Airtightness and natural building materials by Judith Thornton

This is a great introductory blog to those of you who are new to the idea of working with natural building materials. It challenges the outcomes of what is considered ‘airtight’ and the relevancy of that within construction and comfortability to the user.

It is easy to understand and with no jargon, so it is suitable for the first time builder as well as the experienced constructor: Airtightness and natural building materials – Part 1

The second part of the article is available here: Airtightness and natural materials – Part 2

Judith presently works at Aberystwyth University on the BEACON project, which is funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO). Her main interest is innovations in plant based building materials

From the Australian press…the good news keeps on coming about ESBG 2019

David Thorpe wrote for the Australian on-line journal, The Fifth Estate wrote about ESBG 2019:

ESBG2019 was supported by INTERREG for the umbrella project ‘UPSTRAW’.

Constrawtium in Hastings
Constrawtium in Hastings

As part of the UPSTRAW project a UK consortium, Constrawtium, are undertaking the building of the new Visitors Centre in Hastings

So nice to see the love spreading to the other side of the world. Thanks David x

Constrawtium at The Big Green Fair

This Sunday 29th September, 11am – 4pm, SBUK Director Mary Rawlinson is at the Big Green Fair

Mary is representing the Constrawtium group, which is a consortium of UK natural material builders enabled by the INTERREG/UPSTRAW initiative


The INTERREG/UPSTRAW deal promotes straw buildings to the public sector and Constrawtium are building the new Visitors’ Centre in Hastings, in association with Hastings Borough Council as part of this

She will be in the Stade Hall, Stade Space (the outside area between Stade Hall and the Jerwood Gallery and the Shipwreck Museum) between 11am – 3pm

Drop in and ask about the plans for this exciting UPSTRAW project

ESBG 2019 #UPSTRAW Todmorden, Yorkshire – Straw sharing

This was a day for sharing techniques, networking, providing examples of new strawbale buildings, promoting the developments in straw bale building in Europe, more workshops…and playing with Lego in Todmorden’s Hippodrome theatre. Phew!

Carlo Micheletti – Italy
Rikki Nitzkin – Spain
Heinz-Michael Fischer (BiWeNa) – Germany
Catarina Pinto – Portugal
Alex Goullet – UPSTRAW/France
Jean-Luc de Wilde – Belgium
Yannig Robert – France
Herbert Gruber – Austria
Lars Keller – Denmark
Zuzana Kierulfová – Slovakia
Cypren Edmunds – Founder member/Director of Media – UK
Maciej Jagielak – ESBA Secretary – Poland
Grzegorz Greg Gorski – Poland
Simone Ruschmeier, Architect and natural builder – ‘Elementerre’, workshop with clay as a construction material
Lego winner!

ESBG 2019 #UPSTRAW, Todmorden, Yorkshire. Straw goes public & in Communities

To say that this event was spectacular is an understatement. Visitors from across Europe went on guided tours of buildings made of straw in the locality, attended workshops, expert speakers’ delivered jaw-dropping presentations and, we had a ceilidh. Bring on the next European Straw Bale Gathering.

Inspire Bradford Business Park – ModCell
Bjorn Kierulf – Createrra
Chris Hawker of Hawkland & founder member ofSBUK demonstrating timber frame straw bale building for their hands-on workshop
Hugues Delcourt – Belgium
Mark Mckenna – Proving natural building enhances Health and Wellbeing. Down to Earth
Volker Ehrlich‘s presentation on a two storey load bearing straw bale residential building in Paris
Rae Parkinson demonstrates clay plastering – Straw Works
Fredi Fuchs – How to work with community groups to deliver co-housing – STROH Unlimited, Germany
Barbara Jones explains Natural Building meeting UK Building Regulations – Straw Works
ESBG2019 getting down with a ceilidh!

Construction of the Hastings Country Park’s Visitor Centre by Constrawtium

In 2017 we ventured with other members of the INTERREG initiative UPSTRAW, to see the above area for a new Vistors’ Centre in Hastings.

Murray Davidson of Hastings Borough Council spoke about the ambition for the proposed build and we explored how to could pool our energies to bring this to frution.

3D model

In May of this year a corsortium of natural builders (Constrawtium) began work on the site.

Constrawtium, consists of: Huff and Puff Construction, SIA Design Build, Green & Castle, and Red Kite Design.

The group have been working exceptionally hard and we are proud that their labours (both demonstrably & studiously behind the scenes) are becoming visible for the public to see.

As part of the European StrawBale Gathering 2019 in Todmorden we are pleased to announce that Murray will be presenting a talk about public procurement of strawbale buildings.

We encourage you to be a part of this exciting adventure and visit Todmorden for ESBG2019 as this notable event will include top speakers, builders and educators of the natural building arena of which the UK has never seen before! Tickets are available here

SBUK founder members Chris Hawker & David Copeland are Speakers at ESBG 2019

Hawkland – ESBG2019

Chris and David have been with SBUK since day one. Respected builders in the industry they bring with them a studious and creative outlook having met whilst studying at the Centre of Alternative Technology. Their expertise will feature in a workshop on straw bale building within a timber frame. Come and see them at

ESBG 2019


The European Straw Bale Gathering (ESBG) is a biennial event, which the UK is privileged to be hosting, for the first time, in Todmorden, West Yorkshire.

Tickest are available here

ESBG this year is part of the Interreg funded UP Straw project. In keeping with the aims of UP Straw, we will be demonstrating the wonderful insulation, fuel cost cutting and carbon reduction properties of building with straw to: planners, architects, public authorities, universities, self-builders and communities.

ESBG 2019 is all about…

  • Exploring healthy public buildings made from straw
  • Raising awareness of the benefits of constructing public buildings from straw
  • Highlighting features & benefits of straw bale buildings
  • Understanding public procurement, building regulations, green mortgages and insurance
  • Inspirational case studies
  • Networking for professionals and students in the secto r “Straw is an excellent material for building and insulating new and existing buildings. Straw is CO2 negative because CO2 is stored in straw during growth, widely available, fully recyclable and has a rapid growth cycle,” said Barbara Jones, Director of the School of Natural Building. “Straw is warm in winter and cool for ever!”

Tulse Hill Straw Bale Build

In the urban landscape of London, where land to build is scarce, and new build opportunities are few and far between, the area of Tulse Hill is fortunate to have within its community a construction that is currently taking place on epic proportions.

Arguably, Europe’s largest urban straw bale build, the Tulse Hill Bale Build has markedly grown into a sight to behold!

Richard Dormandy and Nicole Lyon are orchestrating the construction of the church hall, which began in 2017. With work mainly carried out by volunteers they intend for fitting out to be completed by 2021.

This is a formidable piece of work which was initially assisted by our founding members Straw Works.

The church which is adjacent to the new hall was completed in the mid 19th century, and the site where the hall is being erected was demolished in the 1980s. With a group as enthusiastic as this to bring new energy to their surroundings and build their own meeting place with consideration to the planet, it comes as no surprise that this creation has developed as strikingly magnificent as it is.

Tubs of clay originally excavated from the site’s ground

The Douglas Fir frame went up in March 2017 and the office and kitchen will be built-in this year (2019). Clay plaster will be applied as well as limecrete for the natural finish….

…and the lift and stairs will complete the picture.

Like what you see? Want to help? Contact Nicole below:

We have great pleasure to announce Richard Dormandy will be at this year’s ESBG2019. Purchase Early Bird tickets here

Come and see us on the @NaturalBuildUK stand G57, at @futurebuild: Today – Thursday!

Come and visit our director @JNaturalBuilder from @hartwyn and @NaturalBuildUK partners at @futurebuild : Stand G57