Eco-Building 101

May 21, 2006 :: Categories: Inspiration, House Tales, Resources

Over six years ago, my business partner and I bought a house up in Beachwood Canyon to renovate. We were fortunate to meet an amazing woman, Grayce Wey, the organic gardener who owned the house. Grayce was one of the first people to trigger my passion for ecological building. This is her letter to me, which is a general introduction to almost every aspect of environmental design and living. After meeting Grayce, we were hooked on the idea of keeping within these principles as we began the rebuilding of the house (see House Tales). — Eva

March 8, 2000

Hey, Eva,

...I just put together a small sampling of things to say to whet the consulate’s appetite.

There is strictly eco-friendly building, which deals mostly with using recycled, sustainable, and non-toxic materials in building. For instance, recycled wood or wood bamboo and cork (both beautiful and great for floors), walls, work areas, tables, counters made of recycled glass, cardboard, wood, straw bales, concrete, etc.; nontoxic paints made of vegetable dyes (getting very big now). There are many salvage yards with great used doors, windows, molding, sinks, etc. for discounted prices that keep reusable items out of landfills.

The architecture is important, too, i.e. building to best utilize solar gain (windows on the south side of the house with concrete floors that absorb heat during the day and release it at night; having houses centered around courtyards to control the houses’ temperature) and designing to use less wood while maintaining energy efficiency. For instance, several of the supporting beams in the Glen Oak house were spaced 10 feet apart rather than the typical 6 feet so that we could save on wood without affecting structural integrity. Using air filters and allowing for walls that breathe is also important in cutting down mold and bacteria and keeping the air clean (in conjunction with using indoor water/fountains and plants, of course).

Eco-friendly living includes using solar, water, or wind energy for power and not fossil fuels. Using gray water systems that take water from showers, sinks, washing machines, and rain and using it to water landscaping or flushing toilets. Of course, in using gray water systems (legal now in the cities of L.A. and Beverly Hills after much fighting), you must also use eco-friendly products. Most soaps, shampoos, cleansers, etc. are harmful to the environment and toxic to humans as well. The number one thing all people can do now is to start using natural cleansers. For instance, my laundry detergent is eco-friendly, and I was able to directly run the water to my plants, which made them grow wildly! Don’t forget drapes, sofas, chairs made with certified organic hemp and cotton. Furniture can be made eco-friendly as well with an emphasis on supporting the body in its natural positions. No more back aches!

Creating holistic environments through Baubiologie, Feng Shui, color, light, sound, smell, etc. is also important for the health and well being of the people living or working in structures. Everyone knows places where they love to hang out because it’s cozy and welcoming, as well as places where you feel icky and uncomfortable because of the surroundings.

Baubiologie (building biology) is a school of architecture developed in Europe to design and build homes with natural materials. Houses are considered to be like organisms with skins that protect, insulate, absorb, and breath. Baubiologic homes utilize sunlight and take into consideration electromagnetic fields. Like Feng Shui, Baubiologie seeks to create harmony in a building.

Feng Shui (wind and water in Chinese) is used to put all elements of a building in harmony in order to promote health, wealth, and happiness. Furniture, walls, and whole buildings are positioned so that Ch’I or Qi (energy) flows through the structure in a balanced manner. Qi can be manipulated through color, light and sound as well.

Color and smell is also important to consider as well. Exposure to warm colors (red, orange, yellow) increases blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory rate, while exposure to cool greens and blues have the opposite effect. Interestingly enough, when architects changed the color of school room walls from orange and white to blue, students’ blood pressure dropped, and good behavior and learning comprehension soared. With the success of aromatherapy, you know that smell plays an important factor in moods and memory. The smell of peppermint makes people more awake and alert for example.

A great eco-friendly home will incorporate all of the above concepts. [As in] Certain colors of non-toxic paint on concrete or cardboard walls cleaned by a nontoxic cleanser with collected rain water!

Hope this will give you an idea of all the possibilities. Being eco-friendly doesn’t necessarily have to cost more, but it does take more time to search for reusable and sustainable items. Even if the costs are a little more than average sometimes, it’s worthwhile for the environment, and in the cases of more effective insulation with recycled newspaper, energy through solar panels, nontoxic materials, the extra work pays for itself financially, physically, and mentally.

Hope this will suffice for now. Let me know if you need more info.


  • Baubiologie is a German word meaning building-biology. It’s a holistic concept that strives to bring humanity into harmony with the building environment. Baubiologie literally means, “The relationship between buildings and life.” — Read more.
  • Feng Shui is a natural earth science which reveals how people are affected by their immediate surroundings. Historically, it has been categorized as an ancient Chinese metaphysical art. “Feng” literally means “wind” and “shui” literally means “water.” Modern usage of the words implies balance. The expression “good feng shui” indicates a space that is balanced, harmonious, life-enhancing or lucky. — Read more here.
  • Color and Its Impact On Us
    The two most important aspects of color in considering its power on humans are:
    1. Physiological aspects of color, i.e. how the human body reacts to color energy fields. For instance, red has the slowest t-waves (all energy comes in waves). Red elevates heart rate and blood pressure. Thus scientists use infra-red to penetrate the body. Blue (the opposite of red in wavelength), white and violet have the fastest energy waves.
    2. The cultural significance of colors - Different colors symbolize different things to different cultures. Some of this meaning and designation of color comes from each culture’s environment. For instance, the Mediterranean is hot and sunny, so Mediterraneans are drawn to bright colors. Northern inhabitants are drawn to cooler, more subdued colors. From this environmental starting point, customs evolve relating to color. Local religions and belief systems also play a role in the development of cultural color symbolism.

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