Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Handmade Houses
by Jo Rebeka

The discussion of alternative building techniques and cob building in particular inspired me to post these links about of a project I helped to work on, building a tiny house for my friend Sally out "light straw clay." This material is a straw/clay mixture that is about 90% straw. It uses 1/3 less straw than a comparable straw bale dwelling, and because the bales are cut open and the straw fluffed and mixed with a thin mud, the resulting material to be packed into the forms is pretty light and easy to handle, like a wheelbarrow full of coleslaw. The insulation value is better than a straw bale house. The entire exterior and interior MUST be plastered with adobe or similar material. The exposed straw clay walls would not be durable at all in weather.

About half the crew was middle-aged gals who were not in particularly great shape. We divided the tasks by fitness levels, and a few parts were challenging (mostly building the frame) .... but, overall, it took a lot of energy but not a lot of strength to do the work. The bulk of the project was completed working 3 or 4 weekend days per month, by a crew of no more that 4 or 5 people on any given day. The thrill of helping build a home with a group of friends is something everyone should experience at least once in life. If you don't want to build your own home, look around for someone who wants help building theirs. Or even volunteeer for Habitat for Humanity, though their building porjects are probably not so alternative-minded. I guarantee you won't regret it!

These pages on my site show interior and exterior shots when the house was bascially complete.


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