Lightly on the Land: Building Eco-Friendly Luxury
In 2019, finding innovative ways to care for the environment has become more important than ever for people around the world. Even for those considering building a luxury home, it’s critical to consider a project’s sustainability and environmental impact. Luckily, comfort and great design don’t need to be at odds with ecological responsibility. In fact, they can go hand in hand.
Mammoth Mill builds sustainable, timelessly beautiful homes that are uniquely suited to Northern New Mexico. Our log homes are very much of this land. The materials we make them from and the way we build them give back to our planet and our community by supporting healthy forests and requiring minimal energy to heat and maintain.
All About the Logs
The area around Taos and Angel Fire is one of extreme temperatures. Blisteringly hot afternoons are often followed by freezing nights, and clear blue skies one day can give way to falling snowflakes the next.
To be sustainable and energy efficient, homes in Northern New Mexico need to perform well in any of the dynamically shifting conditions of the high desert. A well-built log home is ideal for such an extreme environment, able to keep you cool in the heat of summer and warm in the cold of winter.
Timber can act as a sort of battery for heat in the home, regulating the flow of energy in and out of a structure and keeping the inside temperature moderate compared to that outside.
“With logs, there’s something called the thermal mass effect,” explains Eric. “Once the inside of a home warms up, whether it’s with a wood stove or a fireplace or some other type of heating system, the log walls themselves heat up as well. They hold the heat and kind of radiate it back into the home. So now you’re using less energy.”
Mammoth Mill uses handpicked dead standing timber from the arid mountains of Northern New Mexico. Unlike green-cut logs from other regions at lower elevations, these logs have a substantially lower moisture content and are less susceptible to dry rot and dramatic shrinkage in the desert environment over time. That means your home stays tightly sealed and at its most energy efficient.
“It’s the ideal type of product to build with,” says Eric. Additionally, since our timber is milled right here in Angel Fire, we cut down on the cost and environmental impact of transporting material from further afield.
Using dead standing timber also benefits the environment by supporting conscientious forest management. Harvesting these trees contributes to healthier forests that are more resistant to invasive insects and catastrophic wildfires. “Most of our logs come from thinning projects, where the Forest Service goes in and cuts dead standing trees which are competing for space, light, and water,” says Eric.
And there are consequences if these projects don’t occur. Eric explains, “If we don’t thin the forests, they get overgrown. And if you have a fire and all these trees that are dead and leaning over, that allows the fire to make its way up to the canopy, and that’s when you have these devastating forest fires that they can’t control.”
Conscientious forest thinning can also benefit wildlife. A densely overgrown forest can impede the migratory patterns of large animals like elk. Harvesting dead timber opens up the forest, and can even create corridors that facilitate the movement of wildlife across the landscape.
Responsible forestry results in more resilient and sustainable landscapes. It also just so happens to furnish us with the perfect material for building high-quality, environmentally conscious, and regionally appropriate homes.
Green from the Ground Up
Sustainability comes down to more than what our walls are made of. Mammoth Mill builds energy efficiency into each of our custom homes in a variety of other ways. We draw on building techniques, materials, and technologies that are light on the land and, consequently, light on your energy bill.
Water heating systems are a good example. The type of water heater installed in a home has a huge impact on its energy usage and cost. A standard 40- or 50-gallon water heater is always working to keep the full volume of its tanks hot. That uses a lot of energy, and may not make the most sense in the case of a vacation home which isn’t occupied year-round.
In contrast, a high-efficiency tankless water heating unit provides hot water on demand, and can even support radiant floor heat as well. “It’s called a dual system,” Eric explains. “This little tiny unit doesn’t take up much room, so you can build the house a little smaller and still have the same amount of space available for living and storage. And when you’re not there, you’re not wasting energy.”
The material Mammoth Mill uses in our floors also reduces energy usage by promoting efficient thermoregulation. The lightweight concrete we lay down helps keep your home at a comfortable temperature, especially in combination with an efficient radiant floor heating system.
“Once you pour a lightweight concrete on top of the radiant system tubing, now you’ve got that thermal mass effect just like with the log walls,” says Eric. “You get a big mass of warmth that again uses less energy to maintain.”
This smart insulation strategy extends all the way to the foundation, where we build with double-sided insulated concrete forms. With insulation on both the inside and outside and concrete in the center, the foundation materials provide great energy efficiency as well as structural integrity.
From laying the foundation to finishing touches like installing high-efficiency LED light fixtures, we’re good at finding smart ways to reduce a custom log home’s overall energy footprint.
We All Agree
Sustainably-built, energy efficient homes just make sense. And it’s not as complicated as some might think to balance cost efficiency, comfort, and care for the environment. Mammoth Mill has decades of experience building one-of-a-kind homes that offer clients all three.
“We all want to take care of our forests and our planet,” Eric says. “It’s really amazing. It doesn’t matter what somebody’s political views are. More often than not, we’re not too far apart on this.”
Interested in building sustainably with Mammoth Mill in Angel Fire, Taos, or surrounding areas of Northern New Mexico? Get in touch. You can also learn more about our mill or our construction process.