Tagged straw bale building

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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The straw bale buildings at Deer Park Monastery nominated for an Orchid Award

Sisters at Deer Park Monastery enjoying a cup of teaThe straw bale buildings we helped build for the Deer Park Buddhist Monastery in Escondido were nominated for an Orchid award in the 2016 “Orchids & Onions” by the San Diego Architecture Foundation.

 

 

 

“Deer Park Monastery- Nun’s Residence

The form—based on a traditional Spanish Hacienda embracing a central courtyard with plantings—encourages togetherness and provides opportunities for interaction between residents.  Covered walkways extend the living space outdoors, taking advantage of our temperate climate and integrating awareness of the natural world into activities like walking to the shower.  All rooms are accessed through the central courtyard, helping eliminate the expense and space requirements of interior hallways.

The detached buildings help enclose the courtyard, providing a sense of protection and defining the core of the residences.  This arrangement allows Deer Park Monastery to build within the existing pad and provide fire department access without building a large road around the buildings. This design also allows for phased construction that can help meet the project’s current budget, while being mindful of possible future expansion as funds allow.

Thick strawbale walls and operable windows provide thermal comfort for the buildings atop the hill which receive plentiful daylight and breezes. A beautiful garden setting incorporating existing cypress trees and views to the rest of the monastery will make this new residence a comfortable place to visit and live.

Clay Plaster Interior Detail Deer Park Monastery

NATURE-CENTERED DESIGN FEATURES

  1. Sensitive siting in the area of existing buildings and roads minimizes the impact on the natural surroundings.
  2. Passive solar design lets the sun help heat the space and uses shade to stay cool. This helps reduce the need for mechanical systems and electricity.
  3. The narrow footprint along with operable windows optimizes daylighting and natural ventilation.
  4. Indoor / outdoor living is encouraged by covered walk-ways and central courtyard.
  5. Super-insulated strawbale walls repurpose agricultural waste as a building material and provide comfortable, quiet interiors.
  6. Plastered bale walls provide thermal mass, passively maintaining interior temperature
  7. A metal roof with recycled steel content limits solar heat gain through its reflective finish.
  8. High-efficiency glazing reduces heat gain
  9. Fire-resistive materials provide durability along with timeless beauty
  10. Rainwater catchment and greywater re-use supplies landscape irrigation.”Deer Park Monastery New Nunnery Building A

Visit San Diego’s Greenest Home!

San Diego's Greenest Home, straw bale home on USGBC's Green Homes Tour
The Fallgren Naturally Healthy Home, a 1600 sq ft straw bale home designed and built by Simple Construct, will be featured on the USGBC’s upcoming Green Homes Tour

Join us at San Diego’s Greenest Home on Saturday, November 12 from 10 am – 3 pm as part of the San Diego Green Building Council’s annual Green Homes Tour.

This is the 4th year we’ve shown a home in this unique tour that has sites all over San Diego County and it’s a great way to get to see a wide variety of green home options all in one day.

Our site, the Fallgren Naturally Healthy Home, is a 2 bedroom, 1 bath, 1600 sq ft straw bale home completed in 2016. With superinsulated straw bale walls, passive solar orientation, modest photovoltaic array, and efficient systems, this home is on track to be certified Net Zero Energy Building by the Living Building Challenge.

With its Old World feel and high-performance, it’s an inspiring mix of the best of both worlds. Passively warm in winter and cool in summer, this home stays comfortable even when the power goes out. Featuring natural materials such as straw bales, clay plaster, adobe block, reclaimed wood and non-toxic finishes, we believe it may just be San Diego’s Greenest Home! Why don’t you visit and judge for yourself?

Because of the remote nature of this site, we will be organizing carpools and may provide a van shuttle if there is enough interest. Check back here for more info.

Register for the tour here: http://usgbc-sd.org/event-2296833

straw bale public housing

The first straw bale public housing project in the United Kingdom is moving forward.  Straw bale building technology fits with low income, subsidized housing because not only can it be affordable to build, the cost of operating a straw bale building can be so much less than a conventional building.  It is time for straw bale to shake off the reputation of being a boutique building method and prove its usefulness to the masses.

First straw bale council houses are complete – read the Green Building Press report here: http://www.greenbuildingpress.co.uk/article.php?article_id=527

Council to build houses of straw – an older BBC report here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7855847.stm