When you think of New Zealand, what do you think about?
‘Wow, it’s really far away’
‘Isn’t there more sheep then people that live there?’
‘I’ve heard there’s lots of beautiful and wild places to explore and experience there’
‘There’s some fabulous natural building happening there’
Well, New Zealand, a country comprised of two main islands, IS far away to most places in this world, there ARE a lot of sheep that are raised here and yes, it IS a stunningly gorgeous place to live and to play. New Zealand will appeal to all your senses and most of all you will be thrilled to know that it’s natural building community is vibrant and is very excited to be hosting the next International Straw Building Conference from 3-9 March in 2016 in Methven.
The Earth Building Association of New Zealand (EBANZ) will be your host along with AUSBALE and BOINZ (Building Officials Institute of New Zealand). EBANZ is an incorporated society that promotes the art and science of natural building in New Zealand. Each year EBANZ hosts their annual AGM and Conference, alternating between the islands and with the intention of highlighting natural building in the many varied climatic regions of New Zealand.
There has been a great representation from around the world with abstracts being received from Spain, Turkey, Italy, France, Ireland, Japan, USA, UK, Australia and of course New Zealand. All of our keynote speakers, spanning a variety of disciplines, have been influential in the international natural building community. From North America, we are delighted to announce that both Bruce King, of the United States, and Chris Magwood, of Canada, will be joining us as two of our keynote speakers. From the UK, we will welcome Craig White, Director of White Design & Modcell, who has brought straw bale into mainstream building, Barbara Jones, a pioneer designer who has been instrumental in creating affordable homes for people, providing practical training & now has set up the School of Natural Building and Rachel Bevan, an Architect, who has a wide experience in the specification of ecological building materials including hemp. And from New Zealand, the ‘land of the long white cloud’, Graeme North, an Architect of over 40 years, the founding chair of EBANZ, will provide an overview of the writing of the three New Zealand Earth Building Standards. This conference aims to find new, positive solutions, collaborations, enhancing community, both near and far and certainly having a bit of fun.
So, once you’ve traveled that great distance from your home, you will certainly see paddocks of sheep, you will experience some beautiful places (both natural and built), but after attending the conference you will come away from an experience that will leave you inspired, full of knowledge and with a much bigger community of colleagues and friends.
For more information please visit our website http://www.strawbuildconference.co.nz/ and Facebook page ISBC 2016.
By Frank Tettemer, ONBC Director
This definitely was the most fun to be had all winter.
Timing is everything, and this year’s gathering of the clan at Camp Kawartha, near Lakefield Ontario, warmed my heart during one of the coldest of Canadian winters. With temperatures outside the straw bale conference room dipping to -24C (-11F) at night, the crackling fire in the wood stove provided a popular place to gather around over the weekend.
Tina Therrien’s welcome and opening remarks on Saturday morning lit the flame of curiosity and instilled the warm comradeship that nicely permeated the weekend conference. Her dedication to forming the Ontario Straw Bale Building Coalition 15 years ago, and her continuance as Chairperson has been instrumental in supporting this organization’s transformation into what it is today; the Ontario Natural Building Coalition. www.naturalbuildingcoalition.ca
Jacob Deva Racusin spoke of many things around building impact, social justice, and creativity. Lessons learned were all about making straw bale walls using additional layers and materials. The synergy of plaster, straw, cellulose, rain screens, and cladding can easily place natural materials into the Passivehaus world of warmth.
Chris Magwood’s presentation reached out to owner-builders, professionals, and designers, about the importance of setting goals and priorities, well before the excavator arrives on site. Emphasizing that everyone’s needs are different, and establishing priorities for each individual is the first step in good design. And when it’s time to compare different materials and building components, his new book, “Making Better Buildings”, covers everything vital and appropriate.
David Eisenberg’s warm voice and brilliant experiences always open my heart. While transplanting Kathleen O’Brien’s Emerge Leadership project to the forests and lakes of Ontario, he found fertile soil, within this group of 80 aware and alert natural builders. Though it must have been a challenge for him, to travel the distance with a temperature difference of +80F to -11F, ‘Desert Dave’ seemed undaunted, as he patiently germinated the seeds for emerging leaders, to carry on the work of building not just net-zero housing, but to develop ways in which every new building is restorative and adds benefits to the natural environment.
Dawn Marie Smith traveled from Victoria, BC to show us how to use alternative methods to achieve code acceptance and obtain that elusive building permit. Reaching for the carrot of sustainable building is not always easy, and the ASRi and their publication, the Alternative Solutions Resource Initiatives’ Straw Bale Alternative Solutions Resource (ASR) manual, has made the work of digging these carrots much more straight forward. I loved how her experiences with Emerge Leadership helped to add sprinkles of additional insights during David Eisenbergs’ presentation.
Relaxing after dinner on Saturday, we were treated to our own 5×5 slideshow – five photos from a couple dozen contributors – who each had five minutes to talk about their photos. Hilarious and inspiring, the show was a fun warm-up to the evening, that included libations from a selection of organic wines and craft brewed beers from the Bale Heart Bar, that livened up our senses for socializing, while singer-songwriter Rick Fines strummed and sang, caressing the spirit of inspiration in us all.
Did I mention how well we were treated and fed by the Camp Kawartha cooks? They really knew how to accommodate the evolved diets of our participants, with delicious meals and healthy snacks.
Thanks to all, for your spirited participation, in making this year one of the finest conferences ever.
