July 18, 2004

Green construction in Bethel Grove

Yesterday was a busy day in Bethel Grove. First I went to the stream monitoring workshop, and then I stopped by the workday for Sarah Highland and Cat Berry's clay-straw house that the Journal had mentioned earlier this week.

I arrived at lunch, so the pictures aren't really action shots, but you can see the house developing. The north wall has lath for extra support - Highland said it was a lighter mix that would be warmer and dry faster.

Lath on the north wall
Lath on the north wall.

The rest of the house will be made with the mixture poured into forms on the wall. The forms are then removed after the mix forms a solid brick.

A wall without lath
A wall without lath.

They're using two mixers - one to produce the clay slip, and then another to mix that slip with the straw.

Mixing the slip
Mixing the slip.

The mixer for the clay and straw
The mixer for the clay and straw.

The house is a timberframe, erected last year. The walls are going up this summer, and then they'll be plastering the inside. The outside will get a light coat of plaster and then eventually wood siding.

Timber framing detail
Timber framing detail.

Timber framing inside
Timber framing inside.

Window detail in the house
Window detail in the house.

I asked Sarah Highland about the clay-straw approach, and while it is labor-intensive, she felt it was a better idea for this climate than strawbale construction, which builds houses out of bales of straw which are then coated with plaster. The clay is hygroscopic, so it draws water out of the straw and the timbers, reducing moisture problems for both materials. Though it looks like a construction site with bales of straw piled up, it looks like the house is being built to last.

Posted by simon at July 18, 2004 2:18 PM in , ,
Note on photos