[Strawbale] Hurt Herbert and the future of strawbale building

Piet Jensen piet at pandabygg...
Thu Sep 1 10:06:34 CEST 2011

Tom Peeters, I can only agree with you: This is a unworthy quarrel, which we should avoid on our common nettside!
Constructive criticism are ok, but not personal.
Both sides has had there plead, now go back to your strawballs and keep quiet!
At the same time I’ll like to promote, that ESBG in the future should be for professinals only. Then I might consider to join again.
Piet Jensen, Norway

From: Tom Peeters 
Sent: Thursday, September 01, 2011 9:07 AM
To: Max at PermaLot... ; European strawbale building discussions 
Subject: Re: [Strawbale] Hurt Herbert and the future of strawbale building

      *sighs heavily - the humanity - sighs heavily again*

      Can we please stop this game of people-bashing and act like adults,...please

      *sighs heavily, yet again*

      Architect Tom Peeters 

      --- On Thu, 9/1/11, Max Vittrup Jensen <Max at PermaLot...> wrote:

        From: Max Vittrup Jensen <Max at PermaLot...>
        Subject: [Strawbale] Hurt Herbert and the future of strawbale building
        To: strawbale at amper....muni.cz
        Date: Thursday, September 1, 2011, 12:14 AM

        Dear all and Herbert,

        Herbert, in brief: I feel pity for you.

        At length: Here's some more significant omission from your mail.

Some personal remarks on the so-called european strawbale gathering 2011 inthe sleepy village Bouzov-Podoli (CZ)With representatives from about 22 countries and from all shades of SB building, I do believe it qualifies as an ESBG, right?

My first day in BP:This is the significance: You forget to mention that you first arrived on the Thursday; The day before the conference. Thereby you didn't get any introduction to the place or the event, you obviously didn't ask anyone else, and hence your mail is emancipated by judgments and wrong conclusions. 
        To me it seems that the fundamental underlying cause of your mail is that you were not on the list of presenters for the conference, and that at 1:20 at night you refused to turn out your cigarette, even when asked 4 times. You were sitting 1 meter from a pile of loose straw, under a flamable tent, bringing a huge risk to people and property. Significantly you were smoking with people who had been told several times that this was our central rule: No smoking beyond the camp fires. We had also very clearly asked people to 'police' among yourself, that we would much prefer not to have that role.  You refused to turn it out, and I ripped it out of your hand and subsequently closed down the bar due to such behavior. You were extremely close of being kicked out of the property, but I showed leniency and didn't.

        So lets look at your accusations.

 imagine coming to a place where permaculture is thething. That?s fine by me, but in this case it literally meanseco-puritanism. I"m afraid you're not aware about my two Land Rovers, tractor, chain saw and power tools?

The only room for presentations - a tiny teahouse I beg to differ: There was a large tent with room for 100 people. We had sides ready to be put on if necessary. We had 2 beamers available and 2 large monitors. Another place to show digital images could have been in the area we used as internet cafe; has housed 30 people at other times for film/slides. Perhaps the most significant issue is that there was not much of a request, hence using the cottage was the chosen place for the limited occasions. I suppose you didn't arrive for the Passive house discussion in the big tent?  One of the big monitors were in use there; again, being a 'full' participant could have done a lot of difference to your mail.

(and this also means no coffee anywhere) At any given time there was about  20 L. of hot water and coffee ready to mix in it. Personally I complained to the cook about this way of serving unfiltered coffee, but it comes down to "When in Rome, do as the Romans", and this is a very normal way for Czechs to drink their coffee. But I guess you were not present when the coffee table was announced? (It was 4 meters from where you sat and smoked later).

with a sunken roof because of the abundant vegetation on it,Not quite. Fano had unmounted some boards in order to put new prettier ones on it. Unfortunately Fano got busy with other more important ESBG issues, and it didn't get done. I'm sorry it looked worse than ever during ESBG.

 that you have to enter with a deep bow and some deep respect of mother nature. A big bump on the head reminded me: tree-trunks are harder than my skull,Perhaps you should take it as a reminder of the several mails, where we have mentioned we have a forest kindergarten? Kind of make sense for me that a hosue for children is dimensioned according to kids, right?  The doors are 175 cm tall, very few people are not observant to notice this fact; apparently you chose to find out the hard way.

 maybe because I had not taken off my shoes before entering. The purpose of the building (100 % ecological of course, made of trunks,earth and maybe a little straw) Once again: WRONG. It is a straw bale building, made of 4 big bales, with about 40 small bales on top of the big bales, as well as one wall section made from small bales. Only the South facing wall is from rocks with cob infill, as is the rocket mass oven. The cottage was started at an European Natural Building Colloquium; Noe, Tom Rijven, Elke Cole, Cristo Markham, Sara Tommerup, Tony Wrench, Paulina Wojzicowska and many others all took part and added their touch to it.

