Comments by Joe, Mark , Doug and Alex about Architecture




  1. Joe Falconi on April 15, 2016 at 12:49 PM

    Hi Alex, I enjoyed looking at the websites mentioned in your post. New Frameworks’ video was the first time I encountered the melding of straw bale wall construction with cellulose. I believe the hybridization of straw with stick framing is in principle the only way to go. Really traditional straw homes where the straw itself is load-bearing would probably be impossible to build to code or to mortgage finance. The exterior cladding presented briefly in the video also helps address the dampness concern. The one thing I was puzzled by, however, was the use of rock wool padding as an on-slab layer: rock wool has dampness issues; it is somewhat “hydrophilic”, attracting and absorbing water. I was puzzled by why it would be on-slab, where moisture is a real potential issue. Re timber framing, Mark and Nils built Campanula with the assistance of a neighbor, Brian Hayes, who was responsible for all the amazing joinery in evidence in that building. I have had a couple exchanges with Brian, who has been generous with his time and his comments. I’m hoping to meet Brian this summer. The ideal solution for us to replicate the design we found on line would be to have plans put together locally, and build it locally with the help of people like Brian, who appears well versed on most topics related to “net zero energy”. He’s even mention panelization of walls, which is an extremely efficient way to put together a shell with windows. Thanks again for the post. Really good stuff.


    • mark on April 16, 2016 at 12:38 AM

      Hi Joe and Alex,

      The hybridization of straw and stick frames is a new one for me leaving me wondering about the case for straw. Looks like I have some reading to do. Our closest neighbors to the South, Cindy and Sally have lived in a straw house for about ten years with load bearing walls of straw–so far so good.

      I will always urge us to utilize local talent because- there are lots of very skilled folks locally who love a creative challenge, hiring local supports the local economy–— and local artisans bond with their work at the farm further melding our relationship with the community. Brian is a great example, an artisan’s artisan very skilled creating the best frames I have ever seen utilizing our Norway Spruce. His current focus is better and better insulation and panelization, only possible with a timber frame building holds lots of promise. Brian is a big fan of Robert Persig–author of Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance–that speaks volumes about who he is and how he works.

      Agree–great stuff to think about.

      Thank you both



  2. Joe Falconi on April 14, 2016 at 2:30 PM

    Hello All

    I spent a couple years reading about straw bale construction and would be an eager volunteer laborer for a project. These things suck up a lot of medium skill/low skill people hours. (That’s how I would define my own abilities.)
    For what it’s worth, one way to get into it with a lower penalty for mistakes is to build an outbuilding, and learn to be better at it before tackling a house where code and financial constraints are significant: getting mortgage financing on a straw house would probably be easier in Vermont than other jurisdictions, but at the end of the day, township engineers and mortgage lenders are a way tougher sell with this technology, only because it almost never comes up. It can be done, however. Doug’s instincts are right: getting a respected local builder to go through learning the ropes is kind of key.

    Jose Falconi

    This is a good snapshot:


    • mark on April 14, 2016 at 2:41 PM

      Hi Joe and All,

      Our closest neighbors, Sally and Cindy, built a straw house about ten years ago and they seem fine in it. Nils also built one years ago at a Cohousing Community in Charlotte. I mention these because there has always been a lot of controversy about straw construction. Given that I am glad that we have some experience and examples right in our neighborhood.

      I liked your suggestion about starting with outbuildings.



  3. Doug Engal on April 13, 2016 at 1:14 PM

    Dear ‘Kind Folks

    I found this interesting home building organization called Econest that designs and builds homes using natural building materials: timberframe/straw/clay homes. The founders have written many books on the subject, they have built over 50 of these homes and they have an extensive training program to teach owners/builders on their building techniques. There are even pre-designed architectural plans for different sizes. How cool would it be to find a local builder, send them to the training program and have them build some of these for us (using timber from the property!). This seems to strike at the heart of permaculture. There is a builder in New Hampshire that has gone through the training program so I am going to pick his brain a bit.

    Douglas Engel


    • mark on April 13, 2016 at 1:32 PM

      Hi Doug,

      Thank you for finding this resource, their web site is brimming with an approach and ideas that I want to spend more time with. Influenced, by Yestermorrow, a desighn build school, located in Waitsfield, I really like the idea of acquiring skills and other resources and then applying them in the building process. In Huntington, their is a lot of local interest and talent in these areas, I know some of these folks are interested in working with us.

      You mention using timber from the property. In the case of both Breidablick and Campanula we have had great success using the Norways, in some cases trees harvested from right where the building is located.

      I look forward to spending more time on that site and reading more of your thoughts.




      • Alex on April 15, 2016 at 12:57 AM

        I had a very good conversation with Jacob from New Frameworks Natural Design/Build. His site is Jacob is open to some very innovative arrangements for construction, which is very exciting since I am very interested in building portions of my home with my own hands. It’s difficult to secure a loan as a sole owner builder, as banks are concerned with skill level, ability to complete the project on budget and on time. However, Jacob and his company are willing to do several innovative things.

        Act as General contractor and actually subcontract portions of the construction back to the owner

        Teach your team some of the more labor intensive tasks, have the owner and team do the work, and then he will do final quality control

        Design/Build advisor – if you have a builder, GC, or want to act as your own GC, he can help advise on environmental building techniques, hay bale, net zero construction, grey water systems, earthen floors, etc.

        One other local builder I found more tailored to timber frames is I haven’t made contact yet. But they have some beautiful designs for homes, barns, and work spaces at reasonable prices, and are willing to work with timbers harvested on site.


Leave a Comment

Logged in as markLog out »

Leave a Comment