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Profitably, the nitty gritty:

So. Now you have decided to go with straw bales, which is the best method, load bearing or non load bearing.

Let's ask some questions?

  1. What will your council say? Infill is usually more acceptable, because a framework exists to hold the structure together - but you can work around it.
  2. What will your Bank Manager say? You may have to shop around if you are considering a load bearing structure.
  3. What are your requirements for doors and windows? Big window spaces and doors do not lend themselves to load bearing structures because of levelling and settlement difficulties.
  4. What about your roof? It is better to get even distribution of roof loading (eg. hip) if you choose load bearing.
  5. Climate-sub-tropical and tropical areas are damp, prone to sudden and prolonged bouts of rainfall; not generally compatible with exposed bales, thus load bearing structures are not really suitable (apart from sheds, stables etc) in these areas.

Decided? No? Well, I must admit, my preference is for non-load bearing (was it obvious!). That way I can have the roof on, before I stack the bales and I get to choose the weather conditions I work in! To this end, I have devised a simple method of column/beam construction. There are also other methods of course, which can be easily accommodated - pole frames are one of these options, talk to me about it.

I know John & Suzanne (Huff&Puff) are in favour of load bearing structures, and conduct regular workshops using this method.

I will design buildings either way,of course, but it is well to consider all aspects of your project before you decide.

Costs:

Well - how long is a piece of string - particularly if it's attached to your purse (strings).

Lets face it-you need a roof, and you need a floor, and everything else inside. So - that leaves the straw bale walls - allow a saving of 40-70% on using straw bale walls (over the cost of various other walls). Don't forget to insulate traditional buildings; bales give you a great deal of advantage here, both initially and over time.

The rest - well, how much can you build yourself, what materials can you find to recycle - same old story. Cut costs where you can, throw a BBQ for willing helpers, look around for a house being demolished, collect materials over time.

Or just bite the bullet and borrow the money.

The long and short of it? Whatever you do, there's a cost involved. If there is a money problem, design simply with a view to extending over time. This also has an advantage in that your requirements may change dramatically, and you have more time to deal with it if you start out small.

Good Luck!

Pictures:

I hang lots of pictures on my wall in the office. This is a selection of some. I will update these regularly.

A couple of the pictures,one of the "Singing Shed". This structure was about 7m square, set on duck boards under a tent roof, and generally held together (to prevent render cracking) by ropes tied from the wall to the centre pole.

A temporary structure of course.

We erected this over one weekend for the Woodford Festival to accommodate "unplugged singers". Very successful.

Because the structure had to be temporary only, I opted to render over hession - worked very well, too.

Enjoy the look

Workshops:

I will utilise the space to keep you up to date on workshops that I am conducting, or any that I become aware of.

For conducting a workshop, I will ask for $400 per day plus travelling, accommodation plus sustenance (food!). In return, I talk, offer advice on straw bales, arrange for render (to your choice) talk some more and together we raise the walls(and have fun!!).

Talk topics, preferably not politics, but I like a lively bit of "other world conversation" - along with straw bale building, of course, and any other interesting topical subjects.

Please let me know if you want to spray render or use earth render methods - these may take some additional preparation time. Particularly earth render - you will need to do some research into the material you propose to mix.

Good things to have at the Workshops:

  • Tarps and black plastic.
  • Baling twine and knives.
  • Device for cutting and retying bales (talk to me).
  • Whipper Snipper.
  • Mixer.
  • Rendering tools(eg.hobs,ply and timber).
  • Gloves.
  • Persuader (large, large timber mallet).
  • Needles (reinforcing rod, sharpened and drilled for twine).
  • Tie wire and mesh, mesh joiners.
  • Pliers.
  • HT wire and gripples.
  • Shovels, barrows, hoses.
  • Small tools.
  • Paper and pencils.

Plans, designs, drawings, specifications:

If you wish, I can do the full bit - design, engineering specs. and certificiation! Clever little devil, aren't I.

All you need to provide are your ideas (after all you will be living there), a land survey plan, a geotech report (if concrete slab/footings are required). I can do the wind rating for you (if you are within a reasonable distance - otherwise use local talent), advise you of such things as aspect, waste disposal, Council requirements etc.

Of course, I require payment for all this. My rates are hourly for design work. A full design will take usually between 10 hours and 50 hours(minimum charge $500).

I will also certify or complete details for plans drawn by a Draughtsperson or Architect of your choice. Please ask if you require a quotation for this.

Generally, the procedure is we get together either in my office, or over the phone, and you provide the required information that I need to start the project (sketch ideas by mail, plans by fax).

I provide a set of preliminary drawings and a bill for work completed, you examine them, discuss changes if any and let me know and then to proceed to completion of plans for Councils submisssion and present you with another bill. Simple, really.

Have a look at some of the plans that I have completed. I will update these regularly as time permits. If you have any questions, I'm only a phone call away.

References and General information:

There are lots and lots and lots of articles, construction methods, individual experience and interpretations, tests and general discussion on straw balings on the internet. Everytime I look there, I seem to find more to read than I did the previous time I checked it out; and they have lots of links to all over the world.

I always like to check up on John and Susan (Huff & Puff) to see what they are up to.

Its seems that, as more Councils agree to strawbale construction (I have designed and had Council approval for straw bale buildings in at least 15 different Council areas), the more interest there is, and the circle of approvals widen. It won't be long until strawbale buildings will be common as mud (brick) and rammed earth buildings.

Detailed information is available from a number of books (The Straw Bale House by Steen and Bainbridge is generally accepted as the bible), and check out our very own Australian experience with the recent Earth Garden publication Strawbale Home Building - great reading.

Well thats about it from me - happy surfing.

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