[Strawbale] design ideas or possible facilitators

Michelle Moore cupri at yahoo...
Mon Feb 19 00:32:33 CET 2007

I'm posting this to multiple groups so please forgive the coss-posting.  I'm with the Eco Learning Center in Traverse City MI (www.ecolearningcenter.org) and we've begun one project and plan to start others this summer.  We're looking for people with expertise in natural building who might be willing to lead one or more weekend workshops at the ELC.  If you're interested, send me you're contact information and a little information about your past strawbale experience.
We've begun the backbone for the first structure.  The frame of the structure is an old metal corn crib.  It has a metal roof and steel mesh walls.  There is a rubble foundation with a 2 foot rock wall on top, outside the steel mesh, to put the straw bales on to keep them out of the snow.  The bales can be tied to the steel mesh on the inside and with bamboo on the outside.  The existing roof has no overhang so we've had some different ideas on how to protect the walls.
One idea was to put a deck-like thing at the top, above the top bales.  This deck would go all the way around and would be water-proofed much like a roof (which would, in essence, be it's first purpose).  If anyone has any design ideas for this kind of setup, we'd be glad of your suggestions.  There will be a frame on the inside and it will be divided into two levels w/ 6 foot cielings and a small loft in the top (from which one can exit onto the deck if this is what we end up doing).  The floor of the second level will be steel mesh to allow airflow.  It will be used for hanging and drying herbs.  I'm relaying all of this second hand so if you have more specific questions, ask me and I'll get the answers.
We'll be building two larger buildings over the next couple of summers as well.  The first of the larger buildings will be a bioshelter for all-season growing, small animal housing, and composting.  We'd like to try to build it in two sections.  The first will be the rear shed/animal keeping/composting area which will be at the ground level.  The side facing the south will be part rock for solar gain because it will eventually become the back wall of the front greenhouse section.  We'd like to set the greenhouse section about 4 feet into the ground to increase winter insulation and height.
We'd like to build the third building with strawbale and tires or some other natural or recycled materials.  It will be set into a hill.  The lower level will have four small dorm-type units to house future interns and volunteers.  The second level will have a common area/library/kitchen.
All of this will be off-the-grid with solar and wind and will be heated using passive solar techniques and radiant heat using a wood boiler or combination of wood and solar hot water.  We don't want to use energy intensive materials like portland cement.  We'd like to collect rainwater, and have a pond and or flow-forms for treating greywater.
Again...design ideas or interest in facilitation are welcome.  Facilitators will work closely with the director of the ELC and lead volunteers and three highly energetic Ukrainian-American teenage employees through the construction process.  The ELC is on a fabulous spirit-lifting piece of land that overlooks Grand Traverse Bay in beautiful northern Michigan.  It's a small CSA operation and a center for learning about sustainable living.  We'd like to stick as close as possible to low-energy intensive natural and recycled/reusable materials.  We have clay on-site (~30% in the soil).
You can write to me at cupri at yahoo... or info at ecolearningcenter....  Thanks for your time!
Michelle Moore, Secretary
Eco Learning Center

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