From bale related

SD County drops fees for ADUs / guest houses!

More good news about building an ADU (aka guest house, granny flat): the County of San Diego has followed the City’s lead and reduced permitting fees for ADUs!

The County allows an ADU to be added to any property with an existing house (as long as you meet certain zoning regulations). A detached ADU can be as big as 1,200 sq ft or as tiny as 150 sq ft, regardless of the size of the existing house, and it is legal to rent out either the ADU or the main house.

And the County supports green building by allowing us to count the sq footage to the inside of the strawbale walls, so we get all the benefits of thick super-insulated walls without losing any precious living space.

So why not build your dream strawbale home in your backyard and then rent out the conventional house? That’s what we call making your guest house your best house!

We are a design-build company with a passion for small, sustainable, high-performance homes. So contact us today to explore building a high-performance, natural ADU on your property.

Want to visit a strawbale house, touch clay plaster, or sit on a cob bench? Green Homes Tour 10/21/18

Interested in seeing some of our work in person? Here’s your chance: three projects we worked on will be open to the public on the Green Homes Tour on Sunday, Oct 21, 2018, from 10 am – 4 pm. The Tour is an annual event hosted by the San Diego chapter of the Green Building Council and, this year features a total of 13 homes all over the county. More info and tickets here: http://usgbc-sd.org/event-3042748

“Net Zero, Naturally” video about the Fallgren home

1. The Fallgren Net Zero Strawbale Home in Campo: Simple Construct designed and built this turn-of-the-last-century rancho style home. With strawbale walls, exquisite salvaged wood details, and all natural finishes, this homes is not just energy-efficient it is also a feast for the eyes. After a year of monitoring, it earned the Net Zero Energy Building certification through the Living Building Challenge, a third-party certification that verifies that the house uses less energy than it produces. In 2018, this project was honored with a Leadership in Energy Efficiency Award, watch the short video 

* Earthbag courtyard wall: If you are interested in earthbag construction, you have yet another reason to visit the Fallgren home in Campo. We are in the process of building a 6′ tall earthbag wall that will enclose the future outdoor kitchen, seating area, and raised bed vegetable gardens.


2. The Martin-Lynn Strawbale Home in Jamul: Simple Construct installed the straw bales, lath, and plaster on this lovely 3 bedroom, 2 bath custom home designed and built by TNT Custom Builders. The home features peeled posts, stained concrete floors, fine woodworking, and gorgeous clay-plastered strawbale walls. Though not quite finished, it’s clear this will be a stunningly beautiful, energy-efficient natural home.

 


3. The Ponizil-Berlfein Green Renovation in Encinitas: Simple Construct assisted with a deep-energy retrofit of this typical San Diego home, helping to air-seal and reinsulate the roof. We also installed beautiful clay plaster in two rooms and built a cob/adobe seating area in the backyard.

 

 

 

 

 

 


We hope to see you one the Green Homes Tour!

Saving the world with carbon-smart materials like straw

Architecture 2030 chart of the impacts of various forms of insulation

It sounds far-fetched at first, but building with straw and other bio-based, carbon-sequestering materials can help fight climate change. We can go beyond “doing less harm” with building, we can actually do some good.

Check out this chart from Architecture 2030’s Carbon-Smart Materials Palette showing that straw bales not only cause less carbon dioxide to be emitted, they actually sequester carbon in the wall. Read more about the carbon impact of strawbale on Architecture 2030’s website.

“Beyond Energy Efficiency: Why Embodied Carbon in Materials Matters”

 

For an in-depth discussion of embodied carbon in building materials, check out this thorough but accessible article on embodied carbon written by Ace McArleton and Jacob Deva Racusin of NewFrameworks to understand how.

 

Let’s do some good while building natural, beautiful, healthy homes!

 

Fallgren Strawbale Home will be featured on SDGBC’s Green Homes Tour Oct 2018

The Fallgren strawbale home, recently certified a Net Zero Energy Building through the Living Building Challenge, will be featured on this year’s Green Homes Tour!

The tour is Sunday, October 21, 2018 from 10 am – 4 pm at locations all over the county. More info and registration can be found here.

