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  • 2600 SF Offgrid Strawbale Home on 40 acres
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Spread the word about Straw Bale Construction to Romania

UPDATE: The Indiegogo campaign has ended, and we heard today that our new Romanian friends managed to raise 1,266 – not all that they’d hoped for, but hopefully enough to do a lot of what they’ve planned.  I’ll update this post more as I hear news.

We recently got word of some people attempting to spread the word about strawbale construction and other natural building techniques in Romania.  They’re doing an Indiegogo fundraiser to get the funds together to attend and exhibit at the largest construction expo in the country.

They only have until midnight on Feb 14th to raise the needed money, so let’s show them some love!

In their words:

Last year we started a project called Earth Safe Design, aimed at building straw bale houses in Romania and raising awareness about straw bale building and natural building in general.

In April 2014 we want to attend Construct Expo, the largest construction fair in Bucharest. This event gathers 17000 visitors over a period of three days and gets coverage all over the mass media.

We are sure that this event would be a big step on the way to establishing straw bale building as an acknowledged building technique, one that will be embraced by more and more Romanians in the years to come.

Unfortunately, we cannot afford the fee for taking part in this fair, nor the other expenses involved in printing and buying building materials. Below you will find a detailed list of our expenses.

We are addressing our appeal to straw bale builders, straw bale house owner, and straw bale enthusiast who know and understand the benefits and the delight of living in a natural house.

We encourage you to donate to their campaign.  We have.

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-us-spread-the-word-about-straw-bale-building-in-romania

Straw Bale Construction Building Code (2013 IRC Approval)

On October 3, 2013 the International Code Council (ICC) approved final action RB473-13 as a new Appendix R in the upcoming 2015 version of the International Residential Code (IRC).

The approval marks the latest advance of straw bale construction in the building codes and permitting process.  It is the highest approval to be granted for the construction method and will be adopted by thousands of jurisdictions around the United States in and after 2015.

The process of creating the IRC appendix was spearheaded by Martin Hammer of Builders Without Borders representing the California Straw Building Association, the Colorado Straw Bale Association, the Straw Bale Construction Association –New Mexico, the Ontario Straw Bale Building Coalition, the Development Center for Appropriate Technology and the Ecological Building Network.

Thousands of hours of work have been donated by Martin and various individuals within the straw bale construction community to make this milestone a reality.  We thank all of them for their hard work and look forward to even more widespread acceptance of straw bale building in the construction trades.

For details and a link to a copy of the appendix, visit TheLastStraw.org. A huge thanks to the hard-working bale heads that spent years making this happen!

2012 Straw Bale Olympics

The 2012 International Straw Bale Builders’ Conference hosted by the Colorado Straw Bale Association was a gathering of over 200 builders, architects, engineers, plaster professionals, researchers and educators from 15 countries. While much was serious exchange, the Straw Bale Olympics was great counterpoint and so much fun. See more at www.strawbaleconference.com and www.coloradostrawbale.org.

Straw Bale in International Building Code?

For a long time, straw bale builders have wanted to legitimize their favorite construction method by getting building codes passed specifically allowing plastered straw bale construction.   A lot of headway has been made, starting with the Pima County code for load-bearing straw bale construction back in the 90s, followed by a fair number of local and even some state (California) straw bale building codes.

But it takes a lot of work to get something like straw bale construction passed in each jurisdiction, and it seems that nearly each new construction project has to reinvent the wheel, educate the local code officials, etc.

To remedy this problem, a group of dedicated baleheads have been working over the past several years to get straw bale construction accepted into the Big Daddy of all codes, the International Building Code (IBC).

International Code Council will hold hearings in Dallas on either Monday, April 30 or Tuesday, May 1 regarding the Fire Resistance of straw bale construction, and a week later on structural considerations.  These hearings are just part of the many important steps needed.

Sustainable Sources founder Bill Christensen will be joining longtime code advocate David Eisenberg (Development Center for Appropriate Technology), builder/architect Ben Obregon (Sustainable Design Center), and architect Gayle Borst (Stewardship Architecture and Design~Build~Live) in Dallas for the Fire Resistance section of the hearings.  Bill, David, and Ben participated in the 2006 fire tests which gained plastered straw bale construction ASTM 1- and 2-hour burn ratings (earthen plastered and cement plastered, respectively).  See the video.

