Faswall green building blocks were the perfect building material. The blocks are easy enough for even a DIY home builder to use because they are dry stacked and do not require mortar. “We were already familiar with dry stacking … so it wasn’t a big jump for us,” says Ralph.

Ralph and Ron worked together to stack the Faswall green building blocks into four-foot high walls. At that point, they poured in concrete to hold the blocks together and provide the structural strength needed for the wall system to support the roof and overall engineering requirements of the building. “We felt that was the safest,” Ron says. “Once you start stacking block again four feet of your wall is very stable.” The repeated this process two more times to build 12-foot high walls.

Most people hire a pumper truck or line pump to fill the Faswall blocks. It would have been too expensive to hire the equipment, Ralph explains, and he’s not even certain the heavy piece of equipment would have been allowed to travel the rural roads to his property. As a result, he and Ron hand-poured all the concrete into the Faswall blocks. We applaud this amazing effort!

texas2The house was sited to take advantage of the passive solar potential of the building site. “Heating is not our major issue here, cooling is, but we designed it so it has cross-ventilation” from the strong winds that blow through the area, Ralph says. Overhangs block the sun during the hottest months but let some of it in during cooler periods. The home is set back from the top of the hill because Ron didn’t want to affect other people’s views of the surrounding hills and mountains.

Ralph’s new home was completed in the summer of 2013. He and his family are very happy with the results. “With the Faswall block it’s extremely comfortable. The Faswall section of the house in the winter is extremely warm. We have a stove in there, I hope it gets cold enough for us to use it. The Faswall block does a wonderful job of retaining the heat.” Faswall’s exceptional energy efficient properties are owed to its unique wood fiber cement composite as well as the 3 inches of inserted insulation on the inside of each block cell. The walls have unrivaled thermal mass properties that help keep buildings cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

For more on Ralph and Ron’s take on the value of Faswall green building blocks, watch this video. For more on how you can get similar results in your home, office, commercial building, foundation, outbuilding or other structure, please contact us.

Faswall Green Building Blocks are Montana Homebuilder’s Choice


Montana Faswall homeTerry Davenport with Natural Housebuilders in Montana is a new convert to Faswall green building blocks. Terry specializes in building highly energy efficient homes that use the sun for heat. He’s employed a number of solar passive and solar active techniques to create high-quality homes in the Bitterroot Valley and Missoula area.

ICF wall forms such as Faswall green building blocks were not really on Terry’s radar screen because he didn’t think they had a high enough R-value. He preferred to use foam blocks for their great insulation value.

But when a girlfriend asked Terry to build a house for her, he started looking into Faswall green building blocks and decided they might be a better fit. He liked that Faswall were made from 100% recycled pallets rather than petroleum like the foam blocks. He appreciated that company owners Paul Wood and Paul Van Denend were always honest and straightforward in working with him.

Terry also came to understand that Faswall’s superior thermal mass properties could help him get achieve the warmth and comfort he seeks to provide customers when he builds or remodels a home for them. On cold days, any heat from the sun or heaters is retained by the Faswall blocks and released into the home at night. On hot days, the heat is absorbed during the day and given off slowly at night, when temperatures are cooler. Those properties mean homes are extremely energy efficient and inexpensive to heat and cool.

montana interiorThe realization of how thermal mass could benefit homeowners was cemented when Terry was on a backpacking trip in Montana. “At the end of the day, you start looking around and that big rock is always warmer than anything else,” he says.

Terry’s girlfriend approved the use of Faswall blocks, and the two got to work building her 1,000 square foot home on the Flathead Indian Reservation. She took great pride in the fact that she hauled all the blocks to the building site in a wheelbarrow, and that she could help build her home herself. “I like the fact that the homeowner can work with me,” Terry says. “It’s pretty easy to stack thing together” – much easier than framing, where everyone involved has to understand things like correctly measuring window dimensions and the proper way of attaching boards together. The ease of using Faswall green building blocks means that they are perfect for even DIY home builders.

When you build a timber frame house, Terry says, you spend a lot of time hunched over as you construct the pieces that run along the ground. With Faswall green building blocks, Terry says he spent a lot more time standing straight up, which was much easier on his back. “When you get older you start thinking of ways to make things easier on your body,” he points out.

In addition to building one bedroom, a loft that doubles as a second bedroom and a massage room, and one bathroom, Terry added a greenhouse onto the side of his girlfriend’s home so she could keep a small garden. The home’s windows are made from post-manufacturing recycled materials, and the balusters on the staircase are made from recycled rebar left over from installing the cement floor.

Terry tacked 5¼” foam bead board on the side of the house, which helped it achieve an extremely high R-value of 41.montana interior2 Between Faswall’s superior thermal mass properties and the added insulation, the homeowner only needs one cord of wood to heat the entire home through a cold Montana winter.

The homeowner is thrilled with the house, as is Terry. His interest in finding new, innovative building materials dates to his early days as a motocross racer, he told Distinctly Montana magazine in a recent interview. He and his friends were always tinkering with their motorcycles to try and improve their performance. Over time he shifted his focus from motorcycles to houses.

