Strawbale Transformation

The musician owners of a 1960s-era house are planning extensive renovations to the living spaces on the first floor. They are committed to using low-impact, non-toxic, sustainable materials. They also desire to wean themselves off fossil fuels, so energy efficiency is a high priority.

As part of a long-range master plan by Gabrielli Design Studio, the first phase was a small addition to the kitchen. Built by Greenbuilders on the existing foundation of a dilapidated screened porch, the structure is post-and-beam with infill strawbale walls and fiberglass-clad windows . The green (planted) roof drains to a chain drain and a rain barrel.

Meloncon_Knopp_composite2_copy

The new room brings daylight deep into the kitchen, while sweeping views upwards along a steep hillside to the sky. The straw walls are clad in lime plaster, the floor is the existing concrete, finished with a natural, plant-based stain and beeswax.

Polly Bart, President of Greenbuilders, Inc on 1-8-2006. ES

The next phase was going to be a kitchen renovation. But the new room has changed the character of the existing kitchen so dramatically, the owners may not need to renovate it for a long time.

Existing_croppedWorking with this family has been an inspiration. During the year we worked together on this project, they also chipped away at wasteful practices all around the house. Using tips from friends and from green websites, they reduced their electricity use by 64%! What a difference a little curiosity and a lot of motivation can make in a household’s budget, as well as the health of our planet.

Strawbale Reconstruction

It all started when a tree fell on the house. . . .

We had just met with the client about doing a master plan for renovations to their house. One night during a storm, an enormous tree crashed into the house, shearing off a small powder room and leaving most of the rest of the house mercifully untouched.

Tree removal

Tree removal

New plan

New plan

We reconstructed the half bath and entryway with straw bale construction and clerestory windows for privacy. The cabinetry could not be salvaged, so bamboo cabinets were installed. The granite countertop was reused, with a new sink and water-efficient toilet. Exterior siding was salvaged and reused to finish the sides above the strawbales. The shed roof was planted with sedum and a chain rain drain elegantly channels excess water into shallow copper bowls in the garden.

Finished addition

Finished addition

This project included a kitchen facelift with new cabinet doors of bamboo, a recycled tile backsplash, Energy Star refrigerator, and decommissioning the old trash compactor in favor of composting, resulting in more storage space.

Section through addition

Section through addition