Green Architecture

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Published on: Sep. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 3, 2010

this advice: "No matter what your philosophy about the environment is, you can make money selling ecologically sustainable materials, and you can save money by using them."

LaVaute, who is known locally as "the straw bale guy," has personal experience building with alternative materials. After he spent many hours negotiating with the Boone County Protective Inspection Department, in 1997 he succeeded in building a 367.5-square-foot straw bale workshop next to his residence in Columbia.

"I learned about building with straw from a magazine article," says LaVaute, "and then I talked to as many people and read as many other things about it as I could." With a background in agricultural economics and farming, he was intrigued with using this familiar material. "The insulation of a straw bale wall has an R value of 40 to 50-that's two to three times the insulating factor of a traditional frame house-and straw is an agricultural waste product. I don't advocate using straw in every structure, but for this purpose, and in this part of the country, straw is a viable building option.

"To build sustainable structures," says LaVaute, "you can spend the same amount of money, or less, than you would on a traditional structure. With simple design and material changes, you can have a great, sustainable, energy-efficient structure." In order to do this, he adds, "you have to become an educated consumer. Your research will pay back dividends to the people in the structure and everyone else on the planet."

In Missouri, as in every other place on the earth, building sustainably means more than having healthy places for people to live and work. It means using building materials more wisely and, in return, having more healthy land. It means protecting more of our priceless garden.


The Conservation Department has tried to use the latest techniques for energy-efficiency and sustainable use in the design of its facilities. For example, the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area features gypsum board made with recycled paper from newspapers and phone books. A staff residence at the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery has a solar heating panel.

The Conservation Department's planned Discovery Center, slated for construction in late 1999 in Kansas City, will incorporate as many sustainable features as possible-daylighting, solar ventilation, a groundsource heat pump, recycled timbers, a composting sewer system and solar panels to generate energy to operate pumps.

"Once you've built a house," says Energy Engineer Michael Bumgardner, "you then have to pour energy into it for its lifetime. Using less energy for home use not only saves you money but decreases impacts on our environment." Bumgardner works for the Department of Natural Resources Division of Energy, which has recently opened an Energy Information Resource Center at 1500 Southridge in Jefferson City.

In 1997 the center handled 15,000 requests for energy information from the public. It houses a library well-stocked with free federal and state publications on energy efficiency, books and periodicals on sustainable development and videotapes available for loan.

The center also offers use of the BuildersGuide software for residential preliminary energy use design, and Energy 10, software for commercial energy use design. These programs automate calculations of energy use with a variety of building components, including passive solar systems. Both programs are developed by the Passive Solar Industries Council.

You can reach the center via mail at P.O. Box 176, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0176, phone (573) 751-6654, email <> or view their webpage at < >.

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