One-of-a-Kind Straw Bale Buildings
At its core, Straworks inc. is a design-build company that specializes in designing, estimating and building one-of-a-kind straw bale and other types of super-insulated buildings that are built on time and on budget.
Deirdre is Straworks in-house licensed (BCIN) designer who heads-up the design-estimate-build process. Based on 12 years experience working as a straw bale builder on over 30 buildings, her code compliant plans support building permit applications and detail the build through to a smooth and successful finish.
Simultaneous to designing a project so it is built on-time and on-budget, Straworks specializes in designing beautiful natural buildings that are super insulated and have a lower impact on the earth’s resources compared to conventional buildings.
Natural & Local
Our buildings are made predominantly of straw, wood, clay, lime, hemp and sand that are sourced as locally as possible. These materials offer the highest quality buildings to our clients and future generations. Contrary to popular belief, natural materials have a long service life. They can withstands the elements—wind, sun, rain—when set-up to do so much better than human made, often petroleum based, materials. Furthermore natural materials create non-toxic healthy soulful spaces that are inherently beautiful.
Beautiful buildings are sustainable buildings. They are the ones that are lived-in, loved, maintained, renovated and kept alive over time. Ugly buildings are neglected, fall into disrepair and are all too often bulldozed. It’s a huge waste of resources to not build beautiful buildings. We feel it’s a moral imperative as designers to find the sweet spot where budget, ease of construction, function and beauty meet and to build places of the soul. Places that nourish and inspire connection.
As a natural builder I have seen a wide range of people respond to natural materials with the same kid-like enthusiasm as people do for the sun. The rounded slightly imperfect character of undulating plastered straw bale walls gets people in a way that they can’t really explain— just that they “like it”. People respond similarly to earthen floors and clay plaster and I believe that is because at a deep level we are connecting to the earth in that moment. We all come from the earth and will end up there one day and as such we feel a connection to earth’s raw materials — wood, straw, clay— in a way that we don’t to highly manufactured materials like vinyl or drywall.
Low Embodied Energy
Beauty is high, embodied energy is low when natural materials are chosen. Embodied energy is a measure of how much energy goes into harvesting and manufacturing a material. It’s imperative to consider when choosing which type of super insulation with reducing green house gas emissions in mind. Some conventional insulations, such as Extruded Polystyrene (Styrofoam) or Fiberglass, have an extremely high embodied energy and can consume more energy in their manufacturing than they can save as insulation over the course of many years. We can do better than that. Straw and cellulose (recycled newspaper) have a low embodied energy and are thus highly effective at lowering carbon emissions when used as super insulation.
Super Insulation & Climate Change
“It is estimated that at present, buildings contribute as much as one third of total global greenhouse gas emissions, primarily through the use of fossil fuels during their operational phase.” Buildings and Climate Change, UNEP SBCI
When we heat our buildings with a gas, oil, electric furnace or with a wood burning appliance we are greatly contributing to climate change. They all produce green house gas emissions whether it’s in the production of the energy or in its burning. This problem is magnified when we heat building with little to no insulation because we need to consume more fuel to heat poorly insulated spaces. Super insulated walls (R30-R60) help mitigate climate change by requiring less carbon emitting fuel to heat buildings. They are also more comfortable to live in and less expensive to heat and cool. It’s a win win win!
Low Impact Heating Systems
By using passive solar design strategies, everyone of our buildings is partly heated by the sun. It’s as easy as orientating the building and its living spaces to the south and sizing the windows and the roof overhangs appropriately so the windows are in full sun in the winter and shaded in the summer. This along with super insulation means our buildings do not need air conditioners. They stay cool and comfortable in the summer naturally. From there low impact and high efficiency heatings systems do the rest of the space heating. From air sourced heat-pumps, to high efficiency gas-wood boilers we have never had more to choose from.
Smart & Patient & Custom Design
Straworks starts the design process by visiting a client’s current house and taking a tour of what they like and don’t like. We take photographs and measure their furniture. Then Deirdre and the homeowners, design, revise, design, revise, design, revise until all parties are settled on a plan. This process requires patience but we feels it is fundamental. Going this distance usually means people don’t change their mind further down the line, when more is impacted by changes. We take pride in designing smart floor plans that are custom to peoples’ lives and use space efficiently and elegantly. Again this comes back to not consuming more resources than are necessary. Not building larger spaces than are needed than needed which will ultimately consume more energy to operate. Less is more, within reason.
Straworks Design-Estimate-Build Process
Preliminary Drawing and Estimating
In Phase 1, the following drawings are made in order to estimate the cost of construction:
- Foundation Plan
- Main Level Floor Plan
- Roof Plan
- Cross Section
- 3D Model
- Window and Door Schedule
Using these preliminary drawings and lists, Straworks puts together a budget for the construction of the home as drawn.
If the cost established in Phase 1 matches your budget we move on to Phase 2. If not, the preliminary drawings are scaled to meet your budget. In Phase 2 the preliminary drawings are developed into a full set of construction drawings that meet the requirements of the Ontario Building Code and are ready to support your building permit application.
Included in full set of construction drawings (15 – 20 pages)
- Cover Page / General Notes
- Site Plan
- South West & North West 3D Views
- South East & North East 3D Views
- Foundation Plan
- Main Floor Plan
- Basement Floor Plan
- Roof Plan
- Cross Sections
- 2D Elevations
- Window and Door Schedule
- Material Lists
- Straworks Wall System No. 1
- 2 sets of drawings printed and mailed to your address
- PDF set emailed to you
- Kitchen, Bathroom or Built-in Cabinetry Design
Please note that although a basic kitchen and bathroom layout is included as part of the floor plan, custom cabinetry design or drawings needed to build cabinets is not included as part of this scope of work.
- Septic, Heating, HVAC, Plumbing or Electrical Systems Design
Straworks can co-ordinate the design of these systems by the respective professionals.