Tagged straw bale house

Plastering Earthbag Walls – a hands-on workshop 11/3/18

Learn about mixing and applying plaster to earthbag walls from trained professionals in a fun and supportive environment while helping to build a real project. During this 1-day workshop, you will learn the whys and hows of this low-impact, sustainable building technique and have a chance to put that knowledge into action.

earthbag courtyard wall

Spend the day on a beautiful 10-acre property in Campo, CA (an hour East of San Diego) with other natural building enthusiasts, enjoy a delicious healthy home-cooked lunch, and learn while helping to mix and apply high-lime cement plaster to the earthbag landscaping wall around the courtyard of an award-winning Net Zero Energy strawbale home. The day 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 construction experience is required. All tools will be provided for your use during the workshop.

Fallgren Strawbale Home

Get your ticket here!

Simple Construct has run numerous strawbale building and natural plaster classes and workshops (see testimonials here). After hosting a successful earthbag building workshop in September, we are excited to add plastering earthbag walls, another practical and affordable technique, to the workshop offerings. This workshop will be taught by Rebecca Tasker and Mike Long, owners of Simple Construct, who each have more than 10 years experience in clay, lime, and high-lime cement plaster. They will be assisted by Nathan Wright and Wade Lucas who are graduates of Cal-Earth Institute‘s SuperAdobe apprenticeship program who studied all aspects of this form of earth building while helping to build and teach others at CalEarth’s campus in Hesperia, CA. Since leaving CalEarth, they have helped to build 9 SuperAdobe projects and have worked for Simple Construct building with straw bales and plastering with clay.

a window in an earthbag wall

The address will be provided with registration. There is a 10% discount for couples/partners. Attendees of our earthbag workshop will be sent an additional discount code. Cancellations with 7 or more days notice before the event will receive a refund minus a $25 administration fee. If you would like to attend but cannot afford the full price, contact us to discuss the limited scholarship and work-study possibilities.

We look forward to building with you!

Rebecca & Mike

– Rebecca & Mike

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!

video from the Excellence in Energy Leadership award 2018

We were honored to receive an Excellence in Energy Leadership award from SDG&E in recognition of our recent Net Zero strawbale project, the Fallgren Home. As part of the award, they made this short video that promotes the project (as well as SDG&E).

There is plenty wrong with our current energy system and it’s easy to find fault with the utility providers, so it was a nice counterpoint for SDG&E to help promote high-performance natural building. Click on the image to watch the video on YouTube

 

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

“Building Zen” at the USGBC Green Building Conference 9/22/15

Building Zen Logo final smSeptember 22 – As part of the 2015 San Diego Green Building Conference, architect Drew Hubbell, Project Manager Ed Earl, and I (Rebecca Tasker) will be presenting Building Zen, an overview of the nearly-completed 6,000 square foot straw bale nuns’ housing at the Deer Park Buddhist Monastery. Join us to hear about this unique project and the experience of bringing mindfulness to the design and construction process. This full day conference has an interesting and diverse line up of speakers.