“With the help of Huff’n’Puff, Graham and her council team set about building the largest community-owned straw bale construction in the southern hemisphere. Named Nalawala, which means to “sit down”, the hall was officially opened in July with an exhibition of children’s art on calico bags.
Modern technology has changed natural harmony. As much as 10% of the total world economy is dedicated to the building and construction industry, to constructing, operating and equipping homes, offices and factories.
In terms of materials this economic activity uses even larger shares:
Strawbale Buddhist Meditation Centre at Whyalla
40% of the world’s wood, minerals, water and energy is used in the manufacturing and transportation of construction materials.
In terms of energy we find an alarming statistic:
45% of all the energy consumed in the world is consumed by the manufacture and transportation of building and construction materials.
This is almost more than all other uses combined, and clearly unsustainable.
—World Watch Magazine, Vol.7 #6
Strawbale building can help to redress this energy imbalance in the building and construction industry. For example, it costs the environment:
6000 MegaJoules to manufacture 1 tonne of concrete; or
115 MegaJoules to produce 1 tonne of straw — and 1 tonne of straw goes further than 1 tonne of concrete.*
* Calculations performed by Richard Hoffmeister from the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture in Scotsdale, Arizona.
Huff ‘n’ Puff Constructions run regular workshops in many regions of Australia. You can learn all the fundamentals of strawbale building by actually doing it. Please contact us, or fill in the online enrolment form to secure a place. (See the Home page for more contact details.)
Some comments from some of the strawbalers in the Easter workshop in Ganmain:
“Thank you. I have changed my mind five times in three days. So many ideas!” Sam and Steve from Parkes
“Brilliant! Now we can plan!” Herb and Jenny from Balmain and Canowindra
“I will definitely be building load-bearing strawbale with earthen render.” Tony from Preston Victoria
Our workshops feature discussion on and hands-on experience with:
strawbale wall systems: pre-stressed, load-bearing, bale in-fill and hybrid methods
bale characteristics: weight, size and modifying the bales; moisture, types of straw etc.
foundations: matching foundations to the building site and conditions
door and window openings: different methods
bale-wall finishes: plasters and rendering
electrical and plumbing: electrical wiring and plumbing requirements for strawbale building.
Typical agenda for a five-day workshop
Load-bearing versus bale in-fill; low-cost footings and foundations; engineering details
Bottom and top plates; window and door framing; wall raising
Wall systems; council requirements; Australian test results
Windows and door fitting; pre-compression
Power point slide straw bale building show. Shows many straw bale buildings in Australia from chook sheds to wineries and of course homes of beauty.
Design parameters for strawbale; roofing for strawbales; render theory: cement, lime and earth
Our costs have not risen for five years of running workshops around Australia. We can keep the costs pegged for a short while, and your investment is still only$500 (includes GST) per person for three days, $550 (includes GST) per person for four days, or $605 (includes GST) per person for the full five days. This includes smoko, lunch and afternoon tea every day.
You will need to send a 50% deposit to confirm your registration (see the Home page for contact details). But please book early. Our workshops are very popular, and a booking with a deposit will take precedence over bookings without a deposit.
Our public liability insurance premiums have just doubled! So we are going to have look at raising our workshop fees at some stage sooner than later. This is unavoidable, and I am told we are lucky to get public liability insurance for this type of activity. We expect the rise to take place sometime in 2009.
Straw is generally a waste product and is mostly burnt by farmers, causing carbon dioxide production and hence an increase in greenhouse gases. These gases are responsible for heating up the planet’s atmosphere.
Straw burning causes air pollution through smoke and particulate emission. For example:Every 1 million tons of straw burned releases 56 000 tons of carbon dioxide.
• In the USA 200 million tons of waste straw are produced every year. • Annual straw burning in California alone produces more carbon dioxide and particulate than all the electric power generating plants in the state combined. This air pollution has prompted the California’s Air Resources Board to initiate the process of prohibiting this burning.
