Peter Schubert [RIBA] is giving a talk at the Big Straw Bale Gathering

Next up we have Peter Schubert who will be joining us from Vienna.

Buy your tickets here

Name: Peter Schubert

Company: Capital [ A ] architects, Vienna

Talk Title: Straw and other regrowing building materials for multi storey
housing constructions.

Talk description: Structural possibilities, thermal insulation potential & fire
safety of different construction methods using timber, straw, clay – & lime
plaster, hemp, wood-fibre and cellulose.

Speakers Bio:

Growing up in the region of Northern Hessen / Germany was an essential formative impression to my further professional
development.
In the nineteen-70s and -80s the beauty and value of the characteristic regional building stock of studwork houses alongside the
German Fairy Tale Route were rediscovered. Historic timber frame constructions with straw-clay infill were restored and the building technics of wood, straw and clay were further researched and developed at the recently founded and growing local Comprehensive University of Kassel.
Simultaneously the international avant-garde art fair “Documenta” emerged and gave me inspiration to experiment and encouraged my search for own ground-braking “do-gooder” projects.

 

After my academic training of architecture at the Technical Universities of Braunschweig, Vienna and also the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, my first professional engagement was in real estate development, realising own small scale projects implementing newly available sustainable building materials and emission free energy supply in an urban
context in Vienna.

 

Later my architectural practice “capital [ A ] architects” was founded with its professional focus on sustainable residential urban
architecture and was lately enhanced by the organisation of “field8 organic house development”.
“Field8” understands itself as an assembly of various professionals from diverse occupational fields aiming to combine sustainable architectural design with sustainable social community design.
Our ambition is to commonly realise “low impact – high efficiency” urban co-housing projects in the near future as an alternative offer for the standardised real estate market.

 

Currently I am engaged in developing innovative building technics applying naturally chemistry-free, re-growing buildingmaterials such as timber, straw and clay the greatest extend for prefabricated, economic multi storey residential projects in the city of Vienna with its specific building codes and fire safety regulations.

Tickets - Big Straw Bale Gathering 2018

SBUK are proud to present the inaugural ‘Big Straw Bale Gathering’ – a gathering to discuss and learn straw bale construction and share the latest and best thinking within the industry.

Dr Chris Vernon is giving a talk at the Big Straw Bale Gathering!

And we are off! We are very excited to announce Dr Chris Vernon will be giving a talk at The Big Straw Bale Gathering 2018.

Chris and his wife Erica have recently built a two story, roundwood timber frame, straw bale house on their One Planet Development smallholding in Carmarthenshire. This project was motivated by a desire to design and build a ‘zero-carbon in construction and use’ house and have a lot of fun along the way. Chris is also a beekeeper and orchardist. He is a chartered engineer, holds a Ph.D. in glaciology and previously worked as climate scientist with the Met Office.

Lecture title:

One Planet Development: an opportunity for straw

A presentation in two parts. Firstly the One Planet
Development planning policy in Wales, the requirements and opportunities it
presents for natural building. Secondly I will describe the process we went
through designing and building our two story, straw bale house with
roundwood timber frame within this policy framework in Carmarthenshire.

Tickets - Big Straw Bale Gathering 2018

SBUK are proud to present the inaugural ‘Big Straw Bale Gathering’ – a gathering to discuss and learn straw bale construction and share the latest and best thinking within the industry.

#UPSTRAW meets #AUBHUMAN

photo credit Huff & Puff

Next week for @inspiredAUB one of our founding members, Phil Christopher, will be presenting a talk for ‘AUB Human’, in Bournemouth, Tuesday 6th March 2018. And if that isn’t enough ‘Huff and Puff Construction‘ are building a straw venue for the ‘Pop up Cinema’ too!

The day comprises of symposiums, talks and workshops ‘created to celebrate social, ethical and sustainable creative practice within our community. It connects designers, architects, filmmakers and a pool of creative #AUBMAKERS who share one desire – ‘to bring positive change for global good.”

Full details of the day’s programme are here

The Big Straw Bale Gathering – Last few days of early bird tickets and lineup announcements

On Thursday the 1st of March we will start releasing our lineup of speakers for the 2018 Big Straw Bale Gathering.

Early bird ticket prices will end at 23:00 Wednesday the 28th of February.

We have also updated the event info, so please check out the Big Straw Bale Gathering event page

View from the hill – reflections on building the world’s first Miscanthus bale house.

Straw bale building in the UK has a history of artful and inspired design and has resulted in a small number of iconic buildings, and a much larger number of elegant and understated ones. However, whilst the built form and structural details vary, relatively little attention has been paid to what type of straw is used; the conventional choice in the UK is wheat and sometimes barley. Practitioners tend not to say that one straw type is better than another. It is also quite striking that discussions on choice of bale are almost always about buildability, density and moisture content, as opposed to the plant species it comes from or the implications for long term performance of the building.
But that’s all about to change.

