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West Coast Natural Building Conference

WEST COAST NATURAL BUILDING CONFERENCE – APRIL 13-15, 2018

Join CASBA at Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria this Spring (near San Luis Obispo and Hearst Castle) for CASBA's West Coast Natural Building Conference, with a particular focus on fire safe construction and celebrating the women of natural building. Camp Ocean Pines is a seaside retreat featuring strawbale cabins!

Register Here for Early Bird Rates or click on the link in ‘Upcoming Events’ or the calendar on CASBA’s home page.

Keynote Speaker: Art Ludwig

Art is an ecological systems designer with 35 years full-time experience in water, wastewater systems, energy, shelter and human powered transport. His specialty is complex, integrated "systems of systems." He has consulted for the states of New York, California, and New Mexico on water reuse policy and building codes, and given dozens of lectures and workshops. Art has authored numerous articles as well as the books "Water Storage" "Principles of Ecological Design," and "Create an Oasis with Greywater." Several structures he was involved with survived recent wildfires in Santa Barbara and Ojai, and he has much to share on this in particular.

Natural Building Topics: In addition to the themes and panels on affordable strawbale and code updates, this year CASBA will feature greater discussion of cob, clay plasters, natural building schools, energy efficiency, outreach and more!

5x5s and 20x20s: All conference participants may bring digital images to share during the popular Saturday evening slide shows. Limits are 5 images in 5 minutes, or 20 images at 20 seconds each (average).

Conference Planning Ongoing: Their planning committee is working on the final schedule and lining up other workshops and hands-on sessions. If you have an idea for one or would like to volunteer, please contact darles.eaton@gmail.com

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Free House Plans--again!

A couple of years ago, fires swept through Lake County and the Gold Country, where we had projects under construction. We witnessed the  beautiful forest burnt as far as the eye can see, and our heart was saddened to see all the families who lost their homes in that fast moving, relentless fire. At that time we offered architectural house plans to anyone who lost a home in the fire, free of charge. 

Regrettably, even more devastating fires swept through Sonoma, Napa, Butte, Mendocino and Trinity Counties, leaving even more families who now have to put their lives back together.  Skillful Means has several projects very near the fire zones--in Kenwood, Sonoma, Dry Creek, Calistoga and Trinity County, and though the fires lapped close and the areas were evacuated, none of them were damaged. 

These are homes constructed of strawbale covered with plaster, and have excellent fire and seismic resistance, besides being energy efficient. The plans were designed to meet the California Building Code and the Wildland Urban Interface fire regulations. 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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Breaking Ground!

After a wet winter, the site of our house project in the Santa Cruz Mountains has dried enough to begin work on the foundations. Situated at the top of a knoll, the house is curved to take most advantage of a distant ocean view, and to engage with the redwood, pine and oak forest that surrounds the site.  Some adjacent buildings 

 Formwork for the main perimeter walls of straw. At the far left is the stairway to the main floor.

Formwork for the main perimeter walls of straw. At the far left is the stairway to the main floor.

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 A  model of the house design, showing the green-wall garage and fan-shaped roof of the patio room.

A  model of the house design, showing the green-wall garage and fan-shaped roof of the patio room.

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Project on the Other Side

We've begun design on a project, east of Yosemite National Park, in Benton CA.  This week we had the joy of driving through the Park to visit the site during the beauty of fall.  Here are a few pictures from along the way!

......And here is the starting point of our project, a very old bunkhouse that will eventually be the guest house, next to the main house we'll build here.  

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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 were designed to meet the California Building Code and the Wildland Urban Interface fire regulations. 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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