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Dear friends, enclosed some notes on the recent visits, which might be 
of interest. I would be happy if there will be a contact person in 
Hungary and in Belgium. For Hungary I'd like to propose Attila 
Meszaros, a dedicated student. He already had been at the Rio 
conference with 17 years. Now he is studying as I do understand two 
subjects, for a building engineer and informatics. At the same time he 
works in a company to gain the needed money. He created the a 
Hungarian sb-website two years ago and co-organised the lectures in 
Sopron and Budapest. Now he chooses to study on dew points in 
strawbale walls, continuing tests on the moisture report etc... All 
help would be highly appreciated his email: 
tilla@...). For Belgium I am not sure yet for the 
best contact person. Mark Depreeuw is a recognized eco-architect and 
city planner who designed also the Steiner School in Lier. He might be 
too busy. I will work on it...

Best wishes, Martin

Den Haag, 26 May 2000

Straw-bale diary: journey to Austria and Hungary, May 8-18, 2000, May 
19, gathering Hoenderloo, The Netherlands and May 23 lecture in Lier, 

By initiative of our old friend Eniko Balla (who learned to milk cows 
on our organic farm 20 years ago in Germany), their friends Ildiko 
Nagybozsoki, Kristof Ambrus and networker Attila Meszaros I gladly 
agreed on a lecturing tour at the universities of Sopron and Budapest, 
visiting Eniko, her brother Arpad and the building site of Ildiko and 
Kristof near Sarospatak in Northern Hungary.

At the same time Catherine (chief editor of The Last Straw / 
Blackrange Films / Builders Without Borders) and Betty Wanek planned 
to visit Europe, so in timing its been an wonderful opportunity to 
link this trip for some periods first in France, than in Austria, 
Hungary, The Netherlands and Belgium.

May 8 the Austrian Straw-Bale Network organised sightseeing of a 
Straw-Bale structure built and guided by Markus Piringer and a 
professional pre-fab house with straw as infill in wall-elements built 
by Strohtec. Herbert and Astrid Gruber shared their experiences with 
this relevant approach to implement straw as building material into a 
professional building process. They did a wonderful job yet their 
encouraging enthusiasm had not been honoured by the company. Now they 
are involved in the direct use of straw-bales as building material 
rather than straw in prefab elements.

Both Herbert and Markus participate in a straw-bale testing and 
research programme which will be available later that year. The tests 
on the insulation value and fire resistance had been encouraging so 
far. They are related to European standards and as such valuable for 
many countries.

Lisa Walcher organised the first network gathering during the evening 
and we learned about the first sb-experiences from Gunter Hochtl a 
young architect who created low cost project with straw-bales together 
with Coop Strohmandl. The charming project itself is experienced as 
co-operation with nature and has a metamorphic character.

During the gathering also the foreign guests (Catherine and Betty 
Wanek, Andre and Coralie de Bouter, excellent chauffeurs on the trip 
and myself) shared slides and experiences. Andre and Coralie built a 
lovely straw-bale house in Auroville n India together with community 
people from footpressed ricestraw-bales. Their pictures are 
marvellousO Markus lobbies the potential of straw-bale constructions 
at the rather developed wood-industry. Wooden houses are common in 
Austria and straw-bale insulation can improve the insulation value 

After a short night at Markus home, we went off to Hungary and arrived 
for a lecture at the University of Sopron at 10 am.

We had been warmly welcomed by prof.dr. Gabor Winkler and prof.dr. 
Peter Csikszentmihalyi, excellent hosts for a wonderful stay in the 
beautiful city of Sopron. Both appreciate study material and support 
if students would like to graduate on straw-bale building techniques, 
testing etc. Peter will offer a competition to his students for a 
straw-bale design and we envision a workshop for next October. The 
preparations of our stay had been kindly co-organised by architect 
Laszlo Hadas. It turned out that responding in English is not easy for 
students due to a lack of practical opportunities n compliments anyway 
as vice-versa we all know how difficult it is for us to understand 
Hungarian, egan?

