Leaving & Arriving

Though I am sad to be leaving the people I know behind. I am thrilled at the thought to further my learning of natural building, and have the opportunity to work on projects that all the stake holders can be excited & passionate about. All Packed & ready to go!

So After leaving Plymouth at 3pm I quickly made my first stop when the van started filling up with smoke, only 10 miles into the journey….. Turns out the exhaust was resting on the wood siding of the van. Hot Exhaust + wood panel = very concerned man & dog. After putting out the fire at the side of the road, I limped to an industrial estate to have a better look. Fornatuarly all the tool where in the van, so I could quickly make an emergency repair (hole) so it wouldn’t happen again. 

The rest of the journey went with out a hitch, although a bit slow. We eventually managed to arrive at the build site by 10pm. To a warm welcome and a beautiful clear night. But it wasn’t until the next day I could truly appreciate the view.

All starts tomorrow! 

Crisis or Opportunity?

People say the Chinese word for crisis and opportunity are the same. Today I got to put this to the test. The crisis being the plastic handle broke on my fridge, locking me out of the tasty treats inside.

The opportunity to practice my hazel pins making skills learnt with Straw Works and create a new beautiful handle out of some drift wood. So armed with an axe, knife & a drill, this is what I was left with. 

 I’m really pleased with the results, and feel a bit proud not just of my ‘craft skills’. But also to have a ‘make do & mend’ attitude, rather than a ‘throw away’ attitude.

AECB PassiveHaus Cornwall

On the 27th July 2016 I attended an AECB event visiting a Passivehaus in the construction phase. I was a huge contrast to the Straw Bale build I had been at only days before. Whilst both can claim to be ‘stainable’ forms of construction; Passivehaus due to its high insulation, and low energy use over the lifetime of the building and high level of fresh air. Straw bale due to the high insulation, carbon dioxide locked into the building materials themselves, and the use of natural materials that promote a health environment.

Notice the extra level of detail / components / chemicals involved in achieving a higher level of air tightness. Only to then be reliant on mechanical ventilation….. Whilst it is true that you save energy during the heating of finished building. I can’t help but wonder about the all the embodied energy involved in the construction phase. How would it compare to that of a Straw bale building?  Though in theory the straw bale is going to be slightly less efficient in terms of heating of the finished building. It does however have less embodied energy during the construction phase, and could be argued actually locks up carbon dioxide during the construction phase.

Unfortunately I don’t have the figures, but I would also be very interest to learn of the cost comparison of a Passivhaus vs a straw bale house. I can’t help to think that the extra materials & level of detail required to achieve the Passivehaus standard are going to have an impact on your wallet.


Both have their merits, and people will always have their own preference to which they prefer. However I certainly know when one I would rather live in…

Straw works The First bale course Southampton

Between the 20th-24th July 2016 I was lucky enough to attend ‘Straw Works’ ‘The First bale’ course near Southampton. Barbara Jones & her team where fantastic, they answered my many questions, and more importantly restored my faith in the construction industry. It was such a refreshing experience to be on a building site that promoted equality, enabled everyone to learn & contribute, whilst promoting health, natural, robust, beautiful buildings. What a contrast to your stereotypical building site!

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We learnt the theory and saw first-hand what a good ‘set of boots’ (foundations) looks like.

We learnt how to make hazel ‘stubs’ & lay the first course of bales.

We learnt how to trim & modify bale to our requirements.


We progressed laying our straw bale courses and learnt best practice for pinning & securing the bales.

The people that made it sure a great experience.