Things are definitely shaping up in our new house design process. We are super excited to be collaborating with a few folks on this project, very notably Tom Cundiff of The Edgeworks, who is assisting with the design of a slick timber frame for what we are calling “Strawtron”, our new straw bale timber frame house project.
This fall, we plan on breaking ground for Strawtron, a three room, passive solar, straw bale-insulated house with a timber frame, greenhouse for passive heat and extended living space, screened-in north porch, and 1/2 story loft with a west-facing balcony.
But there’s plenty to do before that happens…
Designing the Strawtron Timber Frame
The biggest thing coming down the pipeline is the actual design of the timber frame, which Tom Cundiff will be hugely helping us with. The rough house design and floor plans are finalized, but Tom will be converting those paper plans into an actual frame design, with specified spans, posts, and beams all worked out for us. I’m thrilled to have his expertise at our disposal. My realm is definitely not in wood, especially not timber framing, and although my experience with the material and the techniques is growing day by day (through work on our roundwood timber frame kitchen), I fully expect to get a much more highly polished design with Tom’s years of experience building timber frames. Yahoo!
That is where we’re at right now. There’s some figuring to do about the foundation design, too, since we really want to do a pier foundation, but it’s unclear how to achieve that with a straw bale timber frame. Although I’m pretty sure it will be possible, I have to find the time to sit down and ask the questions, and do the research…
Acquiring Building Materials
Acquiring appropriate building materials is another thing that we cannot overlook or start too soon. In fact, we have already begun collecting materials. Just yesterday, we went to an auction and swooped up a good amount of dimensional lumber, some of which will find its way into the house, and much will go into other related projects, too.
Once we have the timber frame design, we will be able to source our actual timbers. I am anticipating that greatly, and have a small amount of anxiety of getting exactly what we need, but ultimately, I don’t think we’ll have trouble. At Dancