Natural Selection: An Environmentally Friendly Home

A Florida couple lets Mother Nature be their guide when building a cozy, environmentally friendly home.

Environmentally Friendly Home Rear

Larry and Wanda Junker wanted a second home that was all about nature: working with it, harmonizing with it, reflecting it and respecting it. As long-time Florida residents, they have seen the havoc hurricanes can wreak on homes and wanted a structure that could withstand the elements. Plus, they felt that living an eco-friendly lifestyle was simply the right thing to do. “We’re becoming more green as we get older,” Larry says. “We’re concerned about the environment and wanted a home that was energy efficient.” What the Junkers didn’t realize was that a log home would fit the bill. Then their son, Mike, decided to build one for himself and the couple learned of the environmentally friendly attributes of log building: they’re energy efficient and made of sustainable materials.

The family interviewed a variety of log home producers and settled on BK Cypress Log Homes of Bronson, Florida. “In our research, we found that cypress was a stable wood used for thousands of years,” Larry explains. “We had also read an article about the last home left standing in a subdivision after Hurricane Andrew — a BK Cypress log home.” The log producer’s business practices appealed to the Junkers’ environmental sensibilities. “We found out that BK Cypress replenishes the forests. They don’t just take,” Wanda says. Larry and Wanda liked the company and its product so much, in fact, they became dealers and formed Heart of America Log Homes in Inverness, Florida, 70 miles northwest of Orlando.

Their son Mike’s home, completed in 2003, was Heart of America’s first project. Soon after, Larry and Wanda started planning their own log home, which would serve as their second home and sales model. Choosing 6-by-8-inch round logs with a saddle-notch intersection, they customized a three-bedroom, two-bathroom stock floor plan from BK Cypress to include dormers and a loft.

Great room complete with roaring fireplace.

Through the seven-month construction process, Larry and Wanda ensured that their crews made as little impact as possible on their 1-acre wooded lot. They only removed underbrush and kept all the trees on the property intact. “We wanted to make use of the surrounding environment as much as possible, while protecting Mother Nature as we built,” Wanda notes. The Junkers truly embraced their surroundings. At a tidy 1,500 square feet, the home wisely uses all of its space. The home’s 24 windows, along with its spacious front porch, capture views of the surrounding old-growth hickories and grandfather oaks. An outdoor tankless water heater, extra insulation in the vaulted ceiling, a propane-powered stove and fireplace and double-pane, Low-E windows all contribute to the home’s energy efficiency. Because of cypress’s natural resistance to decay and bug infestations, Larry and Wanda didn’t need to treat the logs with insecticide, thus avoiding potential outgassing, where volatile organic compounds are released into a home, lowering the air quality.  

The smart use of natural materials gives the home its charming character. Solid-oak cabinetry, granite countertops and copper accessories warm the kitchen. Richly patterned 3/4-inch hickory flooring complements the honey-toned logs. A fireplace enveloped by Georgia flagstone anchors the great room, which reaches 26 feet at its highest point. A bright, open atmosphere ties the entire space together. Gregg Caldwell, managing director of BK Cypress, attributes much of this look to the lack of heavy timber. “The home looks more modern without the beams,” he says. “It allows you to see the true colors of the logs and the angles of the roof.” Such ambiance has become a big selling point among potential customers and friends alike. “It’s a very comfortable, warm and inviting home — sometimes too inviting,” Wanda says with a laugh. “People want to stay and stay and stay.” Given that the cozy home successfully embraces and esteems nature, it’s no wonder people have a hard time finding the door.