California Agricultural Magazine, Vol. 45 #4 (July/Aug 1991)
It is estimated that during one year in New South Wales alone rice farmers burn over 600 000 tonnes of rice straw, releasing 30 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide and 2 000 tonnes of particulate directly in to the atmosphere. Clearly the potential is enormous • Using strawbales for building could be useful in the effort to control global warming and atmospheric deterioration. • Removal of straw from the rice fields would substantially reduce methane emission from microbial decomposition. • Building with straw could significantly reduce the demand for native timber in houses so prevalent in the timber-consuming construction methods of today. • Strawbale building eradicates the need to use paints and solvents that adversely affect the atmosphere and human health.
If you built a conventional home that is one-third the size (say 130 square metres) of the madness described on the ‘Designing and building small’ page, out of conventional unsustainable materials, your building will obviously be far more sustainable. However, if you now choose to build the 130 square metre home from rubble trench footing, earthen floors, strawbale walls rendered with clay, and a roof made from bamboo with recycled corrugated iron, now you are talking.
Now if you decide to build several small pavilions and join them together with covered, and in some cases enclosed, walkways you will be able to use the low cost method of loadbearing strawbale walls. I would suggest that each pavilion is less than 50 square metres each.
You now need to look at what you need from a home. Without the use of a designer or architect you can start to plan your own home without someone else influencing your dream. Once you have established your needs then use a draftsperson or architect to draw up your plans for council approval.
“On the 31st of May, ten years of dreams and plans began to come to fruition as the cars arrived and the bleary eyed but infinitely keen workshop participants donned their name tags. Within an hour, the first bales were being carried to the slab, and had begun to be laid under the watchful eyes of Susan and John and the teary eyes of a very happy home builder! Not to mention the incredulous eyes of the townsfolk as the saw a haystack transformed into a house…in a weekend! By the end of day two, the top plate had begun to be lifted into place and secured. WOW.
It is hard to find the right superlatives to adequately reward Susan and John for their guidance and instruction through this time but I will try. From the extensive phone calls that despite my best efforts at disorganisation, missed no preparatory detail, to the masterful and respectful control of the site that they exercised at their arrival, the project was always going to be a raging success, and it was. No stone unturned, every participant individualised and catered for, every question answered, the builder on site respected and valued, again WOW. It is a wonderful thing to see true professionals at work.
I would highly recommend Susan and John to anyone who wishes to build Straw bale, and am loving my home more with each passing day. Despite the radical and pioneering nature of the project of this area, have never for a second had cause to regret the decision to build in this way.
Thank you Susan, Thank you John, my beautiful children and I thank you for our wonderful home.”
Huff ‘n’ Puff Straw bale Constructions is a unique construction company — as well as building in straw bale, we also offer consulting, drafting and engineering services as well as workshops in straw bale building technology. We provide a professional service to our clients. Have a look at our Projects page to see some of the beautiful buildings we’ve constructed around Australia, and what’s involved in our workshops. And if you’re keen to get your hands dirty, get masses of information and tips on straw bale building, or if would just like to have a go, take a look at our Workshops page to see what’s involved.
We look forward to meeting some of you in 2008 and 2009 at our workshops and helping as many of you who want to live in a beautiful straw bale home that is sustainable and provides you with comfort, low cost and love.
Come to one of our workshops and see how your choice of material and the design of your new building can make a real significant difference to global warming. It is probably the most important reason that we build in straw bales. Our own straw bale home does not have any air conditioning nor do we have any heaters for winter. Not only that but we built our own 300 square metre pavilion home for less than Aussie $50,000.
Jumbo Straw Bale Nalawala Community Hall in Fairfield. Fairfield City Council Embraces Green Straw Bale Building Technology. Huff and Puff are very proud to have been associated with the Fairfield City Council and Tracy Graham, the building designer, from Envirotecture.
News from Tracy Graham the designer of the Nalawala Community Hall.
“I was ecstatic on Saturday night to win a commendation award from the Building Designers Association NSW for Nalawala (Public Buildings category) I’m ever so proud and very lucky to have be involved with the project. It would not have been possible without everyone involved. Thanks and I hope to head over for a visit soon and have lunch inside its cool space.”
Tracy Graham 14th November 2008.
The Nalawala Community Hall
Opening Day 2008
The Main Entrance Large bales and small bales make up this building.