A Moonah fam­ily is rapt with their cosy and af­ford­able new straw bale home

Af­ter their first Tassie win­ter in their new straw bale home Moonah cou­ple Sam and Bron­wyn can’t be­lieve how much they love it, es­pe­cially when they found they didn’t need to turn the heater on once, writes JAR­RAD BE­VAN

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - NEWS -

WHEN plan­ning their fam­ily home in Moonah, Sam Keely and Bron­wyn Lysaght thought their small block size would mean they would have to build a dou­ble-storey home.

While they had some ex­pe­ri­ence with rammed earth con­struc­tion, they had al­ways been in­ter­ested in straw bale houses, too.

“Our first con­ver­sa­tion with Mid­dle-Earth Con­struc­tions was a turn­ing point to­ward straw bale con­struc­tion,” Sam said.

The fam­ily’s build­ing de­signer James Ken­dal from Deep Green Build­ing De­sign ini­tially drew up plans for a dou­ble height ship­ping con­tainer house to fit on top of an empty swim­ming pool al­ready on the block.

“At a meet­ing with Phil Hart at Mid­dle-Earth, he could clearly see what we were af­ter,” Sam said.

Phil ex­plained that a dou­ble storey build wasn’t a problem and that straw bales turned on their side would pro­vide the same level of in­su­la­tion at a re­duced width.

From that point, Sam and Bron­wyn

We love our big tree poles which we cut down from a friend’s block ... Orla loves hug­ging the poles

were sold. The fam­ily, in­clud­ing their lit­tle one Orla, have just ex­pe­ri­enced their first Tassie win­ter in the house, with pleas­ant re­sults.

“We love it. We didn’t need a heater through­out win­ter, which was amaz­ing,” he said. “Our dou­ble-storey glass wall pro­vides nice views and is use­ful for let­ting the sun in to warm the house.

“We love our big tree poles which we cut down from a friend’s block and de­barked our­selves; Orla loves hug­ging the poles.

“And hav­ing clay ren­der and an un­painted tim­ber fin­ish in­side is great. They are re­ally solid ma­te­ri­als that make the house feel warm and live­able.”

Mid­dle-Earth Con­struc­tions builder Toby Hart said the main at­trac­tion for many peo­ple build­ing with straw bales was that their home will be “com­fort­able to live in”.

“Straw ap­peals to peo­ple who like their

in­di­vid­u­al­ity and don’t want to live in a fac­tory-pro­duced, mass-mar­ket house,” he said.

Toby said straw walls are con­sid­er­ably thick, about 500mm-600mm, which pro­vides in­cred­i­ble in­su­la­tion that is “far su­pe­rior to fi­bre­glass batts”.

“This also helps meet the manda­tory en­ergy re­quire­ments plus straw is a very for­giv­ing ma­te­rial and can be used to de­sign a home that is modern, strik­ing and min­i­mal­ist, or as soft, cosy, and rus­tic as you like,” he said.

A well-or­gan­ised straw bale build does not dif­fer much to that of any be­spoke or one-off con­struc­tion project with re­gards to the time the build takes.

Toby said the cost is dic­tated less by ma­te­ri­als than by a house’s de­sign; nat­u­rally, a com­pli­cated or larger build­ing will al­ways cost more than a sim­ple, smaller one.

Toby said over time peo­ples’ knowl­edge and aware­ness about sus­tain­abil­ity and en­vi­ron­ment-friendly build­ing tech­niques has in­creased.

“These is­sues are be­com­ing more main­stream,” he said. “In Aus­tralia there are leg­isla­tive re­quire­ments that are forc­ing con­sumers to build in a more en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly way, and while that doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily have to be out of more nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als there can be an eas­ier way to achieve bet­ter star-rat­ings.”

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