For the Birds: A Healthy Home in New Mexico

While creating a healthy home for her beloved parrots, a New Mexico eco-developer gets an education in green living.

| January/February 2009

The road to Bonnie McGowan’s home offers a few clues about the clay-straw, nature-inspired home at its end.  After passing through Pecos, New Mexico, a sleepy village nestled within the high desert wilderness, and past a few farmsteads, the forest service road climbs through a dense forest. A few miles up, a birdhouse perched on a gate pole and a carved street sign for Silver Feather Trail mark the entrance to the Birds of a Feather community, the gay and lesbian retirement community Bonnie founded in 2006.

Bonnie conceived of the community more than 15 years ago, then spent three years finding the perfect site: 157 acres of secluded, peaceful forest and meadow. After spending another five years planning the community, in 2006 Bonnie built the community flagship—her own home.

Bonnie was determined to build a home that would enhance the beautifully wild site she’d worked so long to find. “I wanted my home to feel like it grew out of this landscape,” she says.

Bonnie was also committed to creating a healthy home for her two parrots, which are more sensitive to chemical exposure and unnatural environments than humans. She asked our company, EcoNest, to design and build one of the clay-straw homes we specialize in.

A little birdy told me

Parrots are extremely sensitive to their environment, so their needs drove many health- and eco-friendly design choices. From foundation to rooftop, Bonnie’s home meets protocols for smoke-free and pesticide-free builders, using additive-free concrete and low-VOC glues, sealants and finishes; eliminating asphalt and formaldehyde; employing low-electromagnetic-field wiring; and enhancing the home’s peacefulness with an isolated mechanical room.

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