PSI’s Straw-bale construction workshop

The first little pig was definitely the smartest of the three. Strawbale is not only smart but is one of the world’s most sustainable, energy efficient, healthy and aesthetic building materials. And the best kept secret of them all is that it is also quick and easy. With our own two hands, few tools and relatively few skills we were able to construct an octagonal strawbale chook house in just a few hours. Participants came from across the planet- German, Swiss, English, Australian, Pakistan and elsewhere.

The foundations were prepared in advance of the workshop – a raised suspended slab that the chooks can shelter under and from which a wheelbarrow can collect manure when hosed down. The bottom plate was made first with a rail of timber to support the bales filled in with blue metal to keep it dry. The bales were then staked on top leaving a door and a couple of recessed laying boxes (so the eggs can be collected from outside) that also double up as a window. The bales were laid on their side to give more space inside and went four bales high. A total of 38 bales was used, which took only 3 months to grow as opposed to timber that would have taken 15 years. A middle and top plate, tied up by the participants with fence wire and tightened with gripples, were installed to give the bales additional strength. Then the roof placed on top with the walls bearing the weight. This is known as a load bearing structure – a technique that should be used more often in building.

The chook house was designed by Penny Pyett director of PSI specifically to meet the needs of the chickens and to provide soundproofing for Redford and Houdini, PSI’s famous handsome and character roosters. Soon when the chook house is completed, Houdini and Redford will be able to crow as much as they like without disturbing a soul (even in the country it is important to keep good friendly relations with the neighbours). Frank Thomas from Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow Strawbale Construction, Australia’s best straw-bale house builder, is providing the training and expertise.

Throughout the workshop participants were still able to fit in a swim in the pool, ate pizzas from the wood-fired oven and generally had a fantastic time. At night there was a song around the pianola and great food, wine and friendship.

Stay tuned to week two of the straw-bale workshop where the render is applied and finishing touches are made to complete this amazing looking, functional, practical, smart comfortable, sustainable, energy efficient and low maintenance chook house.

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See pics of the final weekend of this workshop below:

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