From an article by Gregg Hoffman on

Tom Lukens has been to a lot of places over his long career in horticulture and business. Now, the president emeritus of Golden State Bulb Growers is creating “a beautiful place to simply be” along the West Fork in the Kickapoo Valley.

“I believe human beings are motivated by sharing experiences,” said Lukens, who continues to serve as a senior sales rep and technical consultant for the Moss Landing, California, Golden State Bulbs company, and has started Nature Nooks Retreat.

“That motivates me here. I believe this place gives you a sense of belonging which is good for us. We’ve built the buildings to not only be energy efficient as possible, but to bring the outside to you when you are inside. . . .”

Driftless Area Project head Jeff Hastings, Trout Unlimited, UW-Madison researchers and others have helped Lukens in his development of Nature Nooks and have embraced his bio-diversity approach to stream restoration.

The green construction starts with Lukens’ home, a 1,440 sq. ft. structure that resembles Frank Lloyd Wright designs and is intended to make as small a carbon footprint as possible.

Through the use of passive and active solar, hydronic heat in the floors, energy efficient windows and materials and a little bit of wood, Lukens was able to operate the home without “a drop of petroleum” last winter.

He estimates the solar part of his system cost about $34,000 more than conventional heat systems would, but he received an $18,000 tax credit and will recover any additional costs through energy efficiency.

Lukens also has worked with local contractors and has used local materials whenever possible.

“It starts by not building a home with more space than you need,” Lukens said. “This space is plenty for our purposes. By using local materials and labor, you also save costs, contribute to the community economically and leave less of a footprint because of transportation.”