became quite clear: it?s a stresstest onwhat earthen walls really can do for indoor-climate. No ventilation,???  I suppose you didn't look up and notice that the roof of the tower tips and allow for cross ventilation from the door?

 noelectricity, There's 2x100 volt electricity supplying all the light necessary for the 12 LED bulbs inside. There's also a small inverter available for a notebook PC. Yes, when we need a projector we pull an extension from our house; is that a problem for you?

no windows to be opened, and now you may multiply like 30people in a room for 20 with the 36 ?C it had on this day, add a lot ofsweat and you come to the result, that it?s possible to build 100 %ecological even with almost no money and without architects and building
physicians. At least if you don?t intent to use the building for longer thanthe 2 minutes we humans survive without breathing.Central issue to this is that so many people have pointed out to me that the building works extremely well in ensuring a cool temperature during hot days of summer (should do with the large overhang, earth floor and 60 compact straw insulation!

Apropos shoes: We wouldn?t have needed them at all because of the heat, butoutside the teahouse we had to decide whether to walk on crushed stone withbare feet (and get rid of this softening overcivilised attitude of us petty
urbans) or slip back in our dampening footwear.Now, is this a complaint that our local quarry has crushed gravel? That we chose to use this gravel on the sloped driveway outside the cottage, as otherwise we could never get a vehicle up the hill? I'm afraid you forget to mention that at the flat area where the dining area were we had nice river polished gravel for your feet...

Nature was the big theme on this 'ESBG', but even the wasps (which seemed togather here from all over Czech Republic) knew that and so they decided topopulate the vegetarian feeding places in crowds and followed the food and
drinks to the tables. This was the next lecture to learn to live inaccordance to mother nature. And if you count those nice little creatures asvisitors (why not?), this ESBG was the best visited ESBGs of all time.
This is very correct, a very kind Austrian biologist who arrived to help prepare the ESBG explained how the wasps are aware that they will soon die, and hence they want to get the last bit of sugar available. I'm sorry we didn't find time to deal with this issue, install electrical zappers (proven to kill 70% beneficial insects), spread agent orange, or whichever other solution you'd prefer.

But who am I to complain: not arriving on the first day saved me fromworking on the wells (yes, really!) to have the pleasure of pipewater. Incorrect again. A few people arrived a day before or early during Tuesday. (We started at 17:00). One of them was Richard who kindly offered his help preparing before the ESBG. He did a great connecting some of the pipes to the new well which had taken 2 different well companies 15 months to make (Welcome to rural Czech Republic; I'm very sorry things don't work like in Austria here). One of the processes which had to happen was to lower a tank into a hole we had escavated, and that hole had to be leveled first. Richard is not a 'spring-chicken' anymore, and asked 2 young strong guys to level the ground and help lower the tank. It is not my impression they had any problem with performing this task?

Cold water was spare, except at the only real refreshing place around,Had you arrived Wednesday afternoon, you would have seen me pumping out massive amounts of cold spring water into the garden/fields? During the Thursday when you arrived all water systems was online and working, which included hot water; heated by our 12 m2 integrated solar collectors, or our DAKON central wood stove, which heats both a 500 and a 300 liter insulated tank: All in all, had you arrived in time to get a tour of the house and property, you may have benefited immensely; Ask the ones who did get the tour during the Open Space session.

 a pond about 3 km astray, which had obviously been overlooked by the eco-puritansand so kept it?s natural beauty.Funny viewpoint. Just for your information: It was made 13 years ago, funded by EU.

Enough; I came here to meet and greet and share and exchange, so let?s cometo that. The programm was very relaxed, it's called ?open space? andsupposedly the latest hype for conferences. Once again: You arrived much too late and missed out on our facilitators presentation of it. You apparently have also forgot that it was included in the ESBG in Sieben Linden back in 2007. And, yes, Open Space has been proven to be an excellent way to avoid the scene of some people being hostage to other peoples ego-trips, when they feel they have to present something to everyone. In this case people are free to go to another venue. I'm sorry such freedom of choice does not appeal to you.

In fact open space means, that nobody feels responsible, because nobody had to follow a schedule or couldeven be sure about what he or she had to present or share. I'm sorry that you didn't notice the poster advartising the 3 x 4(or 5) posted simultanous events happening in 45 minute intervals? Or know that the central rule of Open Space is 'The law of 2 feet'. You may want to read this? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Space_Technology  (It was also forwarded to you when you paid your fee...(remember, the 'early bird' fee you got for signing up in February, but which you first paid on 16th of May, and yet got the discount?)

