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Studio

Ecotopia

Carpentry

non-toxic + eco-mindful construction

"Can your performance face the open fields and the seaside?" - Walt Whitman

Inspired by the dual muses of ecological and social harmony, I practice a modality of construction known as "natural building" that synthesizes traditional, inherently sustainable vernacular construction techniques (adobe, timberframe, etc) with the best of modern building science (passive house, net-zero, etc). The traditional construction techniques are global cultural treasures, proven in the crucible of time (the true test of craftsmanship), and through the relentless and dispassionate forces of nature, to be the most reliable on earth. These techniques are not only tough, they're also just. Because they employ only natural materials that are widely available across the earth, they are accessible to all who are willing to learn.

I feel exhilarated whenever I'm able to integrate these materials and techniques into a job because it gives me the chance to express my inner reality in the physical world; to use what I make, and how it's made, to mirror what I'm made of; that is, whom I love, and who loves me. In these cases each job becomes a spiritual and personal journey as well as a professional one. This is Studio Ecotopia Carpentry.

Express who you love, and what you love, with what you make.

Human animal hands make human animal habitats.


hrough the ecological and technical pedigree of our handiwork - our loyalty to those we love (human and other-than-human); the pride we feel in showing  what we're made of by showing what we made, and mossomething. Somehow we understand that our work is a mirror of our inner landscapes - what we're made of - and each job becomes a personal journey as much as a professional one, to stand before our own reflection, and judge whether or not it bespeaks the love that we feel


I'm able to makes me feel beautiful because it's a physical it reflects my inner landscape: the  the As I work on a project for someone my motivation to do my best work comes from a deep intrinsic motivation to reflect as accurately as I'm able to, with what my hands make, that which I'm made of: who I love, what I love, the 

 

hrough the ecological and technical pedigree of our handiwork - our loyalty to those we love (human and other-than-human); the pride we feel in showing  what we're made of by showing what we made, and mossomething. Somehow we understand that our work is a mirror of our inner landscapes - what we're made of - and each job becomes a personal journey as much as a professional one, to stand before our own reflection, and judge whether or not it bespeaks the love that we feel


omehow we understand that our work is a mirror of our inner landscapes - what we're made of - and each job becomes a personal journey as much as a professional one, to stand before our own reflection, and judge whether or not it bespeaks the love that we feel.This love also evokes anger and outrage. The building industry's "throw-away culture" causes 11% of global CO2 and tremendous ecological harm. We are a movement of builders who aim to displace this culture with the power of our artistry, exceleence, 

I'm drawn to build 
ecological and isocially just  draws on traditional and sustainable construction practices that have been

 

expresses our reverence for social and ecological justice by using

In the context of the "throw-away building industry" that produces 11% of annual global CO2, our values of ecological and social harmony are very odd ducks indeed, quacking about the woodlands we love whilst paddling around an ocean of "rubber" duckies (that are in fact, predictably, actually made of carcinogenic PVC.
 

We are carpenters with old-fashioned values: odd ducks - living emissaries of the woodlands, surrounded by a massive rubber ducky industry pumping out duck-substitutes that aren't even made of rubber (they're made of carcinogenic PVC). a and we're appear to be a little odd motivated by the attainment of intrinsic rather than extrinsic rewards: the warm campfirey feeling of having proven - through the ecological and technical pedigree of our handiwork - our loyalty to those we love (human and other-than-human); the pride we feel in showing  what we're made of by showing what we made, and mossomething. Somehow we understand that our work is a mirror of our inner landscapes - what we're made of - and each job becomes a personal journey as much as a professional one, to stand before our own reflection, and judge whether or not it bespeaks the love that we feel.
This love also evokes anger and outrage. The building industry's "throw-away culture" causes 11% of global CO2 and tremendous ecological harm. We are a movement of builders who aim to displace this culture with the power of our artistry, exceleence, 

Susie's Chicken Coop

I wanted this backyard chicken coop in Princeton to last for 100 years; so I built every joint traditionally so that it would hold together intrinsically, without relying on the longevity of metal fasteners alone. Although I did use pocket screws in the framing to reinforce the joints, the structure will hold together even when every screw rusts and fails. All the doors, including the Dutch doors, are built without using a single metal fastener, only 3/4" pegs and wood glue.

Natural building techniques used:

No pressure treated wood! Sill plates are coated with pure black pine tar (what Vikings used to waterproof their ships), and everything else is painted with traditional, non-toxic linseed oil paint for bulk water protection + vapor breathability.

Purple Porch

A hundred years of water had turned the corner of this Hopewell, NJ porch into soggy cornflakes. The owner wanted to shore up the structural issues but avoid an expensive complete porch replacement if possible. So with a surgeon's mentality I removed rotten wood and scarfed in new material as needed, and demolished the cracked masonry pier, building a new one in its place.

Natural building techniques used:

JOISTS: No pressure treated lumber. I treated the joists myself in a kiln (built by myself and my then 7 year old son) with an ancient, chemical-free, Japanese wood-preservation technique called yakisugi (often incorrectly referred to in the US as "shou sugi ban"), where wood is burnt/carbonized in fire, protecting it from both moisture and pests. The fire for the kiln was lit with an ember produced from a bow-drill kit (ancestral friction fire technique - no matches necessary), gleefully blown into flame by my son.
COLUMN: The original porch column could've been trashed, but instead it was rebuilt. It was hollow like a drinking straw, with a large cylindrical cavity running up its entire length. Because it was soft at both the top and bottom, I filled the cylindrical cavity with long custom dowels made from cypress (an intrinsically rot-resistant species), fortifying the column from within. I amputated the rotten foot from the bottom of the column and replaced it with a custom cypress block - also hollowed - so that a dowel could mate the block to the column (along with screws and glue).

Ringoes Rot Repair

The client and I talked about both budget and ecological consciousness in my approach to repairing the 20+ moments of rot around the exterior of her house, so I proposed to use a more subtle “surgical” strategy as opposed to a “complete demolition and rebuild” strategy to both minimize the amount of new wood needed, as well as to keep costs down.

Natural building techniques used:

Using what's already there: preserving as much original architectural trim as possible

Shed Door
Replacement
& Gate Rebuild

This client's shed door had been ripped off by the wind, so I made him a new one: far stronger and lighter than the original. I used weather-resistant signboard plywood (usually used for making outdoor signs for businesses), carved with a CNC machine into a shiplap appearance. This was then mounted in a lap-jointed frame made from naturally water-resistant sapele.


In addition to his shed door, he had another problem: the little gate that was supposed to be at the entrance to his back deck was in the garbage can next to his house, and he had a baby gate in its place. Upon inspection I found that 80% of the material was salvageable, so I rebuilt it, as well as some deck railings using sapele wood in place of pressure-treated (chemical) lumber.