Sunday, 23 November 2008


In the latter half of my weeks holiday I have been scheming. TLB and I went to visit the Sustainability Centre (home of Ben Law's publishers, Permanent Publications) in East Meon yesterday to walk the dog and see what sort of projects they currently have going on.

Our friendly farmer popped in just before we left to ask if we could pick up any literature about reed bed filtration systems whilst we were there and this got me thinking. It turns out that they are planning to build a new shower block for campers next year and they would like to do it with an environmentally sustainable twist. At the moment they are thinking about turf roofed semi subterranean buildings and are starting to think about planning permission and the best technologies to do this.

To my surprise, when we arrived at the sustainability centre they were in the process of building a shower block to service their own campers. There are a few yurts on site with hard standings and a few other projects in various stages of completion. A large pile of solar water heating units were stacked up next to the shower block ready for installation and one of the managers of the on site hostel informed me that they had the instruction manual and a little expertise and were going to wing it and see how they got on. Admirable.

The construction of the shower block was from straw bales with a south facing slanted roof, a design which I thought would be perfect for our farmer. The merits of building with straw bales are many but the main benefits to my mind are that they are very cheap and very quick to construct. With a little know how and a lot of effort it would be possible to knock up a straw bale house (or shower block) in no time.

I do not have the know how to be able to design and build such a thing but they sound like really useful skills to have so my plan is this: I intend to find a suitable teacher to run a course on straw bale construction. The course will be a week or so, or maybe split over a few weekends (to be honest I have no idea yet). The course would be spent building the shower block with eager volunteer aspirants like myself doing a lot of the hard work and learning how it is done in the process. The farmer would pay for materials and enough money to make it worthwhile for the expert, skivvies like me would earn knowledge in exchange for our labours and everyone is a winner. Not forgetting that TLB and I would get a newly souped up ecotastic shower block to make our lives a little easier.

The first stage in the process will of course be to persuade the farmer of what a groovy idea this is and my initial pitch to Mrs farmer was met with enthusiasm, we are in fact going round for tea and cake shortly.


miketually said...

Sounds like a great idea, although it would give away your top secret location.

I'd love to build a house from straw bales, or an extension to the bog-standard modern 3-bed semi-detached box we live in.

There's an education centre near Darlington, the Clow Beck Centre, which runs courses. The link's to a page on the council website, as their official site linked from that page is just redirecting to Google at the moment. I hope this doesn't mean they've gone belly up.

Anonymous said...

For some reason the 3 little pigs come to mind. In more then one way.

I wounder what the H&S reg would be on a straw house. they would never let it happen, but then again what do they let happen?

Happy Building

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