I love straw bale homes, sustainabilty thinking and architecture. I want a straw bale home. My wife is more dubious and has been unwilling to commit.
I designed houses for fun as a child (along with cars...seriously) and still draw them up once in a while. Part of writing science fiction and fantasy's fun is thinking up and designing these other cities, ships and worlds. so it's a great pleasure for me to have a married couple who combine the passions. She is an architect and he is an engineer. Together they design and build low impact homes using straw bale.
Full disclosure: they're technically only my friends through my wife. She and the wife take exercise classes together at the Y, and the architect is a member of my wife's small book club. When I talk to the wife, she clearly is asking herself, Who is he? Her husband, on the other hand, being connected to me in the same manner, knows exactly who I am.
Anyway, they've been sharing their house building with friends, neighbors, the public. They teach straw bale construction classes and seminars, explaining what clays are used, where the clays were found and the advantage and disadvantages of different clays.
Yesterday was our third visit to their home. The first came when they were beginning construction and the straw bales were being formed and set as walls. The blueprints were out, they served delicious soups, breads, fruits and coffee, and walked people through their project. Twenty students were working and another thirty people were touring the site during our hour there, a slice of the four hour open house.
They repeated the open house a few months later, when all the straw bale construction was completed excep one wall, awaiting its coats so we could all see before and after.
The house is now almost fully complete. They're living there and yesterday they had another open house. What's missing are sliding interior doors.
Three bedrooms, two baths, the home is seventeen hundred square feet. Natural woods are used in trim, creating patterns with their grains. The master bath includes a whirlpool tub, walk in shower and a bidet. She's a bidet fan and went the whole route, with a warm air tushy dryer.
My favorite aspect was the hearth. Built around a Finnish stove, dense gray soapstone surrounds it. Vertical and horizonal planes project out. The architect explained that the stove's chamber is designed to recirculate the gase downward, targeting full combustion. Her claim is that no smoke emerges from the chimney while the stove is in use because everything is burned. She also had photographs that showed the stove's heat signature while in full use and what it looked like hours after the fire was out. Residual heat is retained and radiates out. She said that in other homes they've built, it's been rare that they've had to 'turn on the furnace'.
No space is wasted. There's is a foyer but no hallways. Yet the master suite is separated from the guest suite, and the office is off on its own in another direction. The kitchen is off a small great room which includes the living and dining room areas. It's open, small but with a sense of spaciousness, cosy with a private air. Of course the house features many windows to let in daylight but insulated so heat isn't lost during the winter, wide overhangs to keep sunlight out on the 'summer side', narrow overhangs to let sunlight in on the winter side. There is a solar hotwater heater and a solar panels for generating electricity.
As I walked around looking at it and exploring, it came to my mind that this was a mindful design for mindful living. My wife thought that perfectly captured the home.
I decided that when my wife finally sees the light and agrees to have a straw bale home built, I'm going to hire my friends as architects and buildings. Here's a link to their website, which does not feature their new home:
I think I'll go look for some land....
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com