Peter Beresford and Henrik Saarinen speaking at the BSBG

We are very pleased to add Peter Beresford and Henrik Saarinen from Structural Solutions to the lineup for The Big Straw Bale Gathering. Structural Solutions were the engineers for the Down To Earth Roundhouse that is our venue for the weekend. Their tag team talk is entitled : ‘Structural considerations in straw-bale construction including foundations, stability, framing, floors and roofs.’ 

Get your tickets now for the newly reduced price of £75 at our online store.


Peter Beresford and Henrik Saarinen


Structural Solutions Management Ltd. Bristol.

Lecture title:

Engineering Aspects of Straw Buildings

Brief description:

Structural considerations in straw-bale construction including foundations, stability, framing, floors and roofs.

Speaker bio:

Peter Beresford BSc CEng MIStructE (Director)

Peter graduated from Bristol  University in Civil Engineering and joined Buro Happold for 8 years, gaining experience in the design of steel and concrete structures, in the UK and the Middle East, before starting Structural Solutions 23 years ago. Since then he has been engineering smaller but equally exciting buildings; using a broader range of materials, including straw, timber, masonry, glass, steel and concrete; for a variety of clients, from self-builders to property developers.


Henrik Saarinen MEng (Hons) CEng MIStructE (Senior Engineer)

Henrik graduated in 2012 with a First Class degree in Civil Engineering from The University of Bath. He  has already gained a broad experience of projects ranging from a few thousand pounds to tens of millions, in the residential, commercial and educational sectors. He is interested in balancing structural efficiency and the practicalities of construction. Henrik joined Structural Solutions two years ago and has been responsible for the engineering design of Down to Earth’s new residential building, as well as a number of straw-bale and reciprocal roof roundhouse projects.

The Big Straw Bale Gathering Speakers List is out!

The majority of our speakers for the Big Straw Bale Gathering are below. We still have a few special guests in the pipeline which will be announced as they are confirmed.

As you can see we have a broad spectrum of speakers lined up, speaking on a wide range of topics.

Get your tickets now / Find out more about the Big Straw Bale Gathering




Barbara Jones

School Of Natural Building

Straw Trek: The Next Generation – A journey through time and spaces

Judith Thornton

Aberystwyth University

What’s in a bale and why it matters

Peter Shubert

Capital [A] Architects

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

Craig White

Modcell / White Design

We Can Make – Affordable Homes Renewable Materials

Emma Appleton

How can our businesses be anti-capitalist? And is that even possible?

Chris Vernon

One Planet Council

One Planet Development: an opportunity for straw

Paul Jennings

Criafolen Permaculture

Permaculture Design: Survival and Beyond Sustainability

Peter Beresford & Henrik Saarinen

Structural Solutions

Lecture Title TBC

Pete Walker

Bath University

Lecture title TBC

5 for 5

Open to all BSBG Attendees 

5 photos in 5 minutes – Have you done something you want to share, have an idea or problem in your build you want to discuss? Here is your chance to show your 5 slides, in 5 minutes.  

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.


Paul Jennings is speaking at the Big Straw Bale Gathering

Name: Paul Jennings

Organisation: Criafolen Permaculture

Lecture title: Permaculture Design for Builders

Brief description: Permaculture design offers a whole site and beyond basis for builders looking to fit their projects sensitively and sustainably into the landscape and community. This lecture will provide a brief look at the application of Permaculture to building, site and settlement design.

Paul’s Bio:

Having trained as an academic in Modern History, I realised that I’d be much happier growing lettuces than working in a university. Thanks to a well placed Permaculture course or two, I moved into organic agriculture and worked for a number of vegetable growing operations and organic gardens over more than a decade. In that time I also built with my partner Sarah my first straw bale house, a very low tech place, and I achieved my Diploma in Permaculture Design.

We moved to  France in search of land in 2007, and spent 6 years building in stone and slate,  and bringing a mountain farm back to life. One Planet Development brought us to Wales in 2013, and we now live in our second straw bale dwelling, a little bit of an upgrade on the first one, but still built with an eye wateringly low budget. We’re developing our project, Criafolen, as a Permaculture teaching and demonstration site, working on a range of crafts and growing plans. I write  fiction, non-fiction, teach Permaculture whenever I am invited to do so, and can be hired out at a very reasonable rate for Permaculture consultancy.

Next Members’ meeting: Friday 23rd March

Picture by Hartwyn


Our next members’ meeting is: Friday 23rd March, 11am-3pm

Venue: The Briar Rose (in the upstairs meeting room)

Address: Bennetts Hill, Birmingham B2 5RE.

New members are welcome & can join on the day:


Barbara Jones will be speaking at the Big Straw Bale Gathering

Barbara Jones speaking at he Big Straw Bale Gathering

Very excited to announce that Barbara Jones of Straw Works and The School of Natural Building will be sharing her wealth of knowledge with you all at the Big Straw Bale Gathering.

