Building Design with Mark Stimson

This week I got to spend time learning with Mark Stimson.  He is a truly talented man with an amazing passion for building. We discussed his favorite building materials that aren’t “natural” at the beginning of the week: Glass, extruded polystyrene foam insulation, aluminum window screen, steel (screws, nails, ect), rubber (roof membrane), and pex (pressure plumbing). I can definitely see why he appreciates these materials. Most of them are beneficial in regards to time, others are beneficial because they are seemingly irreplaceable. Their functions are all so important and unique it’s very nice to have them in your building.

The latter part of the week was spent working in groups designing for a specific climate. My group and I chose to work with the Fairfield, Iowa climate and designed a 5 home community. It was neat to take into account all the building materials and temperature extremes associated with this area. We tried to stay local, using black locust wood and straw bales. Both are abundant in this area and work well when building here. We designed one power source for the entire community, a wind generator and solar panel bank. We also utilized a pond nearby to store and supply water to all the homes. It was so fun to dream big and let our imaginations go wild as a group! We focused on the largest aspects like structural materials and power sources, as well as the smallest most specific aspects such as floor plans and spatial considerations. I drew some close up views of the bathroom and bedroom of one of the homes, and I’m very happy with how they turned out 🙂


By utilizing the sun’s energy on the South side and designing thermal batteries to capture and store the sunlight, the home can naturally provide it’s comfort. The building’s will be very in tune with this climate and work with the sun path and rain/temperature patterns. The amount of embedded energy in all of the materials is going to be as minimal as possible so the home can feel uplifting and natural.

This project was supposed to be an example of what could happen when buildings worked with nature rather then against it. I really feel that creating a space that does not take away from the existing environment, but rather works with it is what needs to happen from here on out. Our five home community is a model that could be replicated by future neighborhoods. There is a lot that needs to happen in society before people would consider creating spaces such as this, but it is definitely on the forefront. Lets hope things can keep rolling in the right direction 🙂

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