“I still feel spoiled because I get to learn about the greatest new technology for homes,” he says. But of all the home building materials he’s found over time, Faswall green building blocks is one of the ones he plans to stick with. We look forward to working with Terry on many more projects.

montana interior3

A Quick Way to Apply Stucco to a Faswall Home


One of the benefits of Faswall green building blocks is that they are easy to use and quick to install, even for home builders will little experience in construction or do-it-yourself home builders. Our customers often find that one of the most time-consuming tasks is applying waterproofing to the blocks during construction or stucco to the structure after it has been built. Until recently there was no way to get around doing all that work by hand.

That’s why we’re happy to share information about ToolCrete, a new product that greatly reduces the time it takes to apply stucco, plaster, mortar and other materials to buildings. The easy-to-use sprayers are faster than using a hawk and trowel, penetrates porous surfaces better than applying material by hand, and is less expensive than renting a stucco pump. ToolCrete was invented by an entrepreneur in Eugene, Oregon, which is only 40 miles from our home base in Philomath.

Check out these videos below for more information about how ToolCrete works, or visit their website.

ShelterWorks and Faswall Featured in 1859 Oregon’s Magazine


1859 coverShelterWorks owners Thomas Van Denend and Paul Wood were profiled in July/August 2014 edition of 1859 Oregon’s Magazine, a lifestyle publications that covers everything Oregon. The article, part of a regular feature on Oregon startups, describes how the business got started, survived the Great Recession, and grew stronger as a result. Read the article online here or pick up a copy of the magazine at major retailers like Fred Meyer and Barnes & Noble.

ShelterWorks and Faswall green building blocks have also been featured in several other publications including Fine Homebuilding and The Oregonian newspaper. See more articles on our Faswall in the News page.

A Professional Contractor Shares Four Tips for Using Faswall Blocks


Professional contractor Mark Maricle with E3 Building Solutions in Boulder County, Colorado has worked with Faswall green building blocks many times. He recently finished helping a father/son team build their own home in Boulder’s Four Mile Canyon. The property’s previous home burned down during a wildfire, and the new owners chose Faswall’s ICF wood form product because it is fire resistant and can withstand the high winds that frequently blow through the Rocky Mountains.

We stopped by and asked Mark to share some of his favorite things about using Faswall’s green building material, as well as some tips for people interested in using Faswall blocks to build their own homes. Check out the video below, or read Mark’s four main takeaways.

1. Faswall blocks offer multiple ways to protect your home from moisture

One of the great things about Faswall’s wood/concrete composition is that the blocks will not grow mold. However, there is still a danger that water can leak into parts of the structure that are below grade, leaving you with standing water in the basement.

Mark has an easy way of preventing this. Wherever the blocks are below grade, he applies a scratch coat of three parts sand, one part Portland cement to the Faswall blocks. A vapor-permeable waterproofing material is brushed on top of that, followed by a dimpled membrane and a layer of landscape cloth. All these products should be available at lumber or building supply stores, and they’re all simple to attach to Faswall green building blocks. “Any moisture that hits the side of the wall will . . . shed down to our perimeter drain and go out to daylight,” Mark says – keeping it away from your foundation and your home.

2. Faswall blocks create perfect window openings

Faswall’s two-foot by one-foot blocks can help take the guesswork out of creating window opening that are the right size. In this home, the owner planned on windows that were an even number of feet, just like the Faswall blocks. “The block layout worked perfectly with the window sizing,” Mark says. “The designer set up everything to where the window openings [corresponded with the block size].”

Here’s another way Faswall saves you time when building your own home: the window frames can be fastened directly to the blocks, eliminating the need for permanent bucks. Mark roughed out the window openings so the installer could slide the windows right into the opening and attach them directly.

3. Faswall blocks are uniform yet flexible

Lots of people who use Faswall green building blocks aren’t contractors but still want the joy of a “do it yourself” home. One of the advantages of using Faswall is that the blocks are all the same size and shape, making installation straight-forward and intuitive. In the video, Mark demonstrates how the two-foot by one-foot blocks marry up to each other to make perfectly aligned walls.

However, there is some flexibility with the blocks, so they don’t all have to line up two-by-two. If there’s a place where you need a one-foot by one-foot Faswall block, they are easy to cut in half with a normal wood saw. Faswall also makes a flat panel block that’s easy to attach to the standard block with spray foam and screws. It can be used to create decorative accents or add architectural interest. “We put sort of a belly band around the building, which helps architecturally reduce the height of the structure,” Mark says of his most recent project.

4. Faswell blocks make it easy to add interior wiring

When you’re ready to add your home’s internal wiring, Faswall has a built-in spot for it: the cores down the center of each block. Rather than filling those cores with cement, simply feed your wires through them and wherever they need to go. Mark likes to add double junction boxes because, among other things, it gives the electrician some flexibility; he or she can add an outlet as well as a data line or phone jack. But whatever you decide to do, it will seem familiar to your contractor: “The electrical goes through the framing just like it would in a conventionally built home,” Mark says.

Want to learn more about the benefits of using Faswall green building blocks? Give us a call or contact us.

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