Attached are some photos taken this AM of the house - 3-4" of snow which is pretty good for Campo. Low 20's outside at night. Interior drops to 72 when the woodstove is cold or overnight, and the whole house heats quite uniformly. We haven't used the mini-split heater. I know I harp on this, but such performance is remarkable. This house is just so damn easy to live in
There are still a few spots left for the Strawbale Building Workshop we will be teaching at Terra Corazon Farm in Valley Center on Sat., Feb 9, 2019, as part of the San Diego Sustainable Living Institute’s new Natural Building Program. This will be a fun day spent in a relaxed and safe environment learning about building with bales. We will be shaping and stacking the bales for an adorable 120 sq foot building. People of all gender identities are encouraged to attend.
These workshops fill up quickly so register soon!
Wondering what people think of our workshops? Here are some recent testimonials:
“I learned more than I had hoped to at this workshop. I particularly liked the hands-on experience and the knowledge you gain from other participant’s past experiences. The workshop was really well put together and the information was presented extremely well. I want to thank you for going above and beyond in putting these workshops together. It was great!!” –
“I learned a lot and really liked that there was a lot of hands-on work, the information was well presented, and there was a great atmosphere. 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.” – Maria B.
“The workshop had a good pace, was very well thought out by the teachers and easy to understand. It was the perfect amount of students. Easy to understand. Excellent presentation. Very knowledgeable instructors. Would highly recommend the workshops.” – Anna C.
“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. 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. Often when attending this sort of thing there is a feeling 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 teachers of this class. They were always very much interested in our needs and perception of the material. I felt like it would be easy to become friends with them.” – Kari W.
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
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!
The tour is Sunday, October 21, 2018 from 10 am – 4 pm at locations all over the county. More info and registration can be found here.
*** Update: There are now 3 projects that Simple Construct worked on featured on the Tour. More info here ***
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 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.
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.”
“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
On Jan 3, 2018, the Fallgren Home in Campo, CA, became the second building in Southern California to be awarded “Net Zero Energy Building” status through the Living Building Challenge. This third-party certification is based on actual performance data and verifies that the building uses less energy than it produces annually, as well as meets the program’s criteria for sensitive development, beauty, and education.
California has set a goal that all new residential buildings will be Zero Energy by 2020. This house is one example of how we can meet that goal using carbon-sequestering, non-toxic materials that are better for people and the environment.
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.
For the 5th year in a row, one of our projects has been selected for the San Diego Green Building Council’s Green Homes Tour!
Join us in Solana Beach to tour the Wakeham Strawbale Home. Many of you visited this home during the construction at our Open House-in-Process event, now come and see it finished!
This is just one of the homes on the Tour, check out the USGBC website for more info and to register
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)!
“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.”