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Exploring Biomimicry & Biophilia at the Living Future unConference May1-4

I just returned from Portland(ia), at the Living Future un-Conference from May 1-4. They are the folks who brought us The Living Building Challenge, a holistic evolution of LEED (not officially; those are my words). They describe it as the “leading event in regenerative design”. I agree… how about you? Have you ever been? Feel free to share you experience in the comments below.

The International Living Future Institute (ILFI) started out as The Living Building Challenge (LBC) and has since developed these past years into an international movement, working from the residential to city scales, and are expanding into issues such as food. This is their 12th conference, and the third one I’ve been to.

The “un-Conference” is a mixture of networking to create partnerships and community, educational sessions, tours, featured speakers and workshops. The program this year included topics as diverse as affordable housing, leadership, net positive water, materials, multicultural workforces, sustainable wineries, cohousing, the use of data to accelerate advanced building policies, net zero energy, amongst others, as well as workshops about Living Building Challenge.

LBC is very rigorous, and equally beautiful. Most simply, all buildings are living organisms, creating their own life – energy, water, etc. – with no waste. None of our clients have been up for the challenge yet, as it costs more upfront to build – I’m not sure what the return on investment is in years, but I know the upfront cost is more than made up.

You’re probably wondering what the upfront costs are? Well, it depends on the project and while we can’t detail out the $ amount, we can explain where the costs are and how this compares to other builds. However, this warrants another post, so let us know if you’re interested in learning more about this in the comments below or get in touch directly – bill@heliconworks.com – if you’d like to know more.

I attended 7 sessions, including on the first day I took a 5 hour workshop exploring Biophilia – creating place from a deep intention to love life. It begins with what we all know – that we are innately a part of nature, and we need a direct relationship with the earth and all her aspects. Buildings are central in creating places that put us in intimate relationship with nature. The book I recently published, Dwelling: A Poetic Exploration of Home is all about this.

I was centrally interested in learning more about ways to create and build from such a love of all life, so, I took a few other biophilia workshops, as well as:

“Essence to Essence: Reciprocity within Place as a Living Being” with Caroline Robinson and Bill Reed

“Intuitive Kinetics: Poetics of Participation and Passive Design” with Vikram Sami, Steven Rainville and Christopher Gerrick

“Designing with Life’s Principles; Applying Nature’s Deep Patterns to the Living Building Challenge” with Peggy Chu, Joe Zazzera and Diana Hammer.

This last workshop was an introduction to Biomimicry, which even more deeply takes lessons the earth and her creatures have to teach us. I spoke with Dianna Hammer, founder and collaborator, ReGenerous Cities, one of the three teachers of this session – they often collaborate – and asked if they would come here to offer a full-day workshop. I’m trying to bring them here in October; please let me know if you’re interested by writing to bill@heliconworks.com.

Every session was a blend of presentations and interactive explorations – ILFI is demanding, and knows how to have fun!

On a personal note – I found myself wondering where Dwelling to Make Home fits into all of this. I’ve loved the LBC for years, entered a LBC design competition (didn’t win…), our projects are implicitly LBC-aligned, and I advocate their work. I know Dwelling is completely attuned with LBC, and am curious about how I can expand their work.

I got to fly home yesterday – I say it that way as I love looking out the window most of any flight, take in the beauty, and let my thoughts wand and gather. This flight revealed many astonishing sky/earth-scapes, opening windows for me to see what I can offer LBC. So, I day-dreamed and wrote notes for a workshop I intend to offer there next year, as well as to other architects interested – Dwelling – Poetics of Home; Architect as Midwife. You can find the blog post with more details about the workshop on the Dwelling website.

Please contact me if you’re interested in being a part of this workshop – the workshop is open to all architects, designers and anyone interested in developing an engaging and soul-searching process to work with their clients. Our aim is to offer it in September or October (or sooner depending on interest!).

If you would like to experience a Dwelling workshop and can’t wait for this one, join us this Saturday May 12 at Bill’s house for a Dwell to Live workshop. Click on the link for a discount surprise!

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In-Home Consultation: Courtyard Home in Mexico

Reflections for a client wanting to build a Courtyard Home in Mexico

My reflections on Dwelling for a Courtyard Home in Mexico

I recently launched a website for my latest project, Dwelling: A Poetic Exploration of Home. This book reflects my ecological building philosophy and its connection to our inner spiritual realm. It’s a culmination of my inner explorations and how these inform and relate to my physical home and built environment.

