March 2016

Belmont del Norte: A Straw-Bale Vacation Rental House in Southern Colorado

This unique mountaintop home in the San Luis Valley is offered as a vacation rental or space for family reunions or business getaways. It has five bedrooms, two living areas, a large eat-in kitchen, separate dining area and two and one-half baths. It is located near the town of Del Norte, on 45 acres that have been certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a sanctuary for nurturing and protecting elk, deer, mountain lions, coyotes and many species of birds. Some amazing rock formations are scattered around the area.

This straw-bale, sustainable, off-grid solar house was built by artist/builder Bill Green, who says that the climate and conditions for straw-bale buildings are near perfect in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, with more than 300 days of sun per year. Green learned straw bale building techniques from a man named Evan Crawford in New Zealand (

Technical Details

The house was designed for a family of five, with the intention of being able to accommodate many visiting guests. Green decided to push the envelope in terms of area space and volume (3,330 square feet) to really see what this type of construction could achieve, both in energy efficiency and design. Even at 8,500 feet elevation, where the outside temperature sometimes drops to –15 degrees, with highs in the teens, the house, even with no heat on, never gets below 58-60 degrees—a testament to the insulation qualities of local, certified barley straw bale construction, radiant floor heating and a modified, fully engineered frame. He used 15-gauge stucco wire on both sides of the straw walls, pinned with sod staples every square foot. All wood members have Tyvek and diamond lath installed over them, as well. He used three coats of white portland/lime custom-blend stucco, inside and out. After curing the stucco, he stained the exterior walls with iron sulfate.

The photovoltaic system—2kw of solar panels and one Outback Mate inverter with 16 Rolls Surret batteries—has served the house well as its only source of electricity. The house has no electrical, water or sewer bills and only minimal propane bills.

If you’re interested in renting a house with a view of the Great Sand Dunes National Park that leaves a minimal carbon footprint, contact owner Stan Tucker: 214.505.9955, or visit

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