*** Update: There are now 3 projects that Simple Construct worked on featured on the Tour. More info here ***

 

Our new net zero strawbale article is published

“Net Zero, Naturally” strawbale article

Our newest article on high-performance strawbale building is out in this month’s Home Power magazine!

The article is all about our recent strawbale project that achieved Net Zero Energy Building certification through the Living Building Challenge. This home will be part of the USGBC’s Green Homes Tour on Oct 21, 2018.

Here’s a link to the article:  https://www.homepower.com/articles/home-efficiency/design-construction/net-zero-naturally

They do require a subscription to view the content but it’s only $15 per year and Home Power are doing a lot to promote high-performance natural building.

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Trying to building your dream natural home? Make your Guest House your Best House

The idea of living in a high-performance, natural home has been calling to you but you…

cozy straw bale artist's studio
An adorable strawbale studio

… haven’t found build-able land where you want to live.

… can’t cover the cost of buying land and building a house.

… don’t want the hassle and expense of selling and moving.

… can’t afford to live in one house while you build another.

… have concerns about the sustainability of developing land.

So what can you do?

If you own a conventional home but have been dreaming of a beautiful, non-toxic, super-insulated natural home, here’s a strategy we’d like you to consider: make your Guest House Your Best House!

Stay right where you are, have us design and build you an amazing natural guest house in your backyard while you live comfortably in your current home, then move into it! You can then legally rent out the old house for extra income or keep it as a guest space or future caregiver’s quarters.

Floor plan for a 1200 sq ft strawbale home, © Simple Construct 2018

You may have looked into building a guest house before and were discouraged by the limitations. But many of those regulations (and fees that went with them) were recently revised. The new state-wide Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) regulations that went into effect here in California in 2017 override local ordinances and allow most homeowners to build a detached “granny flat” ADU of up to 1,200 sq feet no matter how small the main house is. ADUs used to be limited to 50% of the size of the main house, so if you had an 800 sq ft house, the largest ADU you could have built was 400 sq ft. Not anymore! As long as you can meet the setbacks and other requirements, you can build an ADU as large as 1,200 sq ft in most jurisdictions. That’s not tiny,* that’s a 2 bedroom house with closets and enough room for a separate kitchen, dining table, and living room.

So if you own a home and like where you live but not what you live in, contact us to explore whether a high-performance natural ADU is right for your situation.

~ Rebecca & Mike, owners, Simple Construct Naturally Healthy Homes

* If you are interested in Tiny Houses, one aspect of this legislation that hasn’t gotten as much attention is the new minimum size allowed. Previous regulations governing the minimum size of rooms meant that the smallest you could legally build a house was between 400-600 sq ft, depending on interpretation. This new legislation drops that to a minimum of 150 sq ft for an ADU. That’s a Tiny House! A legal, rentable Tiny House.

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Can construction really be “regenerative”?

“The term regenerative development, on the other hand, carries within it a clear aim of regenerating the health and vitality of the nested, scale-linking systems we participate in. At a basic level regeneration also communicates not to use resources that cannot be regenerated, nor to use any resources faster than they can be regenerated.” Daniel Christian Wahl, “Beyond Sustainability? — We are living in the Century of Regeneration.”

At its most basic, construction requires taking a lot of stuff from somewhere and using it to build. It is an inherently destructive and consumptive process: no stuff = no building.

Because of this, it is has been hard to imagine truly regenerative construction: building in a way that not only does less harm to our ecosystems and environment but is actually a positive force, helping to repair some of the damage already done.

But now that we have started to explore the potential for strawbale and other biomass building materials to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and safely lock it up, the term ‘regenerative’ seems like less of a stretch. According to preliminary research done by the California Straw Building Association, a bale of straw locks up approximately 60 times as much carbon as was emitted making that bale. As long as that bale is used in a way that it will not break down — in a wall, for example — the carbon is safely stored. It’s a net positive way to sequester carbon that has the convenient side-effect of making beautiful, energy-efficient homes.

In addition to sequestering carbon above ground in the form of the visible plant, carbon is also ferried down into the soil by the roots. Research is just starting to scratch the surface of the potential for soil to sequester carbon. The next step is to question what role agriculture can play in helping (or harming) that process. Transitioning to bales made with perennial plants grown in a polyculture could increase the amount of carbon stored in the soil. Currently, it would be difficult — if not impossible– to find enough bales made this way to build a house, but it is an admirable goal.

