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GSBN: Digest for 4/6/02



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-> TLS material for review
     by Mark Piepkorn duckchow@...
-> Re: Strawbale house
     by Kelly Lerner klerner@...


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Date: 6 Apr 2002 09:50:35 -0600
From: Mark Piepkorn duckchow@...
Subject: TLS material for review

	I was asked to review a couple books for the next TLS. Now I'm posting 
those reviews here for any comments, suggestions, casual fact-checking, 
etc., anyone cares to do in order to help TLS have the most reliable, 
clear, entertaining and educating content possible.

	If you have to be brutal to be constructive, so be it. Replies can be 
posted here, or sent to me and I will forward them to Chris and Joyce. In 
any event, I'm very interested in seeing all pertinent replies. Thanks.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Reading Barbara Jones' succinct yet full-flavored book, Information Guide 
to Straw Bale Building for Self-Builders and the Construction Industry, got 
my imagination whirring in the same way that the early booklets "A 
Straw-Bale Primer" (by Steve and Orien MacDonald - the Xeroxed, 
flat-stapled precursor to Build It With Bales) and "Plastered Straw bale 
Construction" (by David Bainbridge with Bill and Athena Steen - the 
newsprint precursor of  The Straw Bale House) did.

I don't know if it's because I've lately been missing the simpler, more 
winsomely direct, and even primal (but no less thoughtful and intelligent) 
stuff of earlier times in the strawbale resurgence; or if it's because the 
bigger books leave less room for reader creativity... but for whatever 
reasons, I had a greater sense of wide-open possibility in the wake of this 
book than I've experienced from any strawbale publication in years.

It covers all the basics with soulful intelligence, and gets into a few 
not-so-basics as well, such as "self-draining" and "rammed earth car tyre" 
foundations, quicklime plaster (which is not at this time much of an option 
in the USA, though hydrated-lime plaster is), and an 
interesting-but-sketchily-described "light-weight frame" system. And the 
astute balehead will have as much appreciation for the questions and issues 
that this fairly brief book raises (both subtly and overtly) as for the 
hard information it contains.

The only important caveat I might offer can be lifted from its own pages: 
"You must be careful about what you read in books and on the internet about 
strawbale building and how it must be done." Truer words there never were. 
Despite my being misty-eyed for the romanticized sweet simplicity of the 
'good old days' of the strawbale movement, the growing pile of excellent 
information available now is a real boon. I'm a staunch believer that 
before a person starts building their bale home, they ought to have 
digested far more material on how to do it than they ever thought they 
could possibly tolerate. That way there's a basis for recognizing 
situationally-inappropriate generalizations or climate-specific 
information, allowing the applicable facts to be winnowed and synthesized 
into the particular unique project at hand, making it the best structure it 
can be.

Synopsis: This one's got a compelling mix of heart and information, and 
includes some material little-discussed in other strawbale literature, 
offering value for novice and veteran alike.

- - - - - -

At first, I kept thinking that Carolyn Roberts' new book, A House of Straw: 
A Natural Building Odyssey, was the diametric complement of Barbara's. It 
took me a while to realize that while these two books do on one level 
coexist in a beautiful symbiosis on opposite ends of a how-to spectrum, 
through another lens they're extraordinarily similar.

Carolyn's book is a wide-as-life account vividly encompassing all of the 
foibles and follies, hopes and dreams, heartaches and heartbreaks, 
breakthroughs and celebrations, large and small joys that the author - a 
single mother of two teenaged boys - experienced pursuing her goal of 
building a beautiful, affordable, high-functioning strawbale house.

The story covers both learning and doing, which are often uncomfortably 
overlapped despite her admirable efforts to inform and educate herself 
(which anybody would do well to emulate). The thorough, readable, and very 
human record of her travails and celebrations contains a tidy wealth of 
usable details and tips as well.

One thing that I most appreciated was its narrative sense of time and 
effort. Where how-to books might be filled with factual material on topics 
like how to prepare a foundation or sheathe a roof, this book describes in 
grueling detail not only just what such innocuous-sounding instructions can 
actually entail, but that things which have absolutely nothing to do with 
the house - let alone the task at hand - also keep happening at the same 
time... and they have to be dealt with.

Even though I'm not a desert-dweller, or a woman (this book is very much 
from a woman's perspective), and the whole of the author's circumstances 
couldn't be much more dissimilar from mine, I found it easy to identify 
with and learn from the story.

