Author: admin

Building a straw-bale house

There are a number of reasons we have chosen to build a straw-bale house:  to downsize and retire to a smaller property; to be practically involved in the building process and to build an inexpensive home; to continue a lifetime of care and concern for the natural environment and to live in a house that is ecologically sustainable with a zero carbon footprint. 

Straw has amazing properties: it is warm, breathable, extremely insulating, and thermally and acoustically efficient. It is also structurally strong. Used with lime and clay plasters, a straw house is healthy, non-toxic and hygienic, giving a cosy and warm space in which to live. It is quick to build, affordable, fire resistant and CO2 negative. (The CO2 remains stored in the straw for the life of the house).  Often the straw (and the other natural materials used such as wood, sheep’s wool and hemp) can be locally sourced thus saving on transport costs.  Very little heating is required as straw stores latent heat so is very cost effective.  Straw is also beautiful and tactile!  All the materials come from the earth and can return to the earth in a natural cycle.

The building of a straw house takes a lot of labour and is a great way to build communities of like-minded folk, all working together outside, learning and sharing skills, and building a beautiful home. Great fun.

If following this path encourages and inspires others, and shows what can be done with renewable and local resources, and that building a house doesn’t have to ‘cost the Earth’, then that will be our small contribution to a more sustainable world.

For anyone who is interested in the building of straw-bale houses, Barbara Jones’ book ‘Building with Straw bales – A practical manual for self-builders and architects’ (Green Books 2015) is an excellent read.  Barbara is a pioneer of straw-bale building and it is a very inspiring book.  She also runs courses in straw-bale building and lime and clay plasters (in Scotland and England) from her company School of Natural Building.

If anyone reading this would like to be involved in our straw-bale house building (depending on the Coronavirus, 2021 or 2022) then please get in touch via Kasha at Sustainable Selkirk. We welcome all those who are interested in a more sustainable way of making homes.

JA November 2020

PVs on my roof

I’ve always wanted to be able to produce clean energy, however for that you need to have either a roof (for solar panels) or a bit of ground (for solar panels or a wind turbine).

As I haven’t got any of these, here is a story from my friend, who’s got a roof …

‘When I moved house, I was keen to be as energy efficient as possible. Solar photovoltaic panels were suggested on my home energy report. I was lucky to hear about Sustainable Selkirk, and have a home energy assessment done. After discussing SolarPV panels with the Home Energy Adviser and attending an online meeting I decided to go ahead and get Solar panels.

The local company I approached was very helpful. The director came to discuss how the system worked, and the benefits, and was able to explain it all in an understandable way. The work was done very quickly. The panels were put up on the roof with very little disruption, the workmen were mainly outside. The internal connections, controls and storage battery were put in a couple of days later. It took longer than expected because of some unusual electrical problems in my house. The engineer and electrician were very patient and worked hard to sort out the problems. They made sure I was kept informed of what was happening. Once it was installed everything was explained, and any questions, however silly, were answered. As it is November I do not expect my Solar panels will produce much energy, but there have been some sunny days when I could see there has been some electricity produced. I have every confidence that if I have any questions or problems I will get the answers or support I need from the company. I am pleasantly surprised how quick and easy it has been to get my Solar panels.’ (SK)