We are excited to announce that our current straw bale project, the Fallgren Naturally Healthy Home, is now registered with the Living Building Challenge seeking Net Zero Energy Building certification, which is a rigorous standard that will verify that the project used the land appropriately, considered beauty, and that this home is so energy efficient that it makes as much energy as it uses.
If you are not familiar with the Living Building Challenge, it is a holistic program that evaluates beauty, toxicity, equity, health, as well as energy and water efficiency. Currently, there are only 11 fully certified buildings in the world!
The California Straw Building Association invites you to attend our annual conference. This year’s conference celebrates CASBA’s 20th anniversary and the amazing progress we’ve made bringing straw bale and other forms of natural, low-carbon building to life. Join this diverse range of building experts gathering to share, discuss, and collaborate. There will be presentations, tours, panel discussion, and hands-on demonstrations, all set against the beautiful backdrop of spring wildflowers in the Carrizo Plain.
Simple Construct will be there presenting “Buddhists, Bales, and Building Science;” participating in a panel discussion on Plaster, Moisture, and Durability; and showing our recent work. We hope to see you there!
A rare opportunity to tour the new straw bale buildings at the Deer Park Buddhist Monastery
Four curved straw bale buildings wrap around a central courtyard. A covered breezeway made of reclaimed timber connects them. With graceful super-insulated
straw bale walls and passive solar orientation, these buildings will help the Sisters live comfortably in-tune with nature. Natural ventilation, efficient heating and cooling systems, greywater and rainwater systems, and a large PV array give these buildings a lighter footprint.
We are proud to have been part of this remarkable project and invite you to tour the site as part of the USGBC’s annual Green Homes Tour. With 9 sites on this year’s Tour, there is sure to be something of interest to everyone. See the brochure for more info
This may be your only chance to tour these buildings at Deer Park. Three of them will be the private residences for the nuns and one will be Thich Nhat Hanh’s home when he visits, so once they are completed, they will not be open to the public. Please join us on Sunday Oct 4 for a chance to tour of these lovely buildings.
We hope to see you there!
Rebecca & Mike, Simple Construct
Thanks to everyone who came out for the Tour! 160+ people at 12 straw bale houses!
Tour de Bale – straw bale home tour in San Diego
Sunday, May 31, 2015, noon-4pm at locations all over San Diego County
Experience for yourself some of the beautiful, efficient, & natural straw bale buildings in San Diego County!
Straw bale homes are unique, energy-efficient, and healthier for people and for the environment. They are more fire-proof than conventional houses and perform well in earthquakes. San Diego County is home to more than 56 permitted straw bale buildings in a variety of sizes and styles. On Sunday May 31st, join the self-guided Tour de Bale and visit straw bale homes in locations near you including:
Knowledgable homeowners, owner-builders, builders, designers, architects, and CASBA volunteers will be on hand to answer your questions about this wonderful way to build.
Registration is $10 per individual, couple, or family. This fee covers the cost associated with the tour and any profit will go to the the California Straw Building Association.
In elementary school, I was obsessed with building my own house. I just really wanted my own space within four freestanding walls. It didn’t need to be large, just big enough for a bed and a desk. Having no idea how to build a house, I cut out pictures of ready-made sheds from the hardware store mailers and tried to save my allowance to buy a shed to turn into a house in a corner of my parents backyard. Ultimately, I couldn’t manage to save that kind of money and eventually the idea faded into the background. But I have always had a soft spot in my heart for little, bitty houses.
As a graduate of art school, I got first-hand experience living tiny, since a 600 sq ft apartment in Boston was all I could afford. Later, a move across country led me to a 400 sq ft freestanding home. There are clear advantages and plenty of restrictions that come with living in a small space. As someone who likes to make things (and usually a mess in the process), having space for tools and projects was an issue. I needed a tiny house to live in and a tiny workshop to make in.
The growth of the Tiny House movement of the last ten years has delighted me. I have questions about how realistic of the concept of a tiny house on wheels for all can be, but giving a name to a desire is powerful and can help people come together to move large, seemingly-immoveable things like building regulations.
As I began to help build houses and then design and build houses, the first of the Four R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) is always on my mind. To me, one of the highest goals of design is to do more with less; to achieve the goal without wasted space or materials or resources or money.
