Meet Cliff Shockey of Vanscoy, Saskatchewan
In 1972, I purchased a farm property near Vanscoy, Saskatchewan, with a large, old farmhouse on the site. I spent a great deal of time and money remodeling the interior of this house, but, unfortunately, I was ineffectual in producing a more energy efficient home. With increasing energy costs, this house became totally impractical to heat. Therefore, in 1976, I decided to explore the possibilities of constructing a more energy-efficient house.
I joined the local chapter of the Solar Energy Society of Saskatchewan, where I gained a tremendous amount of insight into the concept of energy efficiency. I also took a conventional log-building course through the local community college in the winter of 1976-77. I had a notion that someday I would build a log house, but, after the course, I was not satisfied that this type of construction would be practical for our prairie winters.
One day, in a small store in Saskatoon, I was thumbing through an issue of "The Mother Earth News" and came across a picture of a stackwall (cordwood) house that was built by Jack Henstridge in New Brunswick. I thought to myself, "I can do that!" The wheels immediately started turning and I found myself consumed with the prospect of designing and building my own home with this type of construction. I took it easy for a few days and spent a little time with mother nature and a lot of time thinking! It was then that I prepared to go ahead with the DOUBLE STACKWALL LOG HOUSE with passive solar design.
From the solar energy meetings that I had attended, I knew that in order for any house to be warm it should have a good tight air vapor barrier and lots of insulation between the two walls. I started to build my first stackwall house on the farm in 1977. It was 600 square feet and took nine months to build. As far as I know, it was the first house in Canada that was built using the double stackwall method. The house turned out well enough to give me the confidence to build a second, larger house. I moved the existing farmhouse and built the second stackwall on the old foundation. I did most of the construction on this house myself, completing it in the spring of 1980.
What sets the house apart from other cordwood houses can be found inside the walls. The double, stackwall house begins with an 8-inch exterior wall of cordwood backed by particle board sheathing, which bars entry to both weather and insects. Next comes a generous 10 inches of batt insulation, followed by a polyethylene vapor barrier and the inside facing cordwood wall, which measures 6 inches thick. I used 6 inches because the door and window frames were made of recycled barn board that totaled an ample 24 inches in depth.
In 1985, the insurance business I owned and operated was in desperate need of a new home. We built a 25' x 40' stackwall building in 6 months in the town of Vanscoy. Then, in 1990, we built a 14' x 28' addition to our home on the farm. In 1993, we built a double stackwall sauna. We always wanted one on the farm, so we gathered together the funds, the energy, enough used material and the time to build one.
One major change in my life was in June, 1997, when my dear wife Jackie passed away. Life has a way of handling us difficult things to deal with. But with the help of many friends and family, I'm doing just fine. Life goes on.
I can sum up my experience by quoting my favorite sayings, "Imagination is more important than knowledge," and "Love is the answer, now what was the question?"