What are the benefits of Miscanthus

In the early 2000’s, Miscanthus was flagged up as a potential bioenergy crop for Northern Europe, and Defra sent a team of Aberystwyth scientists to Asia to collect genetically distinct specimens that could be crossed with each other to create the ideal biomass crop. Effectively, the mission was to domesticate the crop by combining particular properties and produce a stable, high yielding crop that grows well in the UK and Europe. But why Miscanthus? Well to start with it has an extraordinary growth rate (some varieties grow a whopping 3-4 metres per year) and a woody hollow stem. For these reasons it is used in the EU almost entirely as a bioenergy crop, but the key property that makes it interesting for straw bale builders is that it is more resistant to biodegradation than other straw types.

Using miscanthus bales

As with wheat and barley, Miscanthus is typically baled in large square Hesston bales for ease of handling and transport. However in 2016, Aberystwyth University asked Terravesta (the UKs leading Miscanthus supply chain company) to produce some small square bales, with the specific intention of trialling their use in buildings. Following successful testing by Bee Rowan of Strawbuild on courses at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in 2016, the opportunity to use Miscanthus in a real self-build project arose in 2017, which is where the intrepid Steph Robinson takes over the story.
“There were some key considerations for my house build – I wanted a home with a small ecological footprint, I wanted to be able to build it with friends and I wanted a peaceful and healthy place to live. I saw the build tests by Bee, learnt about the research from Judith at Aberystwyth University and I enjoy spending time in straw bale buildings here at CAT which have such a relaxing quality to them due to the air and sound quality.”
The initial work on the strawbale wall element of the house was done via a CAT course. As is generally the case at the start of a straw bale building course, people are keen to get started, and there’s a certain degree of nervousness and excitement about how things will go. Added to this was some background nervousness about the use of Miscanthus itself. However, this proved unfounded; initial demonstrations by Bee Rowan and Hassan Mzali on the basic processes involved went smoothly and within an hour or so, course participants were confidently placing the first course of bales. By the end of the week, the building was beginning to take shape.

So, how well did Miscanthus bales work?

In most ways, using Miscanthus instead of wheat or barley was completely unremarkable. The bales weighed in at a fairly typical 18.3kg and had a low moisture content (10.7%). They were easy to straighten, cut down to size and dress, and notches were easily cut with an alligator saw. The general construction of the walls proceeded normally, and compression was undertaken without anything unusual happening. There were a couple of key differences compared to most straw bale builds, arising from the intrinsic properties of Miscanthus itself. The first is that it was too rigid to use to stuff gaps or make ‘rats’ for plastering; it has a stiff stem, that makes an audible snapping sound when you try and bend it, unlike wheat or barley which is easy to manipulate. This stiffness also meant that the bales were less pleasant to handle; definitely a case of long sleeves and trousers rather than shorts and T shirts. The third difference also related to stem durability; wall strimming prior to plastering needs a sharp blade operating at high speed (on this project a chainsaw worked well, with the alligator saw proving inadequate). The durability of Miscanthus is not surprising when we think about the biology; the plant has evolved to grow to a height of around 3 metres so needs to be stronger than a wheat or barley stem. The physical arrangement of cells in Miscanthus stems reflects this, and the chemical composition is also different, with Miscanthus having a higher lignin content than wheat straw.
Steph spent a further week finishing off the bale placement, compressing them, and then shaping them with an alligator saw around the openings. A long weekend followed with lots of volunteers to plaster the walls with clay which adhered well to the miscanthus.

 

The future for Miscanthus bales?

The main reasons straw bale builders have not used Miscanthus before are presumably unfamiliarity and unavailability. However, if it is indeed biologically superior in terms of its resistance to biodegradation, it is perhaps worth considering for future straw bale projects. It is slightly more difficult to build with, but if the performance is better, this is perhaps a small price to pay. So the last word goes to Steph

“It is comforting to know that the bales are far more resistant to composting than straw when you live somewhere as wet as Wales. The period of time it took to build with the bales was just a few weeks but hopefully the life of the building will be over 200 years.” – Judith Thornton and Steph Robinson

 

New year’s day fire at lammas

All of us at SBUK were devastated to hear of the fire that destroyed Simon and Jasmine Dale’s house in the Lammas Eco village on new years day.

The home was an inspirational house, being built for very little money and a lot of hard work from Simon and a whole league of volunteers. The house used exceptionally low impact materials including straw walls, sheep wool insulation, earth and lime plasters and earthen floors. Being featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs, the house stood as an example to thousands of what can be achieved.

