We're taking home tours of different sustainable homes at the Crestone energy fair. We began with a wooden 24-sided yurt of about 750 square feet. It was constructed over a year while living in a second more temporary yurt on the same property. The wooden yurt is passive solar, and has some of the same challenges we had when living in a passive solar home with heat regulation. Our passive solar rental was in New Mexico, and lovely and warm in the summer, but you definitely had to regulate and monitor the blinds in the summer or the house became oven-like. Still this wooden yurt was breathtakingly beautiful inside, had wool carpets and lovely plant beds in front of the south-facing windows for growing food.
We then walked to a strawbale home that has been in construction for several years and built as money and time were available. The home was around 650 square feet on the inside (strawbale square foot figures are often for both the inside and outside since the walls are so thick), and had a gorgeous brick floor and composting toilet! The owner and builder didn't seal the outside walls soon enough (straw bale walls are sealed with linseed oil once the mud has been applied) and had a small amount of rain damage in the winter. She did most of the labor herself with locally available materials. Her home had a really nice shape and feel to it.
The third home and studio was that of Annie Pace. It was really a mini-ashram, demonstrating how the yogic lifestyle is essentially about living sustainably. It's is on the grid, but with solar energy from adjustable solar panels (and the option to use the grid for emergencies). The facilities of the structures are strawbale, coated with adobe mud, linseed oil, two additional coats of lime plaster and something called "crack master." There was a wild hail/snow storm yesterday afternoon and her exterior walls looked absolutely fine, while other strawbale walls in town are reportedly damaged.
It was a full morning, and it's hard not to be immensely thankful that there are people who are willing to let us into their homes with our questions about building options.