Scarily Sustainable: Hudson Woods Cabins

By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Stupidly, the phrase “cabin in the woods” often evokes images of teenagers getting slashed to death by psychopaths. Or rednecks killing innocent animals. And that is just so, so wrong. There’s just about nothing better in this world than a home that allows for a lush immersion into nature, surrounded by the sounds and scents of wilderness.

This is something that NYC architect Drew Lang knows too well. He conceived Hudson Woods Cabins – a 26 cabin enclave in upstate New York – as  alternative to traditional residential developments. And what an alternative – these homes are so eco-conscious, they practically come with a Greenpeace membership.

 Hudson Woods Cabins
To start with, the soil and rocks which are excavated for the foundations and drainage aren’t just dumped – instead, they are crushed and screened to produce sand and gravel. This eliminates the environmental impact of trucking excavated soil away from the site, whilst also producing all of the gravel needed for the finished surfaces of the roads and driveways (so that this material does not need to be trucked in, either).
These houses are pretty innocuous; they look more like visitors to, rather dominators of, the forest. Each home is built to be integral to the land, carefully situated and partially buried into the slope of the site, which provides excellent thermal insulation and reduces the visual impact of the homes in the landscape. By privileging integrity of the landscape over ease of construction, a primary experience of nature is maintained.

The minimalist interiors are also fine examples of eco-friendly architecture: all interior wood will be be finished with WOCA Master Oil, a natural finishing oil which contains zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for improved indoor air quality, and the paints used are also VOC free.

White oak lumber is used from floors to ceilings, from cabinetry to staircases, and it’s all sourced   from Hickman Lumber/Allegheny Mountain Hardwood Flooring. The former is a family-owned mill in Pennsylvania which manages  the full process of cutting, drying and milling all the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Certified wood they produce, meeting social, economic, ecological, cultural and spiritual needs of present and future generations.

In addition, Fair Trade ethics are also embedded in the making of this cabin, since local labor is employed as their knowledge of the community and resources is invaluable to the project. Throughout the design process, relationships with local craftspeople, vendors and businesses help engage the communities in the design and support the regional economy.

The cabin’s eco-design is not charming, but efficient too, with the perfect positioning of solar panels allowing for passive energy to fuel the houses. Indeed, the location of each was carefully selected to provide natural thermal insulation and reduce the visual impact of the homes in the landscape, following the directions of a landscape architect and forester. Sustainability in the woods is further achieved by the master gardener, who explains to property owners how to embrace local agriculture, and how to refine their skills in vegetable gardens and fruit groves.

The environmental friendly traits of this cabin are remarkable. The special Baxi boiler provides high efficiency hydronic heating system and domestic hot water, as it instantly heats water on demand only, so that energy isn’t wasted. The popular Nest Learning Thermostat ensures ideal coziness in winter and freshness in summer – all controlled by your smartphone to save energy, of course.

Forget about Hollywood’s attempts to make us wary of houses in the woods. The only scary thing about Drew Lang’s  Hudson Woods Cabins is that there won’t be enough to meet demand.

For more information, please click here.

Images 5, 8 and 9 by Joe St Pierre photography 

Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
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