Everyone wants to live in a strawbale house! A butterfly emerges from its chrysalis.

The green building movement started by focusing on making buildings use less energy (operational energy), then only recently moved into exploring building with materials that are made with less energy (embodied energy which translates into embodied carbon), and is now just starting to look at building with materials that absorb more carbon than they created (carbon sequestration). From this new viewpoint, a mindfully-designed, carefully-placed, skillfully-built bio-based building can truly earn the label “regenerative.”

 

 

 

More info:

“Beyond Sustainability? — We are living in the Century of Regeneration”   by Daniel Christian Wahl

The New Carbon Architecture: Building to Cool the Planet,” by Bruce King and friends

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Hands-on Clay Plaster Workshop 3/10/18, Fallbrook, CA

Come and learn about natural clay plasters in a fun, supportive environment while helping to plaster a tiny strawbale building. During this one-day workshop, we will mix and install the base coat of clay plaster – also know as earth plaster – to the strawbale and straw-clay walls of an adorable 120 square foot building. The class will be a mix of talking about building and hands-on doing. This is a rare opportunity to participate in a real build where your safety and education are the primary focus.

click to see an animation of the building you’ll be working on

No previous experience with construction is required. All tools will be provided for your use during the class. Taught by Rebecca Tasker and Mike Long, general contractors and co-owners of Simple Construct Naturally Healthy Homes.

These workshops fill up quickly, so register soon. We will provide water and light snacks, you will be responsible for bringing your own lunch. Address will be provided with registration.


Here’s what former workshop attendees said about our workshops:

“Perfect amount of students. Easy to understand. Excellent presentation. Very knowledgeable instructors. Would highly recommend the workshops.” – A.C.

“It was a great experience– you guys have so much knowledge and passion for what you do and I appreciated the opportunity to learn from you.” – M.B.

“I loved the size of the workshops and how they were presented. Very easy to grasp the principles as they were presented. There was always time for questions and they were all answered honestly I feel. I felt that a great deal of consideration was given in the planning of the classes and there is nothing I can think of that I would want different. The information was extremely well presented. Both contractors were always very willing to answer questions and were very forthcoming with information. Often when attending this sort of thing there is a feeling coming from the people giving the class that they are better than those of us who do not know enough yet. I never once got the feeling like that from the contractors at this class. They were always very much interested in our needs and perception of the material.” – K.W.

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Fallgren Strawbale Home receives Net Zero Energy certification through Living Building Challenge

On Jan 3, 2018, the Fallgren Home in Campo, CA, became the second building in Southern California to be awarded “Net Zero Energy Building” status through the Living Building Challenge. This third-party certification is based on actual performance data and verifies that the building uses less energy than it produces annually, as well as meets the program’s criteria for sensitive development, beauty, and education.

California has set a goal that all new residential buildings will be Zero Energy by 2020. This house is one example of how we can meet that goal using carbon-sequestering, non-toxic materials that are better for people and the environment.

Super-insulation, thoughtful design and careful construction mean that this home stays a comfortable temperature year round in this extreme climate while using little energy. The smaller than the average photovoltaic solar array (4.1 kW) provides almost twice as much electricity as this home uses even though every system in the home is electric (no gas or propane).

“When it was cold this winter, the house stayed at about 70° without any heat. When it got hot this summer, the house stayed at about 74° without air conditioning. It’s a very comfortable house.” – Brian Fallgren, Homeowner

This home is one of only 27 in the world to achieve this certification through the International Living Future Institute, a nonprofit working to build an ecologically-minded, restorative world for all people. Using principles of social and environmental justice, ILFI seeks to counter climate change by pushing for an urban environment free of fossil fuels. ILFI runs the Living Building Challenge, which is the world’s most rigorous green building standard, as well as the Net Zero Energy Building Certification (now Zero Energy), the Living Product Challenge, and the Living Community Challenge. The ILFI NZEB certification draws from the Living Building Challenge and is a highly rigorous and regarded standard in its own right.

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