The majority waswandering around the perimeter, not knowing where to go, what to say orhear.I don't beleive this is true.

 Superfluous to mention the lack of any presentation technique like asilly beamerAgain, 2 beamers and 2 large displays available (One serves as a mobile cinema at festivals). Every workshop convener at the Open Space was asked if they needed IT for presentations; everyone requesting was served.

 (which really doesn't fit to such a low tech area); ????  You're really off here. I work 4-8 hours a day on computers, we own 3+monitor, cameras and most digital equipment you'd imagine. I'm very sorry we don't live up to your accusations and judgements.

we crowdedtogether around some laptops, until their batteries went dead.But let?s have some practice. Only pure naturalists enjoy standing in thebaking, burning sun for more than 5 minutes, not to speak of building
strawbale constructions. But there are always those tougher than the rest.We had 350 m2 of area covered by 3 huge tents, in addition to the 35 m2 cottage and the SB house. All in all it seems to me that anyone wanting to get out of the sun had ample opportunity?

Some were very willing to work with the handmade strawbales, but...When in Rome; do as the Romans. It's well known the CZ bales are of bad quality due to old East German equipment (Farmers tend to buy round bale and big bale machinery when they upgrade). The bales we had was made with such old press 2 km away. Before they were made Kuba had visited the farmer and agreed that he could use them for his workshop. He insisted on compacting them further as part of his educational approach, and his overall sense of quality. It took an hour or two. Do you really seriously believe we should have imported 40 bales for this workshop? Or for making an open bus stop?  

according to the law of Max (I come to that later) one has to begin with thestemming of the lines before the wrapping may begin. ??? I've never even hinted at anything like this, so please don't spread this kind of nonsense to 650 innocent list subscribers. Fact is you never had a conversation with me at ESBG, apart from refusing to turn out your cigarette.

A lecture, that the truth of strawbale-building isn't just fun with bales, but a lot ofpreparing work around. After 15 minutes everybody seemed to know thetechnique of wrapping by watching the stemming and left the place.
I was busy and did not take part of Kuba's workshop. As far as I could see it was always a place of attraction for many people. When you arrived and sat watching there was min. 15 people at the area.

Dusk fell, it was still very warm, and after exchanging a lot ofanger-calming jokes about the ongoing events In other words, about 6 hours after you arrived, 2 days into the ESBG, without any understanding, you're busy back stabbing; isn't that what you describe?

(in the center of which stood?Mad Max?, the ever stressed out, goofylike leader with an annoying cowboyattitude (and hat)),Do you really want me to public describe your looks? Simply try a mirror.

 we found ourselves coming together, enjoying deliciouscold beer and soothing cigarettes (some more natural smokeables) and eachother, celebrating a birthday child with a ?cake? of clay with candles, and
entertaining us with tales of the strawbalers world and about the funnysituation. The local ESBG-team tries always to compensate Max' chaoticmanner and is really nice and friendly, serves some schnaps and (free) beer
to lift the spirit... but it all came to a sudden end with the spontaneousarrival of the 'leader'. Again; I was about 100 meter away, inside an old farm house made from adobe, and at 1:15 on a Thursday night I heard loud screams, and figured I better czech out the situation, afterall, I have to live here with my neighbours, my daughter play with their kids etc. You on the other hand are only here for extremely limited time. In other words, my role what that of the 'host', and yours that of a 'guest'. And after hosting about 3000 guests here, you win the prize for being the worst guest ever.

He prohibits smoking (we sit outside in the openair on a place called 'bar', but according to Max' law we are on astrawbuilding site and everybody knows: don't play with fire when on astrawbuilding-site).This is simply too rediculous. You were 1 meter from the leftovers of Kuba's bale tightening workshop; a 1 meter tall pile of straw with a 5 meter diameter. In a very hot weather period and among lots of people. I will forever view your actions as grossly irresponsible, and not worthy of anyone entitling himself the 'National coordinator of SB building'.

 Because the author of this silly review seems to ignorethe actual seriousness of the situation, Max threatens him to remove himfrom the premises and fetches the lighted cigarette out of his hands. ?What
about the candles?? one dares to ask. You all can surely imagine, that thecake with the candles followed the cigarette immediately into the dust ofthe night.After that lecture in preventing fire on strawbuilding-sites we could have
proceeded smoking, lighting candles and joking but nobody was in any moodfor that anymore. What was told in the minutes before we went to sleep isbetter not be cited.Yes, equals attracts. You had attracted a few other who favoured smoking and back stabbing, rather than pro-active involvement: Congratulations!

