[GSBN] Fwd: Low-cost Strawbale

emily niehaus emily at communityrebuilds.org
Tue Feb 23 13:13:33 CST 2016

Hi Network! It was my 14th birthday when this article was published in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/1991/12/12/garden/houses-the-cows-would-love-to-eat.html?pagewanted=all <http://www.nytimes.com/1991/12/12/garden/houses-the-cows-would-love-to-eat.html?pagewanted=all>  

Taken from the article:
"Mr. Myhrman hopes that one day the Nebraska style of straw-bale building will be revived. But that's too radical for now. He sees straw bales as one potential aid to the nation's affordable housing problem."

I’m a social science girl, and I really look to both the ‘product’ and the ‘process’ in creating affordable housing. I’ll be presenting the Community Rebuilds model at the ISBC on Friday. I’m looking forward to having lots of conversations about affordable straw bale building over beers and meat pies.

Last chance for you straw bale geeks to get on a plane and join! 

emily niehaus

founder / director of Community Rebuilds

web    www.communityrebuilds.org <http://www.communityrebuilds.org/>
blog    www.communityrebuilds.wordpress.com <http://www.communityrebuilds.wordpress.com/>

> Begin forwarded message:
> From: Sarah Johnston <sol_design at yahoo.com>
> Subject: Re: [GSBN] Low-cost Strawbale
> Date: February 23, 2016 at 10:32:09 AM MST
> To: Global Straw Building Network <gsbn at sustainablesources.com>
> Reply-To: Sarah Johnston <sol_design at yahoo.com>, Global Straw Building Network <gsbn at sustainablesources.com>
> Hello all,
> Prefabrication is very much on my mind as I prepare to share this approach in just over a week at the ISBC.  I would love to hear from any and all of you, if you have any details regarding your preferred prefab system, so that I can share as much as possible with the 200 people attending.  
> I will be demonstrating the 'tilt bale' technique which is a site prefab system using clay based plasters both inside and out.
> It is not too late to show up!  Flights are crazily affordable right now and we would love to have more of you here!!  Especially you John Glassford!!  
> I very much respect the choice not to burn up the fossil fuels, but please send info so that your knowledge is not missing even if you are!
> We look forward to seeing/meeting those of you who are joining us in Methven!
> Sven
> Sarah & Sven Johnston 
> Sol Design, Ltd. 
> 50A Connolly Street  
> Geraldine 7930  New Zealand 
> 03 693 7369  
> sol_design at yahoo.com 
> www.soldesign.co.nz
> --------------------------------------------
> On Wed, 24/2/16, Bruce EBNet <bruce at ecobuildnetwork.org> wrote:
> Subject: Re: [GSBN] Low-cost Strawbale
> To: "Global Straw GSBN" <gsbn at sustainablesources.com>
> Received: Wednesday, 24 February, 2016, 5:45 AM
> Here, here to all of that.  And
> I nominate John Glassford — who for some lame reason
> cannot come to New Zealand next week — to come to
> California in April for the CASBA 20th anniversary, and show
> us Yanks how to do prefab.
> Drinks are on us, mate.  It’s only
> a short flight . . . 
> Bruce King(415) 987-7271bruce at ecobuildnetwork.org
> On Feb 23, 2016, at
> 8:30 AM, David Arkin, AIA <david at arkintilt.com>
> wrote:
> John, All:
> The
> goal of low-cost strawbale is an important one, and while
> custom residential has fueled its popularity, a good number
> of us on this list have participated in targeting affordable
> systems and simple designs that can help fill the housing
> need.  And as you note, your firm, Bob Theis and other
> CASBA members are generously making home plans available to
> fire victims, at least some of whom have the means and are
> choosing to rebuild with straw bale. 
> Especially in light of the need for
> highly efficient, low initial embodied carbon building
> systems—plus here in CA where we have a zero net energy
> mandate in the year 2020—straw bale in any affordable form
> offers one of the best solutions out there.
> However, this low-cost conversation
> must acknowledge another reality unrelated to building
> technology:  growing income inequality.  Currently on this planet the 62
> richest persons hold the same amount of money as the lower
> 3.5 Billion persons.  Not all, but many people
> worldwide used to be able to afford a home, or be able to
> build one on a piece of land at little or no cost.  As we
> face the need to build better (safer, tighter, insulated and
> efficient) homes, the costs are going up at the same time
> that people's ability to pay for them is going down.
> We
> need both-and change.  Lower-cost homes and increased
> income equality leading to renewed buying power.  Political
> leadership that acknowledges and addresses it proactively
> along with a universal move toward the common good is the
> only path I see to the latter.  
> Thanks for bringing this topic to the
> GSBN, and it'd be great if you would organize and lead a
> panel on Low-Cost Strawbale at the CASBA Conference in
> April.  In addition to Chris Magwood I know that Bill
> Steen, Bruce Hammond, Anthony Dente and others have interest
> in achieving more affordable wall systems.  
> David
> 'Feeling the Bern' Arkin
> On Feb 23, 2016, at 8:01 AM, John
> Swearingen <jswearingen at skillful-means.com>
> wrote:
> @Chris, we've looked and thought a lot about
> horizontal plastering, and originally designed a system like
> yours for volunteers on a chapel (yet to happen).  For us
> in California, where the earth does not stay still, that
> approach has some disadvantages.
> First, there are a lot of seams
> between panels to deal with, and we have been able to use a
> wrap of good mesh around our buildings to distribute seismic
> loads. Baskets don't break, and continuous mesh solves a
> lot of problems with connections, as well as possible water
> intrusion.
> Second, there are commercial
> considerations.  With an option to build off-site, the
> panels can be built while the foundation is being laid,
> saving construction time and allowing careful fabrication,
> in a shop, of all the elements--walls, windows, doors,
> everything. When panels are kept small, they can be handled
> without machinery. If the panels are plastered in the shop,
> they can't be moved much without a crane, so a
> relatively expensive element is introduced twice--at the
> shop, and again at the site. Keeping small also allows
> moving panels with small trucks with access to difficult
> sites. This is what Upside Down John
> Glasford does, probably because he's lazy and a
> cheapskate, both admirable qualities in a
> builder.
> The self-build community is
> relatively small.  There are also old folks, lazy rich
> folks, busy folks, and impatient folks who want housing;
> most people, just want their house as quickly and painlessly
> as they can get it. Weighing commercial production, using
> plaster sub-contractors, against the cost savings for
> self-build or unskilled labor we tilt toward the commercial.
> Plastering is relatively cheap in
> California, and quick and efficient to schedule. In
> addition, continuous plaster, without apparent
> seams (interior or out), preserves the adobe/bale/old-world
> aesthetic that often leads people to
> strawbale. 
> So that's the balance that
> seems appropriate for our conditions. It would be great if
> you and Upside-Down John could both come to California to
> hash this out at the conference!
> John "Anti-crane Brain"
> Swearingen
> On Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 4:52 AM Chris Magwood
> <chris at endeavourcentre.org>
> wrote:
>     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.
>     Sincerely,
>     Chris
>     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
> www.endeavourcentre.org
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> *  *  * 
> *  *Arkin Tilt
> ArchitectsEcological
> Planning & Design1101
> 8th St. #180, Berkeley, CA  94710
> 510/528-9830 ext. 2#
> www.arkintilt.com
> David
> Arkin, AIA, ArchitectLEED Accredited ProfessionalCA #C22459/NV #5030
> Director, California Straw Building
> Associationwww.strawbuilding.orgCASBA is a project of the Tides
> Center
> "There is no way to peace. Peace
> is the way."— A. J.
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