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There’s no doubt architecture is often influenced by the surrounding landscape. This super-insulated, low-tox home, designed by Joaquin Karcher of Zero E Design, is a great example of this. Raised above ground level so it can look across the hills and valleys of Northern New Mexico, the home embraces sustainable building practices and immerses the occupants in the wide open view, connecting them with nature.

Dubbed ‘SkyNest,’ the small, 56 square meters/600-square-foot rental property is elevated on stilts to minimise its site impact and to make the most of the never ending views. It’s also an efficient design that allows for parking and storage underneath the building.

Looking down driveway towards SkyNest House by Joaquin Karcher
Side view of blackened timber cladding on super-insulated low-tox home

From this stilted roost, visitors can scan the skyline to take in the nearby Taos Mountain and the Rio Grande Gorge. Large windows flood the home with natural light, reducing the need for artificial lighting. The windows frame the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range and put the changing weather and lighting conditions on full display.

Man on verandah of timber super-insulated low-tox home
Views of mountain in distance on timber deck

As you approach the home, your eye is drawn to the butterfly roofline and natural, blackened wood cladding. “I wanted to create an architecture that would sharpen the perception of visitors – of the location, the natural environs, and even of the way they see themselves. Nothing else is needed.”

The design focus was on amplifying a relationship with nature, and is achieved in a space that invites visitors to slow down and reconnect with nature.

Sunset view from timber deck with armchair of super-insulated low-tox home
Loungeroom with green walls and mountains beyond

Materials were selected to compliment the natural setting, such as timber which was locally harvested and milled. Blackened Douglas Fir was used externally as rain screen cladding and internally there is warm timber flooring, mirrored by timber clad ceilings. There is also a timber kitchen, timber windows frames and timber furniture throughout the house. The distinctive bathroom tiles were all hand made with a custom design and were fired in Mexico. Non-toxic paints and other low-tox finishes were important inclusions to the materials palette to make this a sustainable and healthy home.

Timber kitchen with green walls and timber flooring in super-insulated low-tox home
View of carport with timber structure

This ultra-efficient property was designed using air-tight construction methods which eliminate heat loss and drafts, described by the architect as being “built like a thermos”. The entire building is ultra-insulated, creating a tight envelope through the use of densely-packed recycled newspaper, also known as cellulose, which has an R-value three to five times higher than required by local building codes. What is an R-value? It’s the measure of the insulations resistance to heat flow, also known as thermal resistance. The greater the R-value, the higher the resistance to heat transfer, which provides the greater insulating effect and increases your energy savings. Because the building has an air-tight envelope, the home is equipped with a heat-recovery whole-house ventilation system.

With views, comfort, and sustainably-minded construction, Skynest is an invitation to kick back and perhaps take in a little apres-ski relaxing on the deck, watching the colours of the sky changing as the sun sets over the Arroyo Hondo Valley.

Want to read about more inspiring homes like this? Check out our stories about sustainable architecture.

Hand made tiles in shower
Bedroom with green walls and timber lined ceiling
Underside of timber deck showing timber structure

Sustainability specs:
– Air-tight construction to eliminate heat loss and draughts, which saves you money with heating and cooling costs
– Thermal bridge free construction
– Walls insulated with cellulose (densely packed newspaper)
– Locally harvested and milled timber
– Timber used as external cladding and internally for flooring, ceilings, kitchen joinery
– Non-toxic paints used on internal walls
– A focus was made on selecting low-tox materials throughout
– Large windows to capture views and to minimize use of artificial lighting
Small footprint
– Super-insulated, low-tox home

Images courtesy of Zero E Design. Photography by Lance Gerber Photography

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