But what the hack, the next day would save the event: the big 'Europeanstrawbale conference' which takes place ? oh glory halleluja ? in adifferent location at the townhall in Bouzov (and this means comfortable
toilets, a beamer, windows to open and hopefully no wasps).You are aware that during the past 6 months you've been aware to rent a hotel or pension? Was the toilet seat not comfortable enough for you? Was it better in Sieben Linden? And again; why didn't you ask for any of our 2 beamers, 2 monitors etc, if you had the need?

My second day in Bouzov-Podoli: In preparing the big event some creative newthings were established, e.g. the european networkers, who have broughteuropean strawbale building-efforts to the point, where it is today, had to
present their topics on posters. Once again: WRONG. As majority of whom you refer to as 'European Networkers' are not recognized as such in their own country/or do not network, then we had not especially asked them, and most certainly never asked them to present 'their topics'. We asked the participants of each countries to please make a poster representing SB building in their respective country; a poster which we then had printed and used for a poster exhibition. I'm awfully sorry that you once again feel hurt due to the fact that other Austrians were asked; I view this as a central cause for your overall slander campaign.

Themes of the presentations were edited anddictated to prevent duplication and different views, as a result e.g. awell-known plasterworker didn?t talk about his expertise, but shared somerefreshing notes about his life as a young entrepreneur... an entertaining
presentation in contrast to the usual specialized strawbale-lectures.Eh; WRONG. As part of the www.Ted.com format, we did the best we could to get very consize specialized topics, rather than 'all round'. We had a series of themes. We invited special selected people whom we knew had something significant to contribute with, and whom we beleived would be able to do so in an engaging and enliving manner like at the www.ted.com. This was also the why you were not invited; as a matter of fact; the only 2 presentations which were very diffuse, was the 2 which were not in the planned program, including yours.  In the case of Noe; he never offered to talk about plaster. He accepted our invitation to talk about his fascinating self designed apprenticeship path, which I personally found very stimulating and thought provoking as a contrast to the formal EU funded approach presented right before him. 

The schedule was tight, to say the least. We were at the clock; acountdown-device counted 20 minutes, starting again in the second it reachedzero. Questions were entirely postponed to after the last presentation at 5
pm and exept a lunchbreak and a short break on afternoon we had no pauses atall for questioning or discussions (or smoking:-). A conference without theusual exchange like comparing experiences, sharing knowledge, bringing up
strawbale building by working together. Obviously Max has a completelydifferent viewpoint on that ? no topic was scheduled more than once, so inthe end it was one large heap of puzzle-pieces, only every stone belonged to
a different puzzle...I'm afraid I can't claim the honor of inventing the hugely populate and effective TED.com concept, but thank you for giving me such credit. As for your other misconceptions: Tomas clarified it. He actually spent some 3-4 hours making that 'stop clock App', and it's the central issue why this conference didn't slip so much in time as the Cohabitat did. BTW: Have a look at the TED.Com conferences; they always have such a clock to help keep presenters in line.
        BTW: Have you ever considered that standing in front of the display, reading up what's already projected on the display, and wanting to captivate people for as long as possible to listen to you, may more be due to your need of attention, than due to the desire of the audience? Which of these two elements should as conference serve?

Unfortunately even off the stage it was not possible to learn much, becausewhatever was interesting and not per se understandable in the presentedsystem turned out to be a secret of the inventors. All in all a pleasent
conference-day with concise presentations and without arduous debates...I left immediately after the conference, some of the visitors from Polandand Germany did that immediately after arriving (and clashing with Max),
        I'm afraid I don't recall any clash? The 3 company partners you mention wanted the type of ESBG they had experienced in Belgium, and would likely also have left the ESBG in Sieben Linden or Friland, as they didn't have that 'conference/shephearding' approach which you experience in conference halls. I tried to find out their concern, and all it came down to of facts was that they felt we should have imported German standard bales, and that we shouldn't mix the body coat for the bus stop with our clay-rich soil and local sand, but rather use ready mixes (as their company consequently does).
        Had you stayed a bit longer, you would have experienced a great concert at the castle grounds, a nice farm fair and more workshops, and a farewell circle with about 50 remaining people at 3pm during the Saturday, many with a lot of praise for the organizing and execution of the event...  But once again you chose not to take part.

 butmost of the others persevered, tolerated and outlasted the challenges andinventions because of the big distances to their home-countries, waiting forsomething like a turning point, which didn't come at all.
You generally seem to be projecting your feeling of hurt on a lot of other people?