Through this book I share with you poems by myself and master poets, and meditative exercises you can do to better understand your connection with your own home (both spiritual and physical). This philosophy is brought to light through our design and development process, and we offer our clients the possibility of engaging with Dwelling through a more active and experiential workshop or in-home consultation.

The following article featured in the Dwelling website is an example of the reflections that emerged while carrying out an in-home consultation (or in-place, in this case) for a couple who are looking to build a courtyard home in Mexico.

“Your courtyard home in Mexico… First off, here is the disposition of your future home – it’s in San Miguel de Allende, about 150 miles north of Mexico City. San Miguel is a beautiful Colonial town, with the usual vibrant Mexican life force. You own an empty lot, with good solar access, and about ten feet of grade, going down front to back. The neighborhood isn’t too hectic, but, enough that you want respite from its energy.
Our home can put us in relationship with its place, yet, often, our home is a refuge from the world around it (in a hectic, noisy city). This applies to your home, yet, you do want to root into the earth and open to the sky and sun. In rooting into the earth, you’re really wanting a sacred, archetypal Eden: something actually removed from your place. In relating to the sun, for half the year you want to avoid it (but not its light). Homes are as complex as we are, wanting something and then not!  And the sky is always there, full of as many moods as we can muster…”

Read the rest of the client story by going to this link >>> Courtyard Home in Mexico.

If you’re interested in exploring the relationship between your inner and outer home to feel more connected to the places you inhabit, read about in-home consultations here or get in touch with Bill@dwellingtomakehome.com.
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Bill Hutchins featured in Green America

Bill Hutchins featured in Green America

Bill has been featured in Green America. It’s a great piece about Bill, the home he shares with his wife and children – Holly House – and his ecological building philosophy. It’s full of great pics of his home and you can also view a video Green America recently did with Bill giving a tour of his home!

From the front, Bill Hutchins’ small bungalow looks much like the rest on his street in Takoma Park, MD. But the 2,100 sq.-foot house Hutchins shares with his wife and their three children (with an apartment that they rent in the basement) is a green home, built with eco-friendly features and with environmentally low-impact practices that limit toxins and waste. To Hutchins, homes have the potential to have soul, especially when they’re designed and built thoughtfully and with heart. He knows because he’s both homeowner and architect, and he is also the owner of Helicon Works Architects. Hutchins incorporated elements in designing his home that have been available to consumers for years. Yet, it feels so different from a conventionally built home that it’s clear green is still on the cutting edge.

You can read the rest of the article here and watch the video of Bill giving a tour of his home!

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Dwelling: A Poetic Exploration of Home

Dwelling book front coverBill’s new book – Dwelling: A Poetic Exploration of Home – is now available for purchase at Politics & Prose.

Dear friends and family,

As many of you know, for the past few years I’ve been working on a book – Dwelling, A Poetic Exploration of Home.

DWELLING is a poetic exploration of Home as an internal image — our silent, still center — and how we can find Home, as spiritual work, through creating and living in our physical home.

Our home is a vessel, with exterior membrane-walls, forming a woven dialogue that can put us in relationship with nature and our place.

Further, our home and inner self mirror each other: as we live in and through our home, we give form to our soul; as we deepen our inner journey, we’re more open to the world to which our home unites us.

This interplay is DWELLING.

DWELLING is a written testimony of the intent and philosophy that informs the ecological architecture we do at Helicon Works Architects.

By truly getting to know our clients we are able to create homes that reflect their inner dialogue and provide spaces to explore, play, grow and thrive.

The first part of the book – Book 1 – is full of inspirational poetry, both my own and master poets such as Rumi, Rainier Maria Rilke, Mary Oliver, William Blake and Pablo Neruda, among others.

These poems, as well as the photos in the book, are images that connect us to ourselves, the earth and our built environment, and inspire us to explore our inner Home.

Book 2 and 3 offer ways to DWELL – explorations and meditative exercises to experience and help us understand the dialogue between our inner, or spiritual Home and our outer, or physical home.

After a beautiful, slow unfolding of Dwelling into a book and website, I can now share the book with you and invite you to join us on this process of exploration!

