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Re: GSBN: re Ecohouse



I'll jump into this discussion on Rene's comments.  Lot's of interesting
points made by everyone (of course that's usually the case with the GSBN).

A few things:

I agree it's the wood framed roof that is most vulnerable in terms of a
substantial fire starting if an unplastered straw bale wall ignites on its
surface.  So in the situation Nehemiah described at the County Fair with no
roof on the wall - no problem.  But for the situations that others mentioned
when there was a roof - often a big problem.

I've had misgivings myself about the building shown on the cover of Gernot
Minke's book for the reasons others described (although there are things I
like about it as well).  I'm mostly concerned with the issue of fire, and I
suspect that even if the space between the corrugated polycarbonate and the
straw bales were NOT ventilated, there would still be a fire risk to the
roof because there is enough oxygen in the cavity to support enough fire to
climb the wall and ignite the roof.

In this context, I'm glad Jakub Wihan mentioned the building in the Czech
Republic with exposed bales wrapping 3 sides of the house (the 4th side is
glass doors and windows for passive solar). See my chapter in Bruce King's
new book or the main article in TLS #54 for a picture of this stunning,
award winning, and adventurous building.  We've all thought at some time
during the construction of a straw bale building that it's a shame to cover
up the visually, and acoustically wonderful surface of the bale walls.  Well
SEA Architects did it in a big way, and on the EXTERIOR.  The bales are
non-structural and are there for insulation and for the fuzzy mind-blowing
visual effect, but I believe it was in their own minds a bit of an
experiment, and if it fails (due to weather, rodents, or fire?) they could
be "easily" replaced and presumably plastered.

As happy as I am that they did this, I think it's a bad idea, and shouldn't
be allowed by any responsible straw bale code.  (Although I'll reserve final
judgment until I see it perform over a longer period of time)

Rene Dalmeijer also brought up the long standing issue of parapets (or maybe
not-so-long standing if they fail and need to be replaced).

In my most recent straw bale code draft I have addressed two of the above
issues and am considering addressing the third.  I'm very interested in the
opinions of GSBNers.  My current and imminent positions are as follows,  but
feel free to comment or to flat out disagree.  In reverse order of the
above:

1. Straw bale parapets:  Prohibited
2. Unfinished straw bale walls (or ceilings):  Prohibited (except for truth
windows of a limited size (to be specified, or left vague)
3. Straw bale walls with an airspace between "naked" straw, and the wall's
finish:  Prohibited OR limited to a size (to be determined) and/or with
separation (to be determined) from flammable material above the straw bale
portion of the wall.

For those who think restricting any of these things is wrong or that there
should be no straw bale code at all, just tell me to jump in a lake.  But if
so, I will wait until summer when jumping in a lake is refreshing.  Thanks
for any thoughts you might have.

Martin Hammer 
California, USA



> Andre,
> 
> Your remark on the cover makes a very good point it remembers me of the
> continuing struggle preventing the design of SB houses with parapet
> walls. We all know it is bad practice but it persists with poorly
> informed architects leading the way. I suppose there are too many
> people out there who when you talk about SB immediatley conjure up a
> mental image of a pueblo style building.
> 
> A problem we have here in the Netherlands is that SB houses tend to
> become very complex and therefore expensive buildings. Possibly this is
> because there is the image that an eco-friendly house should have an
> organic form and the design becomes organically construed. I prefer a
> simple building that is allowed to evolve over time. Maybe I am a
> modernist at heart but I like simple straight forward buildings that
> are not that clean cut that they do not age well. Buildings should be
> such that they can take on a patina as they grow older and better.
> 
> Rene
> On Jan 12, 2007, at 18:42, André de Bouter wrote:
> 
>> Thanks also for asking why THAT picture was, and still is, on the cover
>> of Gernot's book. The explanation (very 'sexy' picture) should be a
>> warning for all (future) writers among us. Don't let editors have 51%
>> power over the content and the form of the book. In my humble opinion
>> THAT picture undoes much the writing that is in that same book. Maybe
>> I'm making a case of something that will turn out to be in fact a good
>> and fresh idea. But I'd like to see some more data before seing it on a
>> cover of a book (wich is for the rest a very good book!).
> 
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