The big straw bale gathering 2018

I was very fortunate to attend the international straw bale conference in Colorado when I was in the states a few years ago. It had a profound effect on me. So I’m so very excited to be part of the organising team bringing you this!

SBUK Presents: The Big Straw Bale Gathering 2018


Theme: Sowing the inspiration, growing the industry & harvesting the knowledge

Down To Earth – Swansea, UK – 10th,11th & 12th of August 2018: 
SBUK are proud to present the inaugural ‘Big Straw Bale Gathering’ – a gathering to discuss and learn straw bale construction and share the latest and best thinking within the industry.

Held at Down To Earth’s beautiful strawbale roundhouse in South Wales. The weekend will feature talks, discussions and hands-on workshops, for all levels, led by the UK’s best natural builders and leading associated professionals. So come down and get excited about building with straw, learn some new techniques or get stuck into the geeky technical stuff.
When you are full of knowledge you can relax with great local organic food, music, dancing, yoga, ‘Strawbale Ale’, children’s activities and a host of extracurricular events ranging from walks to canyoneering on the beautiful Gower peninsular!

 

The Big Straw Bale Gathering will collect up everyone with an interest in straw bale building in the UK. No matter what level you are engaging with straw bale construction, there will be lots to learn at the BSBG. Jeffrey Hart – Events Director – SBUK

 
Tickets on sale soon from www.strawbalebuildinguk.com

StrawBale Building UK – SBUK – is a Community Benefit Society, formed in 2016 with the aim: To promote straw bale building and best practice within the sector. 

natural building books

Natural Building Books – My Recommendations

In the age of the internet, I am still a huge believer in the humble natural building book. I can be drawn much deeper into a book, and stay much more focused. On our Hartwyn internship builds, I bring along my bookshelf for the interns to paw over, it’s really lovely to see!

So here, I shall list my favorite natural building books. I suspect this will be a work in progress as more come out (I’m eager to get my hands on Chris Magwood’s new one!).

If you think I have missed an important one, please add a comment!


Natural Building books


Making Better Buildings: A Comparative Guide to Sustainable Construction for Homeowners and Contractors – Chris Magwood

chris magwood building better buildings“Making better buildings” looks at each element of a build (foundations, insulation, roofing), and analyses the options available. Using handy graphics you can quickly see how the options compare to each other and which fits your criteria for construction.

It goes into a small, but concise, amount of detail for each option but will give you a good starting point for further research.

 


The Natural Building Companion: A Comprehensive Guide to Integrative Design and Construction – Jacob Deva Racusin & Ace McArleton

 I first became aware of Jacob and Ace at the International Straw Bale Conference in Colorado. I was hugely impressed by Jacob’s presentation and the level of thought and detail he put into his work. This book is a powerhouse of information – it is a proper read!


Continue reading

Energy efficient homes save you money

Im sure that’s not big news to a lot of you?

A recent article in the gaurdian states that:

…energy bills have continued to rise in real terms to about £1,110 a year, according to the study, in part because of higher fuel costs. If all the possible improvements outlined in the report were made, bills could drop to £560 a year.

The article focuses on the benefits of retro fitting your existing home with more insulation. A well designed, highly insulated, natural home could realistically cost less than £200 a year. 

That’s a lot of money in your pocket every year! And you get to save the world.

lime washed lighthouse

Limewashing a lighthouse

 

The Lighthouse was opened in 1873, and is a rare example of granite stones being used on the West Coast of Norway. Because of this, it has been given Norway’s highest order of listed building protection. The lighthouse also has a lot of history from the second world war, where it was modified by German troops to be a lookout, and features artwork on the basement walls painted by troops stationed there.

For many years there would have been people living in the lighthouse, burning fires in the fireplaces. Nowadays the lighthouse is automated and functions as a museum and art gallery. The lighthouse has been increasingly suffering from damp, which is damaging the building and the historic painting within.

The dampness has been attributed to:

  • Inappropriate materials being applied to the building – in the form of cement pointing, and latex paints.
  • The change in use of the building and no longer having proper ventilation (the chimneys have been blocked)

The Solutions to Damp

As part of a series of works to preserve the lighthouse, it was decided to:

  • Remove the cement pointing and replacing with lime.
  • Fix the guttering so that water did not pour onto the face of the wall.
  • Lime wash over the blocks and pointing to give the building a ‘skin’ of breathable lime.

Why use Lime Wash?

To many, lime may look much like cement. It has some very key differences in how it handles moisture. Cement will trap moisture in, while lime will allow the moisture to breathe out of the building.

Many historic buildings have had cement added in efforts to protect them by well-meaning people. Cement is a harder and stronger material, but because of the way it handles moisture is largely unsuitable…. and some other reasons that I shall save for another post.

Why not use a local contractor?

The job was put out to tender, following the production of a report on the lighthouse. None of the proposals that came back were suggesting using suitable materials. Some even suggesting the use of cement.

The knowledge of how to use traditional materials seems to have largely died out in this part of Norway.

lime washed lighthouse

indoor air quality

Cystic fibrosis – Using natural materials in the home, to create better indoor air quality. (part 1)

This is the first part in a series of posts about creating healthy homes with natural materials for people who have cystic fibrosis. The following topics will be covered:

  • Part 1 – Cystic fibrosis and how indoor air quality has an impact
  • Part 2 – The design and materials choices we have chosen to create the healthiest indoor air quality
  • Part 3 – Household product choices to help cystic fibrosis

I am working with Rebecca and Daniel to renovate their home, a 1930’s semi. Rebecca is a student, studying P-DTR and a pilates instructor, Daniel is a garden designer. Rebecca has Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a genetic condition affecting more than 10,800 people in the UK. Continue reading

The finished limewashed house

lime wash – How to make a hot mix

We just finished applying a hot lime wash to our ‘Ty Twt‘ building in Wales. Here you can see the finished building.

Ty Twt with its final coat of hot lime wash.
Ty Twt with its final coat of hot lime wash.

Ty Twt is a load bearing straw bale house completed by my company, Hartwyn using our intern building model. The house was completed in 11 weeks in 2016, with a final weekend to finish up the lime and green roof just completed in July 2017. Continue reading

Passive solar explained

passive solar design

What is passive solar design?

Passive solar design is a very premise on how to use the sun to heat your home in the winter. This fantastic video by Community Rebuilds intern Rebecca Barrett sums up the fundamentals.

It’s so simple, right?

All the houses I build with my company Hartwyn use these design principles.

Largest windows are on the South side and are sheltered from the hot midday summer sun. Thermal mass in the form of earthen floors, clay plasters or rammed earth walls store the heat from the sun. Highly insulating natural fibres keeps the warmth inside to keep you cosy.