<<<<<<<< Buy the book at Politics and Prose >>>>>>>>>


If you would like to read about DWELLING before purchasing the book, we have created a website where you can download a PDF – A Sneak Peak of Dwelling – when you sign up to receive our newsletter.

I promise not to share your information or bombard you with emails. I feel a monthly newsletter with inspiration is a good beginning. We will send out event reminders as needed so you might share in DWELLING through book experiences and workshops.

<<<<<< Visit www.dwellingtomakehome.com >>>>>>

On the DWELLING website you will find more information about the book.

More importantly, we will post weekly inspirational stories from clients and readers, interviews and news about upcoming workshops and events.

Please write to me at bill@dwellingtomakehome.com if you would like to share a story with us or be featured in the Community Library.

The Community Library will be our living testimony of DWELLING!

And so that we may join together daily, you can also find us on the DWELLING Facebook page.


<<<<<<< DWELLING Facebook >>>>>>>

So you see there’s a lot of DWELLING going on because, beyond the book, DWELLING is a breathing, living movement where we can connect and discover, together!!

My broad intention is to create a community, who can support each other as we do our daily work of finding our spiritual Home through the way we live in our physical home.


My work now is to share DWELLING via book “experiences” (more than a reading), workshops, home consults, engaging with you via the website and Facebook, and always as an architect, helping people further create their home.

A FREE book reading experience is planned for April 21 and the first Dwell to Live workshop will be held at my home in Takoma Park, MD, on May 12. If you would like to join us in either of these events, please sign up here (limited space available!):

<<< Sign up for the book reading experience >>>

<<< Sign up for the Dwell to Live workshop >>>

Thank you for supporting our work at Helicon Works Architects, which has given me the space and time to develop DWELLING.

I want to thank the following people who have helped make this a reality – Henry Sanders, Lourdes Billingsley, Emily Gupta, Bill Updike, Anne Dykers, Alice Trembour, Keith Winston, Angie Seckinger, Tamzin Smith, Krysta Schlyer, Haley Chung, Sean Edwin and Daniela Silberman.

Deepening our knowing of our Home is essential to creating a sane, peaceful world – I invite you to join me in this journey.


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Dwelling workshop drawings

The latest Dwelling workshop

I love offering this workshop!  It gives me joy to see participants open to receive insights into who they are – see their Home.  I give the workshop in my home, my embodiment of my Home – we built our home to share; this too is fulfilling.  I make lunch, bring them tea, support their work in any way i can. I’d be completely fulfilled if i can serve in this way every day.

I’ve been offering this workshop for over 20 years, yet, now that i’ve completed writing Dwelling, i have more insight into our basic human impulses, and can ask more useful questions to spark participants knowing who they are.

On one level, the work is simple – participants listen to and take in a poetic image, and draw their response.  We then discuss what came up for them as they drew, and the group shares what they see and their response.  The simple act of drawing with pastels on newsprint, and just drawing while trying not to think – let deeper impulses rise and express themselves – is transformative.

During the most recent workshop, it took one drawing for a participant to open to a part of herself that had been dormant since childhood!  Her workshop opened door after door into herself, as was the case for the other participants.

I began the workshop feeling a lot of fear and finished the day knowing great things are in store for me. Bill’s gentle presence and inquiry during the workshop both encouraged me to dive deeper into myself and offered me the container to do so. I have been on a journey of self-discovery for many years, sometimes in extreme fashion, and I am gratefully surprised to have rediscovered a part of myself so sweetly and simply in the process Bill offers. I recommend this for anyone seeking to know themselves more deeply including who they are and what they want to be and create in their lives.

 ~ Jenny Lewis

I give participants homework before the workshop, and ask them to read Dwelling; all to begin their opening into the work before we meet.

We begin the workshop with lighting a candle and sitting with its silence.  A candle offers the simplest door into spiritual realms where our Home resides.

I then read “A Seed for Dwelling,” the beginning of the poetic exploration of Home in Dwelling, to set the stage for the workshop.  And then they draw!

This work can go on for days – my lifetime! – and, i’ve created a series of explorations that open their door into Home in one day.  We end with participants drawing their response to a Rumi poem which has the line, “Let the beauty you love be what you do.”  That impulse is the core of Dwelling.

Please join our DWELLING community on Facebook. We will be launching the book and website in February, so stay tuned!
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