[GSBN] Low-cost Strawbale

Chris Magwood chris at endeavourcentre.org
Tue Feb 23 06:51:55 CST 2016

Hi John, and others trying to respond to this housing need,

I would be glad to show any builders trying to work on behalf of this 
rebuilding effort how we have been using tip-up panels built on site to 
dramatically reduce construction time and cost.

I know I've been harping on about prefab for a long time now, and I've 
been honestly surprised at the lack of uptake/interest in general. But 
we really do have our costs down to $6-8 per square foot of wall at a 
good labor rate. And unlike bale raisings where people can help but 
often end up hindering, this is a process that can be taught and learned 
very quickly and where the quality of wall built by a beginner can be 
the same as that of a pro. The beauty of this system is that the walls 
are plastered lying flat, so that the amount of labor time is 
dramatically reduced and the panels are finish-ready as soon as they 
have been stood up.

I don't know what the timing is like for these projects, but I am 
willing to be at the CASBA meeting in April, and if there is interest 
I'd gladly demonstrate this tip-up system so that it can be shared with 
those in need.



On 16-02-22 10:59 PM, John Swearingen wrote:
> This weekend Jenna Yu and I, attended the Rebuild Expo, a building 
> expo geared toward people who had lost their homes in the Valley 
> Fire--1200 homes burned in less than a day.The area is not wealthy.
> It was definitely a good place for us to be. Saturday morning began 
> with a long, long line of registered people who lost their homes and 
> who were given early access to the event.  Usually at these sorts of 
> events there are people toying with building their own house, or 
> remodeling their kitchen. This was different-- a mass of people 
> desperately trying to figure out how to put themselves in housing once 
> again.  They're highly motivated. Many, probably most, face serious 
> obstacles--insurance settlements (if they had insurance) and property 
> values, but also things like county requirements to bring 
> infrastructure up to code (water, septic, electrical)--many people had 
> older buildings with grandfathered systems. Our table was next to the 
> County's, so we overheard a lot of discussions.  The County is doing 
> its best, and will stretch regulations whenever they can for people's 
> benefit, but....
> Jenna & I, representing Skillful Means, were the ones there identified 
> with straw, so I think we got most of the questions. There was a lot 
> of interest. Perhaps "longing" is a better word, because people want 
> to choose a natural home but are on limited means. We introduced 
> strawbale to the many people who had little familiarity with it, and 
> were pleased at how open they were to new ideas. And there was a LOT 
> of interest from everyone in the possibilities of low-cost 
> construction and the panel system we're developing (with help from 
> "upside down" John). They really want to be able to afford it, and not 
> be condemned to buy a toxic manufactured box.
> We're offering free house plans of  completed projects, and most 
> people felt they couldn't afford what we normally design. Folks have 
> been hammered with every conceivable building method--promising very 
> low bottom lines--but definitely were interested in something natural 
> and healthy, and were excited that it was being presented to them. We 
> need to do more outreach to these communities. They are working hard 
> to sort out their futures, and the future of their communities.
> There's also a number of people who have heard of strawbale and 
> dismissed it, but they're often happy to tell us about it; "rodents!! 
> they're everywhere!".  I'm always happy to chat with them.
> Strawbale has been fueled and financed in California by the well-off, 
> and that's allowed us to learn a lot about how to design with straw. 
> The folks this weekend don't have a lot of money to spend on housing, 
> and having the opportunity to work with people who fled from the woods 
> with only the shirts on their backs, was personally very satisfying.
> The thousands of people of modest means who are now homeless can 
> inspire us to use our knowledge and experience to make good housing 
> available to average people. I’m inspired by their determination to 
> make it work, and I would urge the strawbale community to respond to 
> their needs.
> John (don't flame me!) Swearingen
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Chris Magwood
Director, Endeavour Centre

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