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 torepair 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
*** PLEASE NOTE: Our company does not build Tiny Houses on wheels, prefab or modular homes, or code-minimum homes. We design and build high-performance natural homes of all sizes. If you are not familiar with the concept of high-performance natural building, please spend a few minutes looking around our website to see if we are the right design-builders for you before you call or email. If you are interested in a non-toxic, super-insulated Tiny House, ADU, or not-so big-house on a foundation, we’d be happy to talk with you about the exciting possibilities for your property. ***
People are understandably excited about the new Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) regulations that went into effect last year here in California that override local ordinances and allow most homeowners to build a detached “granny flat” 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 (and legally rent out) an ADU as large as 1,200 sq ft. That’s not tiny: that’s a 2 bedroom house with closets and enough room for a separate kitchen, dining table, and living room.
But some of us are more interested in tiny. 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.
When you say “Tiny House,” most people visualize one of those photogenic models on wheels. Tiny Houses have become a phenomenon, a movement – maybe even a bit of a fad – and they are almost always shown on wheels.
The wheels are important to some people, representing the freedom to go wherever they want to go. But I wonder why moving easily is a goal. What about building community and putting down roots? And is it really that easy to drag a miniature house from place to place and negotiate finding water, electricity, and a place to put the wastes? With wheels, the questions are “Is it an RV or a mobile home?” “How does it connect to the necessary services?” “How does it connect to the ground in an earthquake or hurricane?” To some people, the wheels are the solution to the problem but to me, the wheels can sometimes be the problem.
If you are one of the people willing to let go of that one aspect of Tiny Houses as they have come to be known – the wheels – you can rejoice in how much more realistic and legal and likely and doable they have just become thanks to this awesome new law.
Yes, the house will need a foundation and sewer (or septic) and water service and electrical service. But the upside is that you’ll have a foundation and sewer (or septic) and water service and electrical service. You will no longer be limited to what you can fit on a trailer or what is light enough to be towed, a consideration that usually precludes the use of most natural materials. Yes, you will need to own land (or make an agreement with someone who does). Yes, it will cost more to have this infrastructure but the upside is that you will have that infrastructure and you will have the legal right to live in or rent out your Tiny House ADU.
Although this specific legislation only applies to ADUs (a second unit built on a property with an existing house) the tide of the building code and zoning ordinances is shifting towards supporting smaller, less consumptive housing. Many jurisdictions allow new, stand-alone construction as small as 600 sq ft, some as small as 400 sq ft. So if an ADU isn’t right for you, contact us to explore building a Nearly-Tiny House. Or maybe a Nearly-Tiny House with a Tiny ADU!
Our company designs and builds high-performance, natural homes of all sizes. If you are interested in a non-toxic, super-insulated Tiny House, an ADU, or not-so big-house, contact us to talk about the exciting possibilities for your property. Please note that our company does not design or build ‘code minimum’ buildings: if you are not familiar with the concept of natural, high-performance building, please spend a few minutes looking around our website to see if we are the right design-builders for you.
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.
On average in San Diego, it will cost about $500k for an existing house with land or about $200k for land plus $300k for a new house to be built on it: either way it’s a pretty steep climb for many of us.
Whether you call them guest houses, granny flats, or second dwelling units, there’s some exciting news about them! New legislation passed in CA lifts some of the restrictions around these units, which are now all called Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).
Two of the most exciting features of the new rules, which went into effect on Jan 1st, are that detached ADUs can be as large as 1200 sq ft no matter what size the main house is, attached ADUs are now allowed to be as big as 50% of the square footage of the main house, and, if the project is located close to public transportation, the requirement to provide extra onsite parking has been waived. The new rules also make permitting an ADU faster and less expensive. A permitted ADU can legally be rented out, generating steady income for the owner.
This could be huge for San Diego’s affordable housing crisis! Now combine that with natural, non-toxic, carbon-positive building and we can do something real to address our housing crisis in a more sustainable way.
If you would like to explore the possibility of building a high-performance, non-toxic ADU on your property, we’d be happy to help you evaluate your options.
Our local public broadcasting station came to our current project at Coral Tree Farm to interview us and learn more about strawbale building. Here’s a link to the story they produced: http://www.kpbs.org/news/2017/aug/08/straw-bale-homes-san-diego-are-not-just-three-litt/
We’re excited to be making progress on the 120 sq foot turmeric growing building for Coral Tree Farm. We held three wonderful workshops already (framing, straw bales, and clay base plaster) and are looking forward to the Finish Clay Plaster workshop on 8/12. As of 8/8, there is only one spot left in the finish clay plaster workshop, so register soon if you are interested in participating (link to registration).