I think this kind of powerfully-grounded narrative volume has been 
noticeably missing from the strawbale bookshelf for quite a long time, and 
I applaud its arrival.

Synopsis: A well-told real-life tale for all audiences which contains a lot 
more specific information about building than one might expect.


Mark Piepkorn is a natural building gadfly and a former editor of The Last 
Straw. He currently lives and works, and sometimes plays, too. You can find 
him around the DC/mid-Maryland area, or the Pacific Northwest, or somewhere 
in between. Email him at gadfly@...; or visit him at 
www.potkettleblack.com


*

A nice quote from Carolyn's book:
""I wanted to know that straw bale houses were within the reach of ordinary 
people like me who didn't have lots of money, who didn't have extensive 
construction experience, who had to work for a living, and who needed to 
live within the city limits and commute to work."

(It continues: "But maybe they weren't. If they were not for ordinary 
folks, then who did they benefit? Perhaps they were only suitable, after 
all, for Mexicans, yuppies, and the independently wealthy who could live in 
rural areas with no building codes. Perhaps they were just another 
fashionable fad for rich hippies.")






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Date: 6 Apr 2002 12:00:33 -0600
From: Kelly Lerner klerner@...
Subject: Re: Strawbale house


Hi Vivian,
Here is a list of local New Mexico straw-bale resources for you:
Brian Lockhart, Architect
505-582-4241

Paula Baker-Laport, Architect
505-989-1814

Cadmon Whitty
construction
505-345-4843

All the features that you mentioned are possible and a good match with 
straw-bale. Good luck!

Kelly Lerner

At 11:06 AM 4/7/02 -0400, you wrote:
>I am interested in building in Albuquerque NM.  I would like to know if it 
>is possible to design a strawbale house that is about 2500 square 
>feet.  Two story.  3 bedroom, 2 bath, 2 car garage.  Solar radiant 
>heat.  Passive solar.  Solar hot water heater.  How do I get started?  My 
>brother is a builder -- only conventional homes.  If I do this, I'll need 
>help.  I will become the strawbale expert and he'll still do the 
>construction but I'll have to tell him what to do.  He is resistant to 
>learning, but open to being lead.
>
>What do you suggest?  Are there any tax breaks?  I work a very full time 
>job so I'll have to rely on people I can hire for the labor.  I'll only 
>have time for the brain-power intensive stuff.
>
>Vivian George
>2705 Tramway Circle NE
>Albuquerque NM 87122


======================================================
Kelly Lerner
One World Design, Design and Consulting
925 Avis Drive
El Cerrito, California, 94530, USA
klerner@...   <http://www.one-world-design.com>
510-525-8582 phone, 510-528-8763 fax
======================================================



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<html>
Hi Vivian, 
Here is a list of local New Mexico straw-bale resources for you: 
Brian Lockhart, Architect 
505-582-4241 
 
Paula Baker-Laport, Architect 
505-989-1814 
 
Cadmon Whitty 
construction 
505-345-4843 
 
All the features that you mentioned are possible and a good match with
straw-bale. Good luck! 
 
Kelly Lerner 
 
At 11:06 AM 4/7/02 -0400, you wrote: 
<blockquote type=cite class=cite cite><font face="arial" size=2>I am
interested in building in Albuquerque NM.  I would like to know if
it is possible to design a strawbale house that is about 2500 square
feet.  Two story.  3 bedroom, 2 bath, 2 car garage.  Solar
radiant heat.  Passive solar.  Solar hot water heater. 
How do I get started?  My brother is a builder -- only conventional
homes.  If I do this, I'll need help.  I will become the
strawbale expert and he'll still do the construction but I'll have to
tell him what to do.  He is resistant to learning, but open to being
lead.  
 
What do you suggest?  Are there any tax breaks?  I work a very
full time job so I'll have to rely on people I can hire for the
labor.  I'll only have time for the brain-power intensive stuff.
 
 
Vivian George  
2705 Tramway Circle NE  
Albuquerque NM 87122</font><font face="arial"> </font></blockquote>

<b> 
</b>====================================================== 
Kelly Lerner  
One World Design, Design and Consulting 
925 Avis Drive  
El Cerrito, California, 94530, USA  
klerner@...  
<<a href="http://www.one-world-design.com/";
eudora="autourl">http://www.one-world-design.com</a>> 
510-525-8582 phone, 510-528-8763 fax 
====================================================== 
</html>

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