Mother Earth Living

Mountain Gable: Eco-Friendly Home Plans

Energy-efficient and durable, this home was designed for the demanding climate of northern Idaho.
By Natural Home Staff
September/October 2004

A large gabled porch on the home’s west side provides protection from the setting summer sun. Its wood ceiling is the same as the interior and makes the transition from outside to inside seamless

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Because it was designed for the demanding climate of northern Idaho, energy efficiency and durability are hallmarks of this beautiful 2,525-square-foot home. With its passive solar design, Mountain Gable takes advantage of a southern exposure that fills each room with natural light. The floor plan is simple, compact, and exciting. Interior spaces can be adapted to meet changing family needs. The home office, open loft, multi-use bathing facilities, large porches, and separate garage create a home that’s spatially efficient, flexible, and healthy.

Twelve-inch-thick walls encase large double-hung windows that fill the open gable rooms with light, while the interior windows, open staircase, and open loft provide natural summer ventilation. The home features an entry porch that opens into a slate-tiled foyer, and the island kitchen features natural stone counters, a pantry, and a laundry room. The western porch off the kitchen and dining areas provides a protected outdoor room while blocking the western sun.

Mountain Gable was built using recycled timbers, wood ceilings, and trim; forged steel railings; and healthy finishes. The tinted gypsum plaster applied to interior walls eliminated the need for paint.

Exterior walls are constructed of Rastra (recycled foam) and insulating concrete forms (ICFs) made from 85 percent recycled material. This green building system combines efficient insulation with a high degree of thermal mass and sound protection. The exterior finish is cement stucco applied directly to the ICFs, and because it’s half the thickness of normal stucco, without reinforcing, this method also minimizes construction materials. Reused timbers protect the house from the demanding northern climate and support the gable porches and large overhangs.

The roof is made from structural insulated panels (SIPs), which have high thermal values and are now widely available using polystyrene and natural borate-based insect treatments. Additionally, the prefabricated roof system and the leave-in-place concrete wall forms decrease construction waste and on-site labor time.

This floor plan is available for purcahse at, or call (888) 388-5735.

A word from owner Martin McBirney: “Karlen and I wanted to design a home together in keeping with the area and our simple lifestyle. We spent the better part of a year following principles hardly typical in a high-end home. Among them: extremely rugged construction; small, connected, multi-use spaces; a house that could adapt to a changing family; separation of the house and car; and a house that wears in, not out!”

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