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
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.”
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.
Here’s a fun animation of a 120 square foot tiny hybrid straw bale and straw-clay building that we’ve designed. We’re planning to build this one in northern San Diego County in 2017 and will have a number of workshops during the construction. We’re still working out the details but, if you are interested and would like to know more, make sure you are on our email list (scroll to the bottom of this page)!
The 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.
NATURE-CENTERED DESIGN FEATURES
Sensitive siting in the area of existing buildings and roads minimizes the impact on the natural surroundings.
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.
The narrow footprint along with operable windows optimizes daylighting and natural ventilation.
Indoor / outdoor living is encouraged by covered walk-ways and central courtyard.
Super-insulated strawbale walls repurpose agricultural waste as a building material and provide comfortable, quiet interiors.
Plastered bale walls provide thermal mass, passively maintaining interior temperature
A metal roof with recycled steel content limits solar heat gain through its reflective finish.
High-efficiency glazing reduces heat gain
Fire-resistive materials provide durability along with timeless beauty
Rainwater catchment and greywater re-use supplies landscape irrigation.”
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.
Sunday, September 11th, noon-3pm, The Wakeham Project, Solana Beach, CA
A rare opportunity to tour a straw bale house under construction! Come talk with the builders and check out how the straw bales go together to form the walls in this 1600 sq ft, two-story straw bale home designed by Hubbell & Hubbell Architects. This is the only time this job site will be open to the public until the project is completed, so don’t miss it!
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
email: email@example.com or call: (619) 342-6709