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
Learn about building with straw-clay at this hands-on workshop. Straw-clay is a method of filling in a wall with a mixture of straw and clay that, once dry, is good insulation and creates a surface you can plaster right over. It is a non-toxic, versatile, and user-friendly way to add natural insulation to any space.
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!
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.
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!
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 ***
Earthbag Hands-on 1-day Workshop
Sat, Sept 29, 2018, Campo, CA
Learn about earthbag building from trained professionals in a fun and supportive environment while helping to build a real project. During this one 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.
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 build a 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.
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
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
“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.”