When we decided to add an Airbnb cottage to our house in Berry it was a perfect chance to apply a whole range of the natural building techniques I had been studying for the last few years.
But in the Berry region back in 2014, natural building techniques still had a hippy image- we wanted to show off the environmental benefits of strawbale construction techniques in a design that better suited the architectural sensibilities of our clients.
Time to rope in friends and family to help us build a demonstration home in the side paddock! Here’s the short-form how-to guide to strawbale construction.
Assemble the frame of the cottage with salvaged timber beams placed on top of concrete strip footings
Finish the form with the addition of a simple timber framed hip roof.
Balance the tough tasks with the fun ones! Here we excavate the clay to soak in water for a few weeks whilst constructing an onsite dam from the pit.
Now the prep is done- ask your friends over for a weekend working bee! Start by stacking the standard size rice straw bales on their long side in between the post and beam frame.
To lock in the form for the walls, tension the bales by threading straining wire through each bale and then use a timber plank to evenly compress the bales and tie off at the correct tension.
Mix the clay with sand and straw chaff until the consistency easily adheres to the straw bale walls.
Apply a layer of renderers mesh to the wet clay before adding a second layer of a clay with a higher ratio of sand to the walls.
When dry, apply a finishing coat of clay render with a high ratio of fine wash sand to the walls.
Finish the walls with a layer of clay based paint on the inside, whilst on the outside finish with a waterproof lime render.
Survey your handiwork and get ready to launch the cottage as a thriving holiday cottage on Airbnb!