This is where the project had got to before this blog picks up the story.
We have an old 1960s concrete block cowshed / pigsty which we wanted to turn into a two bedroom holiday let. Unfortunately the foundations of this building have failed (a concrete raft that has cracked) making it impossible to do anything with the existing structure other than knock it down and try and recycle as much as possible of its materials.
This lead us to think about what sort of new structure we could create, particularly one that was innovative and sustainable and a straw bale building seemed the obvious solution because:
- it is cheap to build compared to conventional structures that use either a lot of wood and/or blockwork
- it is relatively easy to build (provided you educate yourself on the basic design and build principles), thus making it possible to do quite a lot of the work ourselves
- it is very sustainable, in terms of the energy efficiency of the end result and the low embodied energy costs of the materials being used (i.e. lots of straw, no cement).
So we drew-up a very basic design and talked to the local planning department, the conservation officer (because the property is Grade 2 listed) and Building Control (just to make sure they wouldn’t freak-out). We then typed ‘straw bale building how to’ into Google and very quickly discovered that the Straw Works site and the associated book by Barbera Jones sit at the centre of everything you need to know about straw bale building in the UK. And finally we got an architectural technician involved in making a bit more sense of our plans and lined-up a builder, who is happy to give advice and get hands-on where the skills of a reasonably competent DIYer reach their limit.
So now we are at the point of assembling the information required for the planning application and sitting down with the builder to have a more detailed conversation about schedules, materials and costings. And this is where posts will pick-up the story…