The hearings are free and open to the public, though you are required to register.  They’re also being streamed, in the event you can’t make it but are interested in the proceedings.

To see all the supporting documentation including the proposed Straw Bale Construction chapter, and testing reports regarding moisture, structural, seismic “shake table”, fire, and of course thermal tests, see EcoBuildNetwork.

David and architect Martin Hammer will return the following week for Structural hearings.

To learn about building with straw, see our straw bale construction overview, or see one of the many books on bale construction, or visit The Last Straw Journal, the definitive quarterly journal on bale construction.

Finally, to see an actual straw bale home near you, check our Straw Bale Building Registry.

Green Real Estate ads – Major Upgrade!

As we enter our 19th year at Sustainable Sources, we’re happy to announce that we’ve completely revamped our long running Real Estate section.

  • Your listings can now have up to 20 images.
  • Easier to list property.
  • Easier to update.
  • It’s on a much faster server.
  • Improved searches.
  • Includes green sales AND green rentals.
  • New sections for commercial properties, too!  (For lease and for sale)
  • Ads from 30 days for $5.00 (that’s right, just $5.00!!) to a full year for $20.00.

Obviously, we’re not looking to get rich off of this – unlike the other sites which list green real estate and start at $19-$25 for a 30 day listing and over $200 for a one-year listing!  Electrons don’t cost that much.

The real estate market has changed a lot since we first started Green Real Estate listings in 1998 -  there is greater awareness of the need for energy efficiency and homes and offices built with healthy materials, and more people than ever are specifically looking for green.  Make sure they find you here!

View the current listings…

 

 

The Global Straw Building Network discussion forum (GSBN)

The Global Straw Building Network is a private discussion list with publicly available archives and the option for anyone to subscribe in non-post mode. It is composed of representatives of regional organizations and other non-affiliated key individuals involved in the general advancement of straw-bale and other straw-use building materials and techniques. The intentionally small number of members range from highly experienced professionals to well informed laypeople.

The ability to post to GSBN is by invitation only. Any posts sent to the GSBN address from email addresses which have not been approved to post are automatically discarded.

Other discussion forums about building with straw exist elsewhere for those who are new to the process and/or to building techniques in general. Please see http://strawbale.sustainablesources.com or http://sustainablesources.com/resources/online-discussions/ to join them.

Should you have further questions about the operation of GSBN, please contact the list maintainer/host at http://sustainablesources.com/about/contact-us/

To sign up for GSBN or to see the archves (since 1998), go to http://sustainablesources.com/mailman/listinfo/gsbn

DOE Launches the High Efficiency Windows Volume Purchase Program

May 27, 2010

The U.S. Department of Energy today announced the launch of the Highly-Insulating R-5 Windows and Low-e Storm Windows Volume Purchase Program, part of a multi-year integrated strategy to transform the market for high efficiency windows. The initiative will facilitate the broader deployment of these windows by pairing manufacturers with buyers looking to purchase large volumes of windows and by setting performance expectations for two new types of energy efficient windows. This will provide support for window manufacturers to help overcome the initial costs associated with producing windows at an even higher efficiency level while connecting volume buyers with pre-cleared suppliers.

“The Department of Energy has played a key role in rapidly advancing window technology in the past few years. This program will help move these technologies into the marketplace, providing significant energy savings to homes and businesses across the country,” said Roland Risser, DOE’s Building Technologies Program Manager. “This initiative will help drive demand and increase the number of offerings available to builders and project developers.”

The program includes both Highly-Insulating R-5 (U value 0.2) Windows and Low-e Storm Windows. When replacing windows or building a new building, R-5 Windows can reduce heat loss through the window by 30 to 40% compared to a typical R-3 window available today. In situations where full replacement is not an option, Low-e Storm Windows, which fit over existing windows, can be used to reduce heat loads by up to 20%. The savings for both R-5 windows and Low-e Storm Windows are a significant improvement over products available today—and many meet DOE’s price premium target of less than $4 per square foot. With higher energy performance and lower purchase prices, windows can become an even more cost effective measure for building retrofits.

Volume purchasers of windows, including government agencies, builders, energy retrofitters, renovators, and weatherization providers, will gain online access to window sellers whose products are certified to meet the High-Insulation R-5 and Low-e Storm Windows specification. Buyers can review size and price ranges and then connect directly to the vendors’ Web sites to purchase. The program includes more than 30 suppliers. For more information, visit the Highly-Insulating Windows and Low-e Storm Windows Volume Purchase Program Web site.

