Produced in British Columbia and Quebec, Canada, Copyright © 2019 Ecoshel, Inc., Boston, MA. All rights reserved. TM: Ecoshel, Smart-Shingle.
I built my first house decades ago with a couple of friends. It was made entirely from salvaged 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, you could see the Dairy Queen sign on the other side of town. With teenage distractions still years away, we were serious professional builders, armed with lots of ambition and zero experience.
The treehouse was a real work of art, folk art, but we made a few mistakes. First, using several different paint colors from nearly empty cans does not make a rainbow. "Rainbow Fort" 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 apples and tomatoes thrown by warriors from another tree fort. The blinds became the world's largest Veg-O-Matic, slicing and dicing everything that came our way. Soon the entire interior was coated with a salsa that attracted every bee in the county. We were forced to evacuate. Then the tree died.
I've learned a lot about building and design since then. I studied architecture, and engineering, and earned a masters degree in design and photography. While teaching at the University of Buffalo and Rochester Institute of Technology, I continued restoring historic homes, and built a super insulated, passive solar, timber frame home that would become the test site for Ecoshel roofing and siding (test house link). I also developed a retail store display business that provided valuable experience designing prefabricated systems.
The hands on historic restoration projects taught me more about building than all of the other experiences combined. Restoring structures that have been around for 100 to 200 years really gives you a sense of how materials have reacted with the elements over time. Gutting old houses provides an opportunity to analyze the results of real time testing, revealing which construction methods worked, and which failed.
I started Ecoshel as a business that would take a fresh look at residential building systems, with a focus on designing homes that will retain their aesthetic, functional, and structural value for many generations. The Ecoshel Cedar Shingle System was developed specifically to provide the best protection from the moisture related decay that typically determines the lifespan of a structure.
Using renewable resources, and creating energy efficient homes is important, but it's even more important that we stop making disposable houses. It doesn't matter how energy efficient a house is, if it's going to end up in a landfill in 50 years. Building five 50 year houses instead of one 250 year house is extremely wasteful. The resources and energy used to manufacture, transport, construct, demolish, and dispose of all of the materials that go into 4 additional homes, represents such a massive level of waste, that all other sustainable design initiatives become irrelevant if longevity is not considered as the key factor.
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 structure is usually determined by how much moisture has penetrated the walls, often draining to the sills where the decay process begins.
While many siding products perform adequately in normal conditions, they perform poorly in extreme weather. Siding that cannot also be used as a roofing, will not stop wind blown precipitation from penetrating the walls, especially during an extreme weather event. Wind blown rain is forced by wind pressure through laps, seams, and nail holes. Moisture trapped between the siding and the housewrap is vaporized and forced through the vapor permeable housewrap, condensing inside the wall cavity.
It only takes one extreme weather event to provide enough moisture within the structure for the decay process to begin. The dark, damp, humid environment within a leaky wall is ideal for fungi. Once mold and decay fungi have been established within the walls, the growth will continue. Even after the wall has dried out, the fungi will continue to thrive whenever humidity levels are sufficiently high.
The Ecoshel Cedar Shingle System was designed specifically as the best possible protection from this type of moisture related decay, enabling your project to one day be that historic home that has provided shelter for countless generations.