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A Heavenly Goal for Heavenly Mountain

Heaven’s Nest and Sun’s Nest Debut at Former Heavenly Mountain Property

Story by Sam Calhoun

Taos, New Mexico’s Angel’s Nest sustainable energy demonstration home, pictured here in 2007, is the brainchild of renewable energy expert Robert Plarr. All the green technology from Angel’s Nest—indoor closed loop atmospheric drinking water systems, wastewater recapture systems, solar panels, triple rainforest barriers, hydrogen cells, wind turbines, battery storage systems, water vortexes and more—are on their way to Heaven’s Nest, a new sustainable community located at the former Heavenly Mountain property in Watauga County.

Forget everything you think you know about Heavenly Mountain and start thinking about job training, cutting-edge renewable energy technologies and resources, organic food production, green building and affordable sustainable living. On roughly 1,800 acres of the former Heavenly Mountain property, located roughly seven miles from Boone, landowner David Kaplan has assembled a dream team of green builders, green inventors, organic food gurus, rocket scientists and entrepreneurs who have a twofold goal—save our body and save the planet. The project is called Heaven’s Nest, and its green building component is called Sun’s Nest. Kaplan is funding the project while grant writers go after the more than $2 billion allocated for sustainable technology development through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“We’re making a completely sustainable development up here,” said Kaplan. “We want this to become the sustainable center for the entire nation; we want to put this land to good use.”

High Country Press traveled to Heaven’s Nest this week to meet with the entrepreneurs who are already living on the mountain and working on the goal to bring healthy living and green, affordable housing to Watauga County. Kaplan invited High Country Press to Heaven’s Nest after a story was published in the paper about Howard Richardson, who introduced himself as president of the National Coalition for Homeless Americans and presented a plan to the Watauga County Board of Commissioners on August 3 for a Green Housing Institute, a training and education program for homeless people located on Heavenly Mountain. According to Kaplan, Richardson did call and explain his idea to train homeless people on the mountain but Kaplan and his staff decided that was not a good idea and advised Richardson that it was not an option. Richardson received this answer, said Kaplan, well before he presented his idea to the commissioners, and, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Americans, Richardson is not even its employee, much less its president. In short, no homeless people will be living or working on the property and Richardson has no part in the project.

So, what is the project? The project is all about providing affordable green housing without sacrificing character or luxury. Currently, Heaven’s Nest features 176 building lots ranging from a half acre to five acres. When customers buy a lot, they have three options for construction—build a Sun’s Nest Pod, build a Sun’s Nest signature home or build a custom home that incorporates sustainable technologies.

Perhaps the design that will pique the most people’s interest in Watauga County because of the current economic downturn is the Sun’s Nest Pod, the country’s first fully sustainable, affordable green home, according to Heaven’s Nest staff. Measuring in at 1,000 square feet and with a price tag of roughly $150,000, the pod produces its own energy, grows its own food, consumes 400 percent less water, uses 90 percent less energy for heating and cooling and is made from natural, local building materials. The pod is integrated with solar power, wind power, battery storage, organic gardens, wastewater management systems and an atmospheric water production machine. The state-of-the-art dwelling is also mold proof; fire, earthquake, hurricane and flood resistant; requires minimal maintenance and labor; and qualifies for various federal and state tax credits.

“Our intention is to design and build the finest fully sustainable community in the world,” said Stephen Bullard, co-founder of Green Society and member of the Heaven’s Nest team.

“And the homes can become even more affordable if local and state agencies are willing to approve new green building practices that we have developed,” said Robert Plarr, green entrepreneur and member of the Heaven’s Nest team.  

“Our intentions are to work with state agencies to fully comply with code and help them improve their green regulations,” added Bullard.

“Just wait—we have systems that are extremely affordable that have never been seen before,” said Plarr. 

Thirty of the 176 lots go on sale October 1, and construction on the pods and signature homes will begin immediately.

A rough sketch of the Sun’s Nest Pod—a fully sustainable, affordable green home—shows how a triple rainforest barrier is integrated into the home design on the south-facing side of the home. The pod provides 1,000 square feet of living space and a completely sustainable lifestyle for around $150,000. The pods will be built on lots in Heaven’s Nest and will be available to the general public over the next few months.

The Sun’s Nest Pod and the Sun’s Nest signature home are the brainchild of green technology guru Plarr, the creator of Taos, New Mexico’s Angel’s Nest sustainable energy demonstration home. Plarr, who is a regular guest on Coast to Coast AM and gained notoriety after heralding green technology on 60 Minutes, has been an environmental pioneer since the 1970s. In 1975, the former Marine built a 45,000-watt wind turbine and a passive solar experimental home, which secured him a spotlight on CBS, ABC and NBC. In 1979, Plarr built a 225,000-watt turbine and energy education center in Pennsylvania; in 2000, he opened a research center in New Mexico built entirely of tires and soda cans and outfitted with solar and wind technology; and in 2003, he debuted Angel’s Nest, a fully sustainable, luxurious, off-grid, renewable energy showplace and research center. Utilizing technology that is so advanced it is foreign to most of the marketplace, Angel’s Nest attracted the attention of Kaplan in 2005 and he traveled to New Mexico to see what it was all about. Kaplan and Plarr joined forces immediately and hatched a plan to design an affordable version of Angel’s Nest that was accessible to all income levels.