Speaker Name: Barbara Jones.

OrganisationStraw Works and The School of Natural Building.

Talk TitleStraw Trek – The Next Generation.

Talk description: A journey through time and spaces

Speaker Bio: 

Barbara pioneered the idea and inspiration of strawbale natural building in the UK in 1994
and has led the growing movement to improve our built environment and speak out about
the problems and health risks of certain manufactured products and practices that are
widely used today. She is internationally recognised for her work in developing the design of
strawbale buildings using only natural materials, speaks at International conferences, and
has a wide network of colleagues and contacts within her field.

She designed and built the UK’s first Council houses out of straw, the first 2 storey loadbearing strawbale houses, the first terrace of strawbale houses and the first strawbale Hotel. She works closely with self-builders to design affordable homes and mentor them through the build process, and has been involved in over 500 builds. She has also designed several options for cement-free foundations, all of which are approved by UK Building regulations, and are increasingly being used by other architects and engineers. Currently she is designing pre-fabricated straw panel houses for housing developers.

Alongside her passion for building, Barbara is also internationally acclaimed for developing a
unique and empowering way of teaching practical skills on building sites. This method has
resulted in an unheard of number of women learning practical construction skills, proving it
is not the job that puts women off, but the way it’s taught and carried out (in construction
there are at present less than 1% women working ‘on the tools’, but in the School of Natural
Building there are over 60%).

All this has been achieved in novel ways through collaboration, skill sharing and community participation. Most recently she is part of the team that successfully secured the Asset Transfer of a Community College in Todmorden, that she will help to run as a Centre of Natural Building, agro-ecology, and community ventures.
She is the author of Building with Straw Bales, a manual for architects and self-builders, that has been continuously in print since 2002, last revised and updated in 2015.

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.

Judith Thornton from Aberystwyth University is giving a talk at the BSBG

How into bales is Judith? Well, she just bought her own baling machine to play with!

Name: Judith Thornton

CompanyAberystwyth University

Talk title: What’s in a bale and why it matters

Talk description: General discussion on what affects straw bale degradability, alternative straws, potential for bale redesign.

Judith’s BioJudith is Low Carbon Manager in the BEACON project at Aberystwyth University. She works with companies on innovations relating to plant-based building materials. In 2017 she was part of the team building the world’s first straw bale house built out of Miscanthus. She is interested in the relative merits of different straw types, and in optimising bale production for the straw bale building industry.  

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.

Craig White is giving a talk at The Big Straw Bale Gathering

We are delighted to add Craig White to the lineup for The Big Straw Bale Gathering.

Name: Craig White

Company: White Design, ModCell

Talk Title: We Can Make – Affordable Homes Renewable Materials

Talk description: In a world where an affordable home is the oxymoron of our time and the
property ladder has no rungs, we need new forms of housing models. We Can Make is a new housing initiative that supports communities to create the homes they want and need. Knowle West Media Centre, White Design and ModCell have brought together Knowle West residents, artists, academics,
designers, architects, lawyers and policy makers to develop a sustainable, affordable housing platform that will deliver 350, 1 and 2 bedroom homes using a unique disaggregated community land trust model.

Speakers Bio

Developer, architect and renewable material entrepreneur, Craig synthesises a number of roles to help deliver sustainable outcomes in the built environment. Craig is currently leading work on a new model of prefabricated, community-led and financed affordable housing to meet the housing crisis challenge using carbon-banking renewable materials. A core focus of Craig’s work is how research-led innovation delivers commercial impact and sustainable outcomes in practice. Craig has a proven passion and pragmatism for delivering innovative, affordable and sustainable design for a better-built environment as well as a thorough understanding of the triple bottom line of social, economic and environmental measures that must be considered to effect change. Expertise in low carbon design that spans embodied and operational emissions, prefabricated systems design and engineering as well as the individual, community and societal behaviours that can drive change for a better designed and more sustainable built environment.

Working in practice for clients in the private and public sectors across commercial, education, housing and community sectors Craig’s work is informed by award winning practice and innovative research to ensure that client’s needs are met with leading edge thinking and its practical application. Systems Thinking underpins Craig’s approach to his work and how its application optimises benefits in reducing environmental impact while maximising societal, economic and environmental outcomes in an interdependent and interconnected world. An experienced leader and company director in the private sector with non-executive director roles and board level experience for organisations in the design, construction, charity, research and arts sectors. An excellent communicator and public speaker able to present complex issues simply, eloquently and relevantly to a wide variety of stakeholder audiences. Experience of delivering sustainable, community-led prefabricated housing developments through effective stakeholder engagement and clear outcome focussed processes.


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.


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
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.

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.

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.


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