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Remodeling a Home with Straw Bales

2 day workshop June 3-4 in Palo Alto, California

Join the California Straw Building Association’s upcoming workshop in one month.

Participants will learn how to wrap an existing stud framed house with straw bales. Participate in stacking bales and apply the base layer of earth plaster to the exterior of a house that is mid-renovation. There will be a balance of instruction time and hands-on experience. 

Learn from contractor, Rebecca Tasker, from Simple Construct and architect, David Arkin, from Arkin Tilt Architects will be the lead educators. The natural building world is constantly evolving and this is a new method of building with straw bales and earth plaster.

For more information visit http://www.strawbuilding.org/event-2506580

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Dragon's Nest

In the oaken hills of ranch country, where bears roam and horses gently graze the grassy slopes, a sweet farming couple builds their house out of windows and strawbales.  

Skillful Means worked with the owners to design this house over the past year. An open house layout is quartered off to create a bedroom, kitchen, pantry and living room with a sweeping view of Grandpoint Mountain.  

At the heart of the house is a large hearth that supports an array of radial, exposed beams, and also provides long-term thermal storage. Outside, a breezeway connects a small guest cottage and gym to the house for visiting family.  This house features a green roof, radiant heating in the floors, and photovoltaic solar energy.

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Curved Hilltop Abode

We are excited to see this house designed last year go up in 2017!  Located at the top of a mountain and overlooking a garden and dance studio, with a distant view of the ocean.  

This home will feature curved strawbale walls and clay plaster with a green roof. A clearstory admits the sun's heat in winter and shines sunlight onto the gently curved interior wall.  

Three bedrooms open into a wide south-facing great room.  On one end of the house, a vestibule entrance brings guests up the hillside and into the house and also offers a quiet greenhouse space for meditation. On the other end, a sunroom and workshop open onto a patio nestled into the hillside.   

This “Hilltop Abode” will run on solar energy. Radiant floor heating will be fed by solar thermal panels. Coming soon!

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Groundbreaking for a Chapel.

Sunday we enjoyed a blessing and groundbreaking ceremony for a round strawbale chapel we are building near Tracy, California., for the Verbum Dei Seeds of Life Spirituality Center.

We were blessed by cool, sunny weather for an outdoor mass.  Members of the community, and our crew, then wrote short prayers on leaves, which were then tossed into the footings to rest under the concrete foundation.

 

The final bit of water as a blessing...

The final bit of water as a blessing...

Members of the community gathered around the round foundations.

Members of the community gathered around the round foundations.

The Father blessed the footings and ground.

The Father blessed the footings and ground.

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Police Station of Straw

This summer we completed the strawbale and plaster portion of an addition to the City of Union City Police Station.

Since the addition was located in the parking lot of the station, we were treated to a wide variety of comments about the Police Station of Straw from the policemen as they walked to and from their squad cars... Many were baffled at first, but as the work progressed and the walls took shape they became more and more interested, and even enthusiastic.

One of the policemen offered his target for display :)

Parking lot at the police station

South face under as the bales are in place and lathing is beginning.

Looking down the side wall to the main building.

The completed straw police building.

The addition was designed by Indigo Architects of Davis, California, and Argo Construction of San Francisco was the General Contractor.

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Free Strawbale House Plans

Today we drove through Lake County on our way to a house project and witnessed the devastation first hand. It’s hard to look out on the vast mountain-scape and see that beautiful forest burnt as far as the eye can see. My heart goes out to all those families who lost their homes in that fast moving, relentless fire, and to those who now have to put their lives back together. We would like to offer architectural house plans to anyone who lost a home in the fire, free of charge. 

These are homes constructed of strawbale covered with plaster, and have excellent fire and seismic resistance, besides being energy efficient. The plans all meet the California Building Code and the Wildland Urban Interface fire regulations, and can be submitted for permitting quickly. Please take a look at the plans on our website (http://www.skillful-means.com/house-plans/) and let us know if we can help you. Feel free to contact us with any questions office@skillful-means.com.

 

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Strawbale Work Party!!

Skillful Means is building a house in the country, and we held a work party for friends and family of the owners.  Here's a video slide show!

 Brief explanation: It's a load-bearing house, and so it's important that the bales are set tight together in the wall, so we've used a light mud 'butter' between the bales to fill any gaps or spaces.  We mixed a lot of mud--much to the delight of kids and adults alike! 

(designed by Darrel DeBoer, engineered by Darcy Donovan)


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