[GSBN] Prefab hoe-down

Graeme North graeme at ecodesign.co.nz
Thu Feb 25 16:09:57 CST 2016


an interesting discussion and one that goes to the heart of many matters that I am far too busy to really com net on here - 

but there are really two issues here - or three - as I see it. 

One is getting better  - natural - materials into mainstream construction with all the attendant advantages that we all on this list perceive.
The second is that making prefab panels that are just as reliant on off-site factories, are as remote, or are as expensive as conventional materials is not all that advantageous.
The third is getting architects to understand and design for these materials -there are many stories of  daftness and inappropriate design,  - and there is what I agree is a very sad comment  "I wanted a bale house but I got a house with bales in the walls."

And the fourth is empowering and encouraging owner builders.  This is were we get warmth that is not measured by a thermometer.

OH - A lovely little bird ( a fantail) has just flown into my office and is singing its wee heart out for me as it catches flies.

See some of yo al at ISBC

Graeme





 


On 26/02/2016, at 7:26 AM, Robert Gay <valleymind at earthlink.net> wrote:

> On 2/24/2016 7:59 PM, Bob Theis wrote:
>> Chris has been advocating for prefabricating bale walls for so many years, and wondering why the slow uptake of the approach, that he  merits a considered reply from one of the holdouts. 
>> 
>> It’s all  Matts’  and Judy’s fault.   When they gave their first straw bale workshop in California, I had just finished some stud-framed  projects where I was calling for  double stud walls to get some visual weight,  and beating the plasterers over the head to create surfaces and corners that were NOT perfectly straight and flat. I came away saying, “ There must be a way to create thick informal walls that’s intrinsically thick, intrinsically  informal. “ …and I got my answer. Straw bale  was thick , it was informal, and if you wanted perfect surfaces and straight corners that was extra work, instead of extra work to relax them.  
>> 
>> And I wasn’t alone.   When the first bale  project got some publicity, we were getting a LOT of phone calls from people who wanted to know more. This was 1992,  before all the wonderful books, so we’d spend considerable time with these calls, and it was evident that,  while the ecological and superinsulative qualities  gave them permission to pursue this offbeat technique, it was the relaxed character of the walls that was the real  pull. The emotional pull. 
>> 
>> 
>> <Mail Attachment.jpeg>
>> 
>> Maybe it was our cartoon-based upbringing. Witness Mickey Mouse’s kitchen at Disney World. Try not to barf at the saccharine color scheme, and focus on the room and objects, because this is by folks who know what appeals. The basic geometry is still rectangular, but the hard edges have been taken off. 
>> 
>> So I bow before the success of prefabrication in  reducing  the costs of bale building, but continue to fret about the stiffness that this moves the material toward.  Yes, you can plaster  bale filled panels by hand, and be as informal about the resulting surface  as you care to be, but it is primarily the edges where we read the nature of the walls, and prefabricated panels give you machine-made edges. 
>> 
>> To me, the most sobering,  and challenging,  statement in the bale literature is still the woman who said, “ I wanted a bale house, but what I got is a house with bales in the walls.” 
>> 
>> I’m sure large parts of the population will be perfectly happy with bales in the walls. Especially if it makes the difference between having  a house or not.  
>> 
>>  But it feels like movement in the wrong  direction. 
>> 
>> Bob
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
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> Greetings all, from a GSBN lurker of sorts, a Sonoran-desert friend of Matts and David E, in Tucson:
> 
> I heartily second Bob Theis's comment about curvature, softness, and personality of hand-built bale walls.  In early talks with potential bale clients, I always tell 'em that bale walls have personality and natural irregularity, and (tactfully) ask if their personality is OK with that quality.  This is especially important for the ones who haven't been in many -- or any -- bale projects, and simply think bale building sounds like a good idea.  
> 
> <hdbggjgh.png>    (Rachel Shiamh home, Wales)
> 
> Bob's remarks touch on a very large, yet generally unarticulated, battle in the culture: the efficiency and flatness of machine production vs. the eccentricity and variability of making things by hand.  It's the battle of organic form-making vs. Cartesian geometry...forms that come from VERY local decisions vs. those that "trickle down" from the X and Y axes and resulting grid-mind as a way of dividing the world. 
> 
> Of course Rene Descartes' axes are useful -- as when we want to cut a stud to a certain length, for example -- but 
> (and here comes another rant) 
> at the large scale, the graph-paper world view has led much land division to entirely disregard natural earth-based boundaries such as mountain ranges and watersheds.  When surveyors chopped up the world into "townships," "sections" and "ranges," then refined it down to acres and SQUARE feet, they started placing property lines over landscapes that are not at all divided that way.  The result of graph-papering the world, I've come to feel, is part of the last couple of centuries' alienation of humans from nature, something the early years of the bale-building revival helped address.
> 
> The two epistemologies -- organic (to use a belabored but also beloved word) vs. Cartesian -- can easily be seen in almost all maps of political boundaries.  My home state, Arizona, for instance, does have the Colorado River as most of its western boundary, but the other 3 sides are from Descartes.  Colorado, Utah and Wyoming are purely Cartesian, and the "Four Corners" monument (which I've stood on) is a purely Cartesian land experience.  
> 
> Interestingly, a few big rivers, and the coasts and Great Lakes force the grid-mind to stop. The USGS has this map showing the 2 ways of thinking  (http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1768/pp1768.pdf)  
> <USGS biogeographical regions.jpg>
> 
> 
> No one has a politically viable way to change the state boundaries, but we CAN nurture biogeographical awareness whenever possible.  In our own little arenas, we can all find our own tiny ways to keep Descartes in his place and let systemic, biological, organic understanding grow!
> 
> End of rant ~~ thanks for listening.
> <Signature Robert SMALLER.jpg>
> Robert Gay
> Radius Architects
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