My conclusion: Certainly it was great to get to know and meet again so manynice people, but if this so-called ESBG is in any way significant for thefuture of the european strawbale building, then good night, european
strawbale building. Whats the purpose of an ESBG? For me, what it always was? sharing knowledge and experiences between all european networkers andstraw bale builders, so that we can go home to our respective countries,
with renewed enthusiasm (which lasted long e.g. after the last BelgianESBG), the reinforced feeling of being part of a movement, fine-tuning nextyears coordination, and some new ideas in the baggage to be spread at home
in workshops. In one word ? bringing forward the case.What you describe above was indeed what we tried to emphasize by using the very successful instruments used at the ESBG in Sieben Linden; the 'World Cafe' and the 'Open Space'. Please notice that you refrained from joining any of those events, refrained from taking anything in, refrained from contributing to making the event, never submitted anything for the conference, and arrived with a seriously bad attitude. BTW: Here's your written promise of June 15th: "I will soon send you my potential conference contribution, thank you for the reminder."  , well, it never came.

This years ESBG paints a threat: a threat of an event advertising theorganiser, ? I hardly feel we took it to the extend of Casa Calida? Yes, we showed which non-profit organisation it is which hosted this ESBG. I believe that's quite 'Kosher'.

abused for the sake of the local/regional strawbale buildingscene alone. You mean; "Also using the ESBG to promote SB in Czech Republic?" Yes, this was a central reason to offer to host the ESBG, and clearly stated in our initial proposal. In addition we asked online as well as among participants for 'deep' topics to the world cafe, topics which then were carried on in the Open Space (which you missed out on).

That leaves the international networkers with the task thatshould be done by the locals: teaching newbies.Not at all. This was not about 'International networkers'. This was about asking the participants to share their skills with each other. Kuba offered his wrap, Tom his C.U.T. (But was hospitalized right before ESBG), Niels showed ramming. Fano Cobbing. Maren and Rikki recognized at the opening circle that some participants would appreciate basic stuff and offered that; Is that so wrong? If so, then please take up that issue with Maren and Rikki, don't blame the ESBG planning/execution.

 Don?t get me wrong, that?san honorable task, and an important one, only why should any internationalexpert pay for that? Experts pay for becoming even greater experts. Ifthere?s just a job to do in which they only give, they should GET at least
paid. Or otherwise simply no one will gather together anymore.This has always been a central issue for me in planning the ESBG. I firmly believe we're all equal, and I wouldn't dream on treating our esteemed Doc. Minke differently than ...say, a Polish architect student. This is also why we chose the approach of simply asking all registered participants if they had something they wanted to present. The Google document where they could offer suggestions, material and tool needs is still online for your to view; the link is in one of the many mails you obviously didn't read.

This is just my opinion, but I think its time to act now and push the nextESBG in a better direction....Yes, this is very clearly very opinionated. As you heard at the end of the conference, we will compose a call for hosting the next ESBG and invite for an online vote about this, as there's not a fixed system to decide for these issues, and as the list of national networkers is for a large part dysfunctional. Please be a little patient and a lot less judging. We have an international course starting tomorrow morning, so I've had other issues to deal with and believe that this can wait for a week or two.

        BTW: We'll start our course with a team work exercise which includes doing the Jung/Briggs personality test: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes1.htm
        I just did mine with these results: 
        Extraverted    Intuitive    Thinking    Perceiving
        Strength of the preferences %
        22    12    1    11

        I have a suspicion you're going to hit the '100' mark in 'Judging' ....?


--  Ing. Max Vittrup Jensen "Jen-Sen: Make it Reality" Consultancy in sustainable building, planning and environment +420 585 15 20 10 - www.jen-sen.cz 
          Message: 2
          Date: Wed, 31 Aug 2011 13:20:48 +0200
          From: Cas Mol <chwmol at hotmail...>
          To: <strawbale at amper....muni.cz>
          Subject: Re: [Strawbale] ESBG 2011 and the future of strawbale

          Dear All,

          I wasn't there so I can't really comment but I do recognize some of it.
          This is what you get when people make strawbale building into a believe instead of a science.

          Best regards,

        Cas: I'm sorry that you feel called upon to bark up at the wrong tree (A dogwood?).
        I view myself as a natural builder, using a multitude of techniques.  I design my approach using permaculture, also called 'a design science'. On a more academic level I have a M.Sc. in Planning and Environmental Management. I hope the long mail above illustrated that there's more than one side to Herberts fractionalized story? 

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