Around the Bend Strawbale House, Pond and Gardens

April 3, 2007

More design choices

Filed under: Strawbale/Energy efficiency — aroundthebend @ 9:40 pm

The house will be bungalow style (see the rendering in the header at the top of the page).   Two workspaces (studio and study) anchor the design and choice of room clustering.


We included an open concept family area (living, dining, kitchen).  We also have designed a guest bedroom with its own bathroom. Ceiling height will be 9 feet for most of the living spaces and 8 feet for the utility, hallways, bathroom and kitchen areas.


There are no load bearing interior walls.  We did design one interior curved strawbale wall. The rest are standard stud walls (possibly some with sound barrier design).

Other energy efficiency choices

Filed under: Strawbale/Energy efficiency — aroundthebend @ 8:30 am

It has become clear over the last number of months that being energy-efficient (and building a house in general) is all about choices.   Trying to achieve perfection in energy-efficiency and environmental responsibility will either involve enormous amounts of capital costs or enormous amounts of daily time.  You need to pay attention to construction details and choices for efficiency; you need to think about your heating sources and the fuels used and their impact on the environment; you have to think about your use of (maybe production of) electricity and thus the appliances you choose; you need to think about your location and transportation costs to daily activities.


Rather than perfection, however, trying to be as environmentally responsible as possible, and stretching ones imagination as to what is possible, is more likely for most people.  That is what we tried to do in making the choices we did. We wanted to build as energy-efficiently as possible, within reasonable cost parameters.  We also didn’t want to have to work too hard at “making the house work” once it was built, i.e. too much fussing with fuel, cutting wood, adjusting systems, etc.


So beyond the strawbale choice, these have been some of our choices:

  •  South orientation: the house will be T- shaped with a long rectangle shape facing true south or slightly south east.   The garage is the leg of the T to the north, protecting the house.  Passive solar design with thermal mass incorporated into floors and some walls. 

  • High-quality fibreglass framed windows, with low-e argon, and distributed as per Daniel Chiras’ The Solar House —   south facing:10-12% of total floor space; north and east: 4%; west: 2%

  •  Exposed stamped and coloured floor, with radiant heating, frost-protected foundation

  • Hip style truss roof with steel roofing (long-lasting and recyclable). We have included a 36” overhang for the south wall especially for summer solar protection, but also rain protection for the plaster walls.  Matching overhang for the rest of the structure.

  • Air-lock style entries

  • Insulated doors all around

  • A porch on the south side, integrated into the roof structure of the house.  It will have removable windows (used in cool weather as a sun room and airlock), leaving a screened porch for warmer (and buggy) weather.

  • We have opted for now to go with electrically heated hot water for our radiant floors.  We’ll sign on to a small environmentally friendly electicity producer.  With our strawbale house, we hope our heating needs are quite low.  (See the “insulation alert” post at this blog).

Why strawbale?

Filed under: Strawbale/Energy efficiency — aroundthebend @ 8:24 am

When weGreg and Marlene’s addition began to plan a new house, we wanted to make it as energy-efficient as possible.  There are many ways to do so.  

As we explored the options, we decided that we really liked the idea of a strawbale house.  Friends had built an addition on to their urban house in Kitchener, Ontario (see the picture).  We visited some other strawbale houses around Ontario.  We bought the “bible” for strawbale building in our climate, More Strawbale Building.  We joined the Ontario Strawbale Building Coalition (OSBBC) and found an enthusiastic community of strawbale builders and home owners.  We took the leap.

When we say “strawbale house” we mean only that strawbales will form the insulation of our house and shape some of the design and aesthetics of the house.  We did not opt for a house where the bales form the actual load bearing structure.   Ours will be a modified post-and-beam structure with bales on edge as in-fill between the posts.  The walls are then plastered inside and outside as the finish (with appropriate detailing to ensure the structural and energy-efficiency integrity of the walls). 

There a number of good reasons to choose a strawbale home, including energy-efficiency.  See some of them are described by Harvest Homes; we like especially the high insulation, low embodied-energy, renewable resource, and do-it-yourself elements.  And the worries that some people have about mice, fire, etc are answered effectively by the folks at Camel’s Back Construction. They are the ones who also wrote the “bible” described above.” Here’s an excerpt which introduces strawbale building and the book.

 The OSBBC has a listing of over 75 strawbale homes in Ontario, and there is an international strawbale registry with over 1200 listings.

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