Tagged strawbale

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!

Saving the world with carbon-smart materials like straw

Architecture 2030 chart of the impacts of various forms of insulation

It sounds far-fetched at first, but building with straw and other bio-based, carbon-sequestering materials can help fight climate change. We can go beyond “doing less harm” with building, we can actually do some good.

Check out this chart from Architecture 2030’s Carbon-Smart Materials Palette showing that straw bales not only cause less carbon dioxide to be emitted, they actually sequester carbon in the wall. Read more about the carbon impact of strawbale on Architecture 2030’s website.

“Beyond Energy Efficiency: Why Embodied Carbon in Materials Matters”

 

For an in-depth discussion of embodied carbon in building materials, check out this thorough but accessible article on embodied carbon written by Ace McArleton and Jacob Deva Racusin of NewFrameworks to understand how.

 

Let’s do some good while building natural, beautiful, healthy homes!

 

Fallgren Strawbale Home will be featured on SDGBC’s Green Homes Tour Oct 2018

The Fallgren strawbale home, recently certified a Net Zero Energy Building through the Living Building Challenge, will be featured on this year’s 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 ***

 

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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Fallgren Strawbale Home receives Net Zero Energy certification through Living Building Challenge

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.

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Wakeham Strawbale Home on the USGBC Green Homes Tour Oct 22

The Wakeham Strawbale Home in Solana Beach (top photo) will be featured on the Tour

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

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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

Straw Bale Open House-in-Process, 9/11/16

openhousebalerainbowIMG_4693v2Sunday, 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!

 

 

Wakeham CoverWAKbalesIMG_5004