The Volume Purchase Program received significant interest from manufacturers, the building industry, and other key industry stakeholders. More than 50 eligible proposals were submitted from suppliers; over 30 suppliers meeting all program requirements are currently listed on the Web site ready to sell windows products. Today’s launch event co-hosted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) will include participation from a broad spectrum of building industry stakeholders, including NAHB, American Architectural Manufacturers Association, the Alliance to Save Energy, Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, Illinois (CEDA), and Habitat for Humanity.

Windows that are part of the program must have National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) thermal performance certification and minimum structural certification in accordance with the North American Fenestration Standard (NAFS). Additionally, all storm windows must have their glass type registered in the International Glazing Database created by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).

To participate, interested suppliers and potential buyers can visit the Highly-Insulating Windows and Low-e Storm Windows Volume Purchase Program Web site.

Concrete Foundations that Double as the Finished Floor

by Jill Mayfield

Not too long ago about the only place you saw a concrete floor was in a warehouse or industrial setting-not anymore. Concrete slab foundations finished as floors are becoming more commonplace in residential and in all types of commercial construction.

Gray concrete not your style? Today, finished concrete floors can be stamped to look like stone, tile or brick. They can be scored in a variety of geometric patterns. And, they can be just about any color or combination of color you desire. Color can be added at several different points in the process. Dye can be added to the concrete mix at the plant; it can be added to the surface and mixed in to the top layer of concrete while it is still soft; or it can be added at the end of the process through painting or acid etching.

If you suffer from allergies or asthma and are planning to build a new home, consider finished concrete floors. Carpets hold dust, dust mites, mold, and other allergens. Additionally, carpets and vinyl may be installed with glues and adhesives that give off irritating fumes. Cleaning a concrete floor is also very easy- it requires no harsh chemicals, only a broom and wet mop.

Because your foundation is in direct contact with the earth (which ranges from an average temperature of 68 degrees to 55 degrees, depending on your location), it can help the energy performance of your home. If you are worried about a concrete floor being cooler in the winter, place rugs in desired areas. While if may feel colder, its constant temperature helps in both heating and cooling your home.

If you are concerned about the hardness of a concrete floor, remember that tile is just as hard and that other types of flooring are applied directly to the foundation. Well-placed throw rugs in areas where you stand a lot will provide an adequate cushion.

The cost of a finished concrete floor can vary greatly. It depends on the types of patterns you include and how the color is applied. While you may pay more up front, this type of floor is so durable-unlike carpet and vinyl flooring-you will never need to replace it.

 

This article first appeared in the Austin American Statesman. At the time of publication, Ms Mayfield was with the City of Austin Green Building Program

ASTM Standard Guide for Earthen Wall Systems

A note from our friend Bruce King:

Friends and colleagues –

I’m very happy to tell you that ASTM International has approved publication of revisions to ASTM E2392, Standard Guide for Design of Earthen Wall Building Systems.

This has been a four year project for me and for the Ecological Building Network, and you helped make it happen! This building standard now provides:
- prescriptive guidance for affordable seismic safety,
- engineering guidance where it is practically available, and
- discourages the use of cement, especially applied as render over earthen walls.

Various industries tried to stop this project, and it has been a sometimes weird experience, but we are now done. It has taken four years but was worth it, for we now have a document that we can work with anywhere in the world.

If you already have a draft from any time in the past two years, then you have something pretty close to the final language. If you want the formal document, you must order it from ASTM International, where it will be ready with all final edits by late January. Upon request, ASTM will also translate it for any country holding a memorandum of understanding with ASTM (which is most countries). http://www.astm.org/index.shtml

Thanks, and warm greetings from cool California,

Bruce King
bruce-king.com
ecobuildnetwork.org

New Topic: Shipping Container Housing

One important guideline for sustainable building is to use materials which are locally abundant. Another guideline is that waste from one system can often be utilized as feedstock for another.

Shipping containers are abundant in the US due to current trade imbalances and are therefore inexpensive pre-built modules which some enterprising people have begun using to create residences, dorms, and commercial space.

Reza Pouraghabagher has written our newest topic area on Shipping Container Housing and will be adding more in the coming months. Follow the Resource links to see some completed projects.

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