[Strawbale] prefab strawbale (RT)

Max Vittrup Jensen max at permalot...
Tue Sep 15 21:15:50 CEST 2009

Dear Rob Tom,

I'm only daring to answer as I long have been appreciating your answers 
and admiring your knowledge and wit.
Let me start out by saying that I share your opinion against 'prefab', 
mainly due to the added Embodied Energy in the process, and that I fully 
believe in keeping strawbale building open to self-builders, which is 
part of why you find me on the board of Natural Building Network

However, this said, then I'd like to admit that I'm gradually changing 
my view on prefab, and I recommend you to view it less exclusively.
I live in Europe where weather conditions are less than favourable for 
SB building, and often labour costs are high. Traditions for very fast 
and effective building approaches are strong, the concept of 'self 
builder' are not always known in some countries. Sad, but true: people 
are alienated from what's natural to most creatures!

I strongly believe in trying to 'save the world', and I don't believe 
we're doing it by staying building with small bales in the way it's been 
happening the past 20 years or so. Personally I see a huge potential in 
the modern approach of 'Big Bale Building' (BBB), as seen in Denmark, 
Germany and Switzerland...others? (www.atelierwernerschmidt.ch, 
www.strohhaus.de). Being able to build a 'raw' house in one week kicks bum!

At the recent ESBG09 I learned about the approaches of prefab panels 
used in Germany, Holland and Austria, and I had to accept that it wasn't 
all that bad... In the case of Dirk Scharmers approach it was done in a 
nearby barn, by members of the ecovillage where it would be build. It 
was made with massive wood; studs and boards, and normal bales. It 
allowed for a lot of building during the wet season, a much safer work 
situation, and cut down costs quite a bit. The Dutch approach were quite 
different, as the modules were made all the way in Romania, however the 
reasoning was that any wood in Holland usually came from further afield; 
the only forests in Holland seem to be gone up in smoke..)

Many of your points will be quite easy for the pre-panel proponents to 
dismiss, and I better leave it to them; I mean, it's clear that the 
panels are made to fit specific designs and so on...
Another issue is the European approach to develop a 'Building Bale'. It 
is an issue of much debate, and I was likewise worried about it. However 
now I have to admit that the people I know who's working with it, are 
very conscientious of making it an 'open source' technology, as well as 
doing their best to ensure that it will not be the only one legal to 
build with. These people have my trust, and I recognize the need for 
industry to have such standards...(as long as I still can make my own 
bales and build with them!)

All what I'm trying to say is not to eliminate/alienate those of our 
colleagues who are taking some steps to enlarge SB building to the 
'mainstream'. How many percent does 'owner-builder' represent in the 
consuming world? 5%? I'm eager in making SB building an attractive offer 
for the ...60%..  : The mainstream having a dream of a new low energy 
and healthy home...
I do hope these homes will be of BBB, and not prefab, however the 
prefab's are a lot better than the standard houses I see shooting up 
everywhere here in Czech Republic, and may be only SB option due to 
regulations not allowing for load-bearing SB houses yet in all countries...

But thank you for a provocative mail! Always refreshing!

Max Vittrup Jensen
M.S. Environmental Management
PermaLot Centre of Natural Building; www.permalot.org
+Co-Director, Natural Building Network; www.nbnetwork.org
>    1. Re:  prefab strawbale (RT)

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