The Sun’s Nest signature home is a smaller version of Angel’s Nest but bigger than the pod, measuring in at 2,500 square feet and featuring a price tag of roughly $300,000. All of Plarr’s designs, including the pod, utilize a triple rainforest barrier. That’s right, there’s a rainforest indoors. Even if it’s -10 degrees outside, a triple rainforest barrier means that it will be a constant 68 to 70 degrees inside the home without turning on the heat. The barriers admit the sun and buffer extreme summer heat and/or winter cold. What’s more, grey and black water collected underneath the home is cycled up through the plants in the rainforest, providing them with food. Once the plants emit the moisture back into the air, a vortex water capture system collects the water so it can create rain when needed. In addition, all of the homes feature an indoor closed loop atmospheric drinking water and wastewater treatment system patented by Plarr. The rainforest also provides groceries and purifies the air, all while adding natural beauty to the home. Customers can even choose to install one of Heaven’s Nest’s signature hanging beds, which are circular, mobile and positioned over the rainforest.  

“We will build homes here that take care of you,” said Plarr. “These homes provide homeland security, social security and healthcare as the homes produce their own energy, water and food. We are giving you the power to truly be the king or queen of your castle.”

“Because the homes are self-sufficient and free of utility payments, buyers who couldn’t buy because their debt-to-income ratio was too high will now receive a better ratio because every dollar they make can go toward their mortgage and not to bills,” added Bullard.

All homes in Heaven’s Nest will include Robert Plarr’s vortex water capture system that collects moisture from the air, purifies it and disperses it as drinking water or to hydrate plants. Pictured on the right is a vortex drinking fountain from Angel’s Nest. The vortex system is not only sustainable and aesthetically pleasing, it is also lined with metal objects that, when the vortex spins, give off negative ions, which are thought to give natural energy. On the left is a picture of Plarr’s signature hanging canopy bed, which are positioned over each home’s rainforest. The circular, mobile beds are available for installation in each Heaven’s Nest home.

By the beginning of 2010, Heaven’s Nest will begin training builders, contractors and subcontractors from around the world on how to build these sustainable home designs. Heaven’s Nest is developing home kits for the pod and signature home that can be constructed in seven to 14 days and will host ongoing two-week intensive training sessions for people interested in bringing affordable green housing to their region of the world. The trainees will stay on premise in some of the original Heavenly Mountain infrastructure while they are trained and will receive a green building certificate upon completion of the program. Trainees will receive hands-on training as they build the home kits at Heaven’s Nest for future Watauga County homeowners.

“Our intention is to help the town, county and state by creating green jobs and applying Recovery Act money as efficient as possible,” said Bullard.

A large portion of the buzz at Heaven’s Nest is due to the arrival of Joe Holden, the inventor of the afterburner for jet engines and the last remaining Rolls Royce Award Engineer alive. Holden is credited with everything from making army boats go faster and further on less fuel to inventing the world’s first water turbine that doesn’t require a dam. Three windmills of Holden’s design have produced power for St. Croix in the Virgin Islands for 20 years, standing strong after taking hits from three hurricanes head on. Holden graduated from 16 colleges, was a member of SAS and OSS (with comedian Benny Hill) during World War II, conducted classified work for the U.S. government at the infamous Area 51 in Nevada, wrote his own math book, test flew the Concorde and invented a plethora of green technologies, such as a water pipe pressure relief valve that generates electricity and a solar energy system that can create energy for 70 cents per watt—less than 25 percent of the current market value.

Holden is bringing his expertise to Heaven’s Nest, offering his technologies, patents and inventions to builders, homeowners and educators. “Can you imagine what an asset this will be to ASU?” asked Bullard.

“Boone will soon become the world capital for green technology,” added Plarr.

Plarr explained that an offering such as this from an inventor is usually very unlikely, as they typically prefer to protect their discoveries. However, said Plarr, so many inventors are involved with Heaven’s Nest that Holden feels it is a worthy venue for his inventions. Also, Holden, 80, hopes his inventions will bring about a better tomorrow.

“Joe wants to give these technologies to the children of the world so that they can live and be safe. Up until now, [the children] are inheriting a dead planet,” said Plarr. “This is truly something that gives hope to the future.”

In addition to building a new community of affordable green homes, Kaplan and his team will begin converting the existing Heavenly Mountain infrastructure to sustainable dwellings—54 condos will be converted this fall and 110 condos will be converted in 2010. Also, Heaven’s Nest includes a sustainably oriented resort that features a four-star, 120-room hotel and 96-room lodge, organic vegetarian and vegan restaurant and a holistic, state-of-the-art spa and fitness center, which will open in 2010. Plarr, Kaplan, Bullard and their team also plan to host retreats at Heaven’s Nest for everything from yoga to detoxifying the body with organic superfoods.  

Bullard said he believes the creation of Heaven’s Nest will boost local tourism, bolster local employment opportunities (especially when hardware for the new technologies can be manufactured locally), provide economic development, bring attention to the region and act as an invaluable engineering resource for people and students in the High Country. 

“We are the new Microsoft that is sustainable,” said Plarr.

“We’re going to create a sustainable revolution up here,” added Bullard.

For more information on Heaven’s Nest, click to; on lot sales, click to; on Heaven’s Nest green building technology, click to; on Angel’s Nest, click to; or on the hotel and lodge, click to

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