Construction Experience:

I've enjoyed building for a long time.  It started back in my teens working for a favorite uncle on his farm.  One summer us kids unloaded a whole semi truck of bagged cement, each 96 pound bag by hand.  Then we spent the rest of the summer pouring concrete.  Thankfully, as my skills developed, the work improved too.

We set up shop in Bozeman, MT in the mid 1970's designing and building energy efficient buildings.  Even though this was a period of experimentation for many, we took a fairly conservative approach and developed a reputation for quality buildings that fit within the context of the surroundings.   Often, it was not possible to spot our houses as "energy efficient."   With additions or historic renovations, we specialized in matching rooflines, siding and interior woodwork.  Our niche was working with professionals in the Gallatin Valley in established neighborhoods. 

The energy field was in its infancy at the time, so it was necessary to keep up with successful developments around Montana and the rest of the U.S.  Because there were lots of informal experiments during this period, all sorts of systems were tried: active solar hydronic, active solar air, earth sheltered structures, passive solar houses, and solar DHW systems.  Over time, experience and the literature led us to focus on very well insulated houses with a modest amound of passive solar.  The energy features on these houses typically cost less than $5,000 and resulted in annual heating bills of $100-200.  Cummulative savings in energy costs on a typical house are in the $30-50,000 range.  Now that is an investment! 

Even though I've left construction for the design field, I still am drawn to building projects.  The design process which integrates human function, material characteristics and construction processes is always challenging.   I find deep satisfaction in using my hands, of skillfully shaping, assembling and finishing the parts into a whole.  The final critique only comes with repeated use and visual evaluation.  

For a sense of our work, please look around our website at the various projects we've completed. 

Chinese style Solar Greenhouse

 Imagine, as a market gardener, growing fresh, organic food all year in Montana without any fossil fuels. Tomatoes into November and December, new greens starting in February. These off season crops offer higher profit margins because the alternative for consumers is the tired produce in the grocery stores.

The Chinese started developing solar greenhouses in the 1970's and now have over 3 million acres of them.  Their mature design grows vegetables year-round and is energy self sufficient up to the 42nd parallel.

We are currently working with a Montana market gardener to build a commercial solar greenhouse next year. Our goals are to use the Chinese model and proportions but adapt to our local materials and building practices.  We know that the building will have to perform well, but also be inexpensive enough to make the economics work.

Please call or write if you have interest in a similar project.

 

Contact

Jim Baerg Montana Energy+Design
223 S. 5th St.
Livingston, MT 59047
406-220-1498 jlbaerg@gmail.com