A few years ago, we were traveling to attend a conference in Northern California and needed a place to camp. We ended up finding Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, which turned out to be a restored tiny ghost town: a village of small buildings in the middle of what had become nowhere when the train stopped going there. It has a fascinating history and was a delightful experience.
With some extra time on our hands during the slow times in construction, we decided to help a friend build a tiny straw bale building in his backyard. We designed it, poured the slab, framed the walls and roof, and had two workshops to teach people about stacking straw bales and applying clay plaster. It was a deeply satisfying experience.
More recently, I have fallen in love with the Pocket Neighborhood idea and spend time dreaming of building a collection of exquisitely designed tiny straw bale homes with excellent privacy and shared amenities, such as a garden and a community room for hosting the occasional big party that doesn’t fit in a cozy home.
Just as my kindergarten teacher’s pronouncement of having cured me of my obsession with clay foreshadowed a life-long affair with the stuff, my fascination with little-bitty-just-enough-houses has endured and informs my work today.
THE WORKDAYS ARE NOW FULL, NO MORE REGISTRATIONS CAN BE ACCEPTED.
The dates for the workdays have been released and the few remaining spots will fill up fast.
There will be 3 workdays where you can to volunteer to help stack bales and apply clay plasters, coming up this winter at the Deer Park Monastery in Escondido. The workdays will be run by the Monastery and may fill up quickly.
For info on future events like these, join our email list (click the envelope button at the bottom of the page).
Do you want a home that is healthier and more comfortable for you and the environment?
It is possible to build a comfortable, healthy, efficient home from materials that have a lighter impact on the environment without sacrificing amenities or style?
In fact, a well-designed home can offer additional convenience, such as day-lit rooms that need no extra lighting during the day, or appliances that work faster and better. They can offer simple advantages such as physical comfort due to fewer drafts, more even humidity, and more stable temperatures. They also offer less tangible results such as greater peacefulness, due to better sound insulation and quieter mechanical systems, and a deeper sense of well-being knowing that your immediate environment is less toxic and that your surrounding environment is less impacted.
No single technology or material can do all of this. Homes are living systems and need to be designed comprehensively, with all of the parts in mind.
We have put together a team of builders, designers, and specialists who address the entire process of designing and building a naturally healthier home. Using an integrated design/build process creates a better building: we see the forest and the trees. But let’s zoom in and take a closer look at one of those trees for a moment…
Straw Bale Walls One part of a house system is the wall. We have found that the plastered straw bale wall system creates a fantastic wall. It is great insulation, fire safe, durable, good sound insulation, and safe in an earthquake. It also provides unlimited aesthetic possibilities, such as deep window seats and graceful arches.
Keeping in mind that the walls are just one part of the system, let’s look more closely at straw bales.
• Great insulation: Straw bale walls provide at least R30 insulation, which can greatly reduce energy used for heating and cooling. A typical 2×6 stud wall with maximum fiberglass insulation is rated R19.
• Good for the environment: Straw is an agricultural waste product leftover from the production of grain. Straw bale building is not only an example of recycling, is a great example of upcycling.
• Good fire resistance: Straw bale walls have a very good fire rating: 1 hour for earth plastered walls, 2 hours for cement-lime plastered walls. A typical stick-built, drywalled wall has a 30 minute rating.
• Less materials: A plastered bale wall replaces the insulation, the drywall and the paint usually used in a conventional wall, and can reduce the wood needed for framing.
• Better sound quality: Straw bale walls provide excellent sound insulation and have a positive effect on interior acoustics
• Better air quality: Straw is a natural, non-toxic building material, lending itself to zero VOC finishes (such as clay plaster) which can lead to a healthier indoor environment.
• User-friendly: Building with bales can create opportunities to involve your friends and community through bale raisings and work parties.
• Beautiful: Straw bale walls are aesthetically versatile. They can be straight and flat or can be shaped to have sinuous, organic lines and accommodate built-in furniture or niches. Straw bale homes can be almost any style: from straight and Modern to handmade and cottage-like; from organic and ‘Hobbitty’ to clean and Contemporary.
We are very excited that the Colorado Straw Bale Association will be hosting the 2012 International Straw Builders’ Conference in September. The deadline for early registration is July 16 so go check it out http://www.strawbaleconference.com/
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