[GSBN] Prefab hoe-down

Chris Magwood chris at endeavourcentre.org
Wed Feb 24 07:23:02 CST 2016

Hi John,

We've approached building panels in every conceivable way... on-site 
tilt-up plastered horizontal, on-site tilt-up plastered vertical; built 
off-site unplastered, built off-site preplastered; built off-site with 
mag-board finish; and currently we're working on built off site system 
with no plaster, using wood fiber board sheathing on both sides. We've 
framed them with lumber, with Durisol sheets, with TJIs, with Tectum... 
I feel like there aren't very many versions we haven't built with. In 
total, we've been involved with about 35 prefab bale buildings now.

I made the tilt-up suggestion for the fire victims because we have found 
that to be the fastest and least expensive approach (by far), and so for 
bringing the most affordable form of straw bale construction to people, 
I think this can't be beat, whether it's done by a professional crew or 
the home owners, or some hybrid of the two. I'm sure this could be 
adapted to California requirements (do the interior coat of plaster 
horizontal, stand the panels up and apply full mesh wrap to the exterior 
and plaster vertical?). Built on site in tilt-up form, the walls can 
also be built as continuous panels between door and window openings, so 
there needn't be seams other than the openings. This is one advantage of 
this approach... the panels don't have to be sized for transportation or 

However the prefabrication is done, we have found that it beat site bale 
construction times and costs hands down. We use the tilt up version when 
cost is the driving factor and when the off-site shop space isn't 
available or affordable. A reasonably sized one story house can be 
panelized in this form in two to three days, fully plastered, so it's 
not much of slow-down for the construction timeline. However, there are 
lots of advantages to building off site in advance... We have found that 
two people and a boom truck or small crane can install the pre-plastered 
panels so quickly that the cost for the equipment is negligible or less 
than having more bodies on site. Essentially, we've found that there's a 
prefab strategy for every scenario!

It would be amazing to have a prefab summit at the CASBA meeting. We've 
done so much work we'd be glad to share with everybody.


Chris Magwood
Director, Endeavour Centre

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