About Ecoshel

Bryan Kirkey

I built my first house in the late 1960s with a couple of friends. It was made entirely from recycled materials, and was built as high in the tree as we dared to climb. High enough that if you stood on the roof, on your tip toes, on a clear day, you could see all the way to the Dairy Queen sign on the other side of town. I was 12, and nothing was more rewarding than building a treehouse with friends.

I learned a lot from that experience. First, mixing together left over paint colors from nearly empty cans in the basement, does not make a rainbow. "Rainbow Fort", as we still insisted on calling it, looked more like a bad psychedelic poster from the same era.

"Reinforcing" the tree might have been another bad idea. Adding nails where the branches attached to the trunk probably didn't make it any stronger.

Our biggest mistake was hanging venetian blinds in our "picture window" to protect us from the elements. The elements were rotten tomatoes thrown by warriors from another tree fort. The blinds became the worlds largest Veg-O-Matic, slicing and dicing everything that came our way from the garden below. Soon the entire interior of our tree fort was coated with salsa that attracted every bee in the county. We were forced to evacuate. Then the tree died.

I've learned a lot about design and building since then. I studied architecture, and engineering, and completed a masters degree in photography. I taught design and photography at the University of Buffalo and Rochester Institute of Technology and developed a business providing design and manufacturing services for retail store displays.

During all of those adventures, I also restored historic houses. The hands on restoration experience taught me more about building than all of my theoretical experiences combined. Restoring structures that have been around for 100 - 200 years, really gives you a sense of how materials react with the elements over time. Gutting an old house gives you an opportunity to analyze the results of real world testing, revealing which construction methods work, and which were destined for failure.

I started Ecoshel as a business that would take a fresh look at residential building systems with a focus on designing homes that will that will retain their aesthetic, functional and structural value for many generations.

Using renewable resources, and creating efficient low energy homes is important, but it's even more important that we stop making disposable houses. It matters little how energy efficient a house is, if it's going to end up in a landfill in 50 years. Building 5 houses that will last 50 years each instead of 1 house that will last 250 years is extremely wasteful. The resources and energy needed to manufacture, package, transport, construct and demolish 4 additional houses is enormous, and more than offsets any claims about responsible use of materials and energy efficiency. Also, if the lifespan of a house is increased significantly, the additional cost of building a truly energy efficient and durable house becomes negligible.

From a structural perspective, increasing the lifespan of a house means providing a higher level of protection from moisture. If a house is otherwise properly maintained, the lifespan of the house is determined by how much moisture has become trapped inside the walls, often draining to the bottom plate or sills where the rot process begins. While many siding products perform adequately in average weather, they perform poorly in extreme weather. If it can't be used as a roofing material, it will not stop wind blown rain from entering your walls.

Wind blown rain is forced through laps, seams, and nail holes. Moisture trapped between the siding and the housewrap is vaporized by the heat of the sun and diffuses through the vapor permeable housewrap causing saturated sheathing that will begin to decay. Once decay fungi have been established inside the walls, the decay process cannot be reversed. Sheltered from light, the decay fungi will thrive whenever the relative humidity rises, even after the wall has dried out.

The Ecoshel Cedar Smart-Shingle System was designed specifically to provide the best possible protection from this type of moisture related decay.



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