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2016 International Straw Building Conference (ISBC)

By Community, Issue 67 No Comments
Welcome to NZ!!!

Welcome to NZ!!!

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.

Bale Stacking Fun

Bale Stacking Fun

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.

Straw Bale Panel

Straw Bale Panel

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 and Facebook page ISBC 2016.

Wrap-Up of the Ontario Natural Building Coalition Annual Natural Building Conference

By Community, Issue 63, Straw Bale Construction No Comments

By Frank Tettemer, ONBC Director

Chris Magwood

Chris Magwood, speaking about setting goals and design priorities

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.

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.

Jacob Deva Racusin

Jacob Deva Racusin on natural building impacts, social justice, and creativity

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.


Tina Therrien –  &

Jacob Deva Racusin – &

Chris Magwood –  &

David Eisenberg –  &

Dawn Marie Smith –

Rick Fines –

Camp Kawartha –