To create this curved ICF wall, the block face shells were cut and notched to allow the block to bend.
To create this curved ICF wall, the block face shells were cut and notched to allow the block to bend.

The vision and driving forces behind the house Pam Wake and I are building originate from a few different places. The style came from the way many of the adobe homes made us “feel” when we would visit Taos or Santa Fe. The decision was more visceral than intellectual. Adobe homes are more like an extension of the earth than something that has been plopped on it. The adobe colors are more natural and feel more “homey” and comfortable to us. The adobe homes felt like a place we would want to spend a lot of time in so we decided to build a Santa Fe adobe-style home with the traditional pueblo look.

The other major creative force behind the design comes from my great passion for Native American culture. After high school, I started school in the architecture program at the University of Minnesota but left to play professional tennis. Later, when I left the tour, I returned to Minnesota and rather than returning to school, I became a journeyman union carpenter. I wanted hands-on experience in the building process and ended up as a formwork carpenter on commercial construction projects. After 15 years in the trades, I needed more creativity. I enrolled in the sculpture program at the University of Colorado Boulder and graduated in 2000.

Lodgepole pine beams are lag bolted to embedded angle iron below the pocket in the ICF walls.
Lodgepole pine beams are lag bolted to embedded angle iron below the pocket in the ICF walls.

At CU I became captivated by Native American culture and art. I was surprised to learn that in traditional Native American languages there was no word for art because everything they did and everything they created was art. Their clothes, their dishes, their homes, their rituals, everything had a creative and healing element to it. I have always believed in functional art so it was a good match. I call it art as a way of being. My goal became to design and create spaces that had that “being” to them: sculptural, functional, green, artistic, natural, soothing, and healing. Pam and I decided that we wanted to build a “sculpture” we could live in! When done, the goal is to have no distinction between where the building stops and the art begins.

The next major decision was what products to build with. True adobe building was not practical for my background since we wanted to build the house ourselves. This house also had to be a very healthy home with some innovative mold prevention strategies. I had lived in the original house on the site for a while before we tore it down, and unbeknownst to me, that old house was full of mold. I became extremely ill from it and mold is now very toxic to me. Even two years after tearing that house down I am still working to get through the last of the healing from that exposure.

Lodgepole pine beams are lag bolted to embedded angle iron below the pocket in the ICF walls.
Lodgepole pine beams are lag bolted to embedded angle iron below the pocket in the ICF walls.

As I researched the building materials, I realized that a natural fit would be to build with insulating concrete forms. I was impressed with the Tritex ICFs that their technical expert Thad Tobaben showed me. We chose his product and not only are we very pleased with the product itself, Thad has been incredibly helpful and very involved in the building of this project. I now feel that ICFs are the best choice for mold-preventative construction. I showed the ICFs, our house design, and the rest of my mold prevention strategies to George Graham, Ph.D. a mold expert. He does extensive research in this area and in conjunction with Don Dennis, M.D. at Johns Hopkins, they produce all-natural, extremely effective, mold bio-balancing protocols. After two sinus surgeries, a tonsillectomy, and ongoing unknown sicknesses, I found Walter and Sandy Hayhurst, the owners of CDH EnviroServe in Denver. My diligent mold preventive designs, combined with the natural mold bio-balancing products and knowledge of CDH EnviroServe led me on the path to stay well in my new home. I can honestly say that the Hayhursts saved my life.