 

Friends of Simon and Jasmine have set up a crowd-funding page for £50,000 to help rebuild. We urge you all to give a little if you can.

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/jane-wells-2

 

Straw bale house flammability myth

 

We were also annoyed to see The Telegraph misreporting the event with a classic straw bale myth – “

The house, situated in Lammas eco-village in Pembrokeshire, Wales, was built entirely of reclaimed materials, including glass and timber and insulated with sheep’s wool. But it was also constructed using straw, meaning the fire on January 1 ended up destroying the entire house.”

Jasmine Dale wrote to us saying:

“You’ll be pleased to know the straw and cob walls did not burn. Some stored reclaimed plastic stuff we intended to use under the earth floors downstairs as insulation ignited from a freak electrical fault nearby. The firemen actually knocked all the straw rendered walls down and raked them into the flames, a very strange experience, as they looked so intact!”

Straw bale buildings in Californian wild fires

This ties in with a report from the California straw bale association on the resilience of straw bale buildings during their extensive wildfires. This one example shows the whole house burned down EXCEPT the straw.

Full report here: https://www.strawbuilding.org/resources/Documents/Fire-ResistiveStrawbaleWalls.pdf

 

Video of official fire testing of straw bale wall

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjM0yXF7sy8

 

Big Straw Bale Gathering – Early Bird Tickets Now on Sale!

We are very pleased to announce the early bird tickets for The Big Straw Bale Gathering 2018 are on sale now. Get them early to take advantage of this discount price.

 

Tickets - Big Straw Bale Gathering 2018

SBUK are proud to present the inaugural ‘Big Straw Bale Gathering’ – a gathering to discuss and learn straw bale construction and share the latest and best thinking within the industry.

 

SBUK Presents: The Big Straw Bale Gathering 2018

Theme: Sowing the inspiration, growing the industry & harvesting the knowledge

 

Down To Earth – Swansea, UK – 10th,11th & 12th of August 2018:
SBUK are proud to present the inaugural ‘Big Straw Bale Gathering’ – a gathering to discuss and learn straw bale construction and share the latest and best thinking within the industry.


Held at Down To Earth’s beautiful strawbale roundhouse in South Wales. The weekend will feature talks, discussions and hands-on workshops, for all levels, led by the UK’s best natural builders and leading associated professionals. So come down and get excited about building with straw, learn some new techniques or get stuck into the geeky technical stuff.

When you are full of knowledge you can relax with great local organic food, music, dancing, yoga, ‘Strawbale Ale’, children’s activities and a host of extracurricular events ranging from walks to canyoneering on the beautiful Gower peninsular!

 

The Big Straw Bale Gathering will collect up everyone with an interest in straw bale building in the UK. No matter what level you are engaging with straw bale construction, there will be lots to learn at the BSBG.  Jeffrey Hart – Events Director – SBUK

The Big Straw Bale Gathering 2018

SBUK Presents: The Big Straw Bale Gathering 2018

Tickets on sale now from www.strawbalebuildinguk.com/store

Theme: Sowing the inspiration, growing the industry & harvesting the knowledge

 

Down To Earth – Swansea, UK – 10th,11th & 12th of August 2018:
SBUK are proud to present the inaugural ‘Big Straw Bale Gathering’ – a gathering to discuss and learn straw bale construction and share the latest and best thinking within the industry.


Held at Down To Earth’s beautiful strawbale roundhouse in South Wales. The weekend will feature talks, discussions and hands-on workshops, for all levels, led by the UK’s best natural builders and leading associated professionals. So come down and get excited about building with straw, learn some new techniques or get stuck into the geeky technical stuff.

 

When you are full of knowledge you can relax with great local organic food, music, dancing, yoga, ‘Strawbale Ale’, children’s activities and a host of extracurricular events ranging from walks to canyoneering on the beautiful Gower peninsular!

 

The Big Straw Bale Gathering will collect up everyone with an interest in straw bale building in the UK. No matter what level you are engaging with straw bale construction, there will be lots to learn at the BSBG.  Jeffrey Hart – Events Director – SBUK

 

Tickets on sale now from www.strawbalebuildinguk.com/store

StrawBale Building UK – SBUK – is a Community Benefit Society, formed in 2016 with the aim: To promote straw bale building and best practice within the sector.




SBUK Members meeting Friday 22nd September 2017 #strawbale #upstraw #construction

SBUK Members meeting

Date: Friday 22nd September 2017, 11am – 2pm

Venue: St Luke’s Church, Great Colmore Street, Lee Bank, B15 2AT

http://www.st-lukes-church-centre.org.uk/about-us/

SBUK Members meeting Friday 22nd September 2017 AGENDA

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Forget the three little pigs: straw can be an effective building material | Architects Jou p1Forget the three little pigs: straw can be an effective building material | Opinion | Architects Jou