Dawn Marie Smith – http://www.asri.ca/
Rick Fines – http://rickfines.ca/
By Stuart Jeffrey Hart
Community Rebuilds is a nonprofit organization that builds straw bale homes for low-income families in Moab, Utah. The homes are built by volunteers who exchange their time for an education in natural building and sustainability. Our student intern volunteers commit to the entire 4 month build, participating in the foundation pour all the way to ‘key in the door.’ Our program is committed to replacing dilapidated, energy wasteful trailers, for highly efficient homes that use a fraction of the energy to heat and cool.
Community Rebuilds was been awarded this year’s “Innovative Path to Zero Waste Award” by the Utah Recycling Alliance. Here is how we achieved it.
To reduce the waste we produce on the build site, we follow the ‘Reduce, Re-use, Recycle’ principle.
Reduce – Our design choices help us reduce the amount of building materials that we use. When ordering roofing metal for example, we use Google Sketch-up, a computer-modeling program, to lay out the exact cuts needed. It shows us where the off-cut from one piece can be used elsewhere. This allows us to order the precise lengths of metal needed, meaning less materials are ordered and we produce the minimum waste possible. All lumber is ordered at lengths specific to the building needs. We order lumber lengths as close to the actual length needed to reduce the amount of material left. The conventional approach is to order only 16 ft lengths, then cut everything from those. The remaining pieces are often too short to be used and are discarded as waste.
A major design choice is for our houses to incorporate natural materials that are compostable. We choose to build the walls of our homes with straw bales, an agricultural industry waste product that would otherwise be burned. Extra bales and waste straw are composted. The homes we build have earthen floors and the walls and ceilings are plastered with earthen plaster. We use a combination of locally sourced sand, clay and straw for all of these applications. Plaster mix that is dropped during plastering or left over at the end is either re-hydrated and used again, or simply spread in the garden to become the soil.
Reuse – We incorporate used and repurposed building materials into our homes to reduce the cost of the homes and to reduce the amount of new building materials required. We construct non-load bearing interior walls with pallet wood salvaged from the local waste stream and earthen plasters. In addition, we reuse functional lumber, tiles, doors, windows, interior lighting and plumbing fixtures, sinks and toilets.
During construction we reuse our waste as much as possible and we try to incorporate other people’s waste material when possible. When sheeting the internal walls of our homes, we use drywall off-cuts from other build sites. Conventional construction crews will not use drywall scraps. Scraps will usually be the end of a 12′ x 4′ drywall sheet. We flip all the 4′ pieces horizontally and use them to span our 2′ on-centre framing. In our homes we piece together a total of 960 sq ft of ‘waste’ drywall. We mesh tape the extra seams and clay slip the gaps, and then our earthen plaster hides all. By collecting the salvageable scraps and using them in our homes we reduce the amount of waste destined for the landfill and save purchasing new materials.
When we are building with other conventional materials excess material and remnants are incorporated in the home as much possible. We use rigid foam insulation sheets to insulate our foundation and underneath the floor. Scrap from this process is saved and inserted into the roof cavity before we blow in cellulose. Some burnable wood scraps are collected together and used by the volunteers in their wood burning cob oven and communal fire pit. The rest is donated to a local family who use it to heat their house throughout the winter. We donated four cubic yards of burnable wood scraps from our most recent build.
We choose to use as little wood that contains glues as possible. This means that more of the wood scraps are burnable. It also reduces the amount of potentially harmful chemicals in our homes. To replace OSB sheeting on the roof, we use rough sawn 1×10 wood for the same price. We have replaced LVL beams with rough sawn 4×12’s. Both of these come from the Colorado Rockies where pine beetles have devastated huge areas of pine trees leaving them standing dead.
Recycle- We challenge ourselves to limiting our waste production to one domestic garbage bin (0.5 cubic yards) weekly. Our waste consists mainly of non-recyclable packaging and cumulates to an average of 8 cubic yards per build. By comparison, we estimate that local private contractors will dump approximately 30 cubic yards of waste during a similar sized build. To accomplish our low waste goals, we begin each new home build by creating pallet-recycling bins on our construction sites. Metal, plastic, cardboard and wood scraps are stored in them. When we need a small piece of lathe to patch a crack, some wood for blocking or cardboard to protect our floor a quick check of the recycling bins can save cutting a new piece. Once the build is over anything that hasn’t been used is recycled. At the end of our previous build we recycled one cubic yard of scrap metal and one cubic yard of cardboard.
Our goal is to create a quality affordable product with minimal waste and environmental impact. In doing so, we educate the next generation of builders how to move towards zero waste. Our students learn how the current building methods are wasteful and inefficient and how, using just a small amount of planning, we can change the home construction paradigm for the better. We are building homes in a smarter, more sustainable way. Our homes’ energy performance, thoughtful construction methods and quality stand as an example for our volunteers, the community and the construction industry as a whole.
Jeffrey was an apprentice and natural building instructor with Community Rebuilds from 2012 – 2013. He is now heading home to his native England to build small, affordable, straw bale homes using the Community Rebuilds volunteer/educate model. He can be found at www.jeffreythenaturalbuilder.com.
As an update to this post about the Feuillette House in France, here is a patent in the United States for straw bale construction. It was filed on June 6, 1921 and is a very interesting read for the bale construction history buffs out there. The author was Emile Feuillette himself and approved on June 6, 1921.
This is not the oldest patent on bale construction as we documented back in Issue #21 in the Winter of 1998. That title goes to Josiah M. Leeds (of Indiana, not Nebraska) in 1880. The article describes and contains illustrations of three subsequent straw bale building patents (1885, 1903, and 1905). Issue 21 can be ordered on our CD of the first 40 Issues here.