May 10: After some sightseeing and sorting out the train connection 
for Catherine and Betty to Evgeny Shirakov, Minsk we went to Budapest. 
We arrived at dr. Judit Vasarhelyiis home and she took us directly to 
Ildiko and Kristof, who had organised a surprise party (Ildikois 
birthday). There we met Attila Meszaros for the first time. He created 
the first Hungarian sb-website about 2 years ago and has been an 
excellent networker for preparations of this trip. Judit is doing 
meaningful work at the Independant Ecological Center of Budapest. She 
shared about a lovely tree planting project, where people bought 
shares for the trees they plant and received dividends in form of 
refreshing shade, of honey for the bees, of inspiring green, etc. The 
center highly appreciates material and support as it is not financed 
by the government and environmental issues are not yet popular. 
Discussions all about straw-bale constructions. Ildiko treated us with 
excellent food and big smile and Kristof, who demonstrated his street 
artist performance on wooden stakes, with home-made wine and spirits. 
It had been like visiting old friends. Catherine and Betty rushed off 
to take the evening train to Minsk, a brave tour of 25 ours.

Next day Andre, Coralie and myself met prof.dr. Agnes Novak at the 
University of Budapest. Its been a great pleasure to meet her, also it 
had been a short visit. She introduced and translated the lecture with 
esprit which resulted in a lively discussion. Materialwise we could 
offer some videos, TLS and other material sponsored by Catherine for 
copying use for the Hungarian network to be spread by Attila and I 
added the books The Straw Bale House, Build it With Straw (Independent 
Ecological Center) and Bauen mit Stroh (Balla Eniko).

Andre and Coralie headed off to Vienna to meet Catherine and Betty 
back in Berlin and Ildiko, Kristof and myself went to prof. Gyradvan, 
a kind and busy person who is the architect for their unique 
straw-bale house to be built already in August in Northern Hungary. 
Its a traditional farmhouse design with a porch on two sides and in 
front two balconies, very well protected against moisture. An 
additional naturally ventilated moisture prevention in form of broken 
glass between foundation, moisture barrier and straw-bales will be 
added. Electricity wire will be packed in layers of clay-rags, a smart 
solution to prevent fire-damage (Mongolia).

Ildiko, Kristof, kids and Attila brought me to the lovely building 
site. Lots of space within wine-yards, a historical wine cellar and a 
farmbuilding that Ildiko once will turn into a forest school for kids. 
They surely will reach their goals with a little help from their 
friends, such as Arpad and Attila for the straw-bale part.

Attila decided to finish one of his studies on tests on dew-point in 
straw-bale walls. I would really to encourage the network in 
assistance as moisture is the greatest challenge for sb-constructions 
and exact measurements under different conditions are of crucial 
importance. Attila looks for professional moisture meters as the 
self-made wooden meters don't fully meet scientific standards. Any 
support for this project is highly appreciated.

The stay at Eniko and Arpadis place had been like paradise. I found 
myself connected with former farmlife, goats, cheesemaking, setting 
fences, bringing herb-smelling hand-cut hay in, letting the bucket 
drop 24 m deep well and pulling refreshing drinking water for daily 
useO. Natural life, direct and timeless.

Friends from Eniko came from Budapest to talk about straw-bale 
constructions. Sandor is a director of an energy plant, knowing 
everything about CO2 effects. He got inspired and decided to build a 
straw-bale house and if this feels fine, a Steiner School. A neighbour 
of Eniko offered help for the construction of Ildiko and Kristofis 
house and if his experiences are convincing he would like to build an 
annex to his holiday home.

In general it had been a marvellous visit and there might be a chance 
to be back in October for a workshop. In the meantime another 
workshop-date has been fixed for Austria in September.

May 20: The gathering in Hoenderloo in The Netherlands dealt with 
clay-stucco, some informal exchanges and at night with a presentation 
of Catherine and Andre.

May 21-22: Harald Wedig took the guests to his place and an open air 
museum with historical houses and the straw-women to Amsterdam tour.

May 23: We went to see Irma Fischedick and Jeroenis historical barn in 
Middenhaarnis, with carefully constructed sb-heating walls and to Jan 
Sonnevelds beautiful home in Ouwerkerk. At night we had been kindly 
invited for dinner from Mark Depreeuw, eco-architect and cityplanner 
in Lier near Antwerp, Belgium. Mark is the architect from the Steiner 
school in which parents and children built the interior straw-bale 
walls. The lecture had been co-organised by Mark, VIBE, an association 
for environmentally motivated builders and architects. The Steiner 
School donated the use of its stimulating location. Many people got 
interested and a project seems to be on its way.


Martin Oehlmann
Sportlaan 336, 2566 LN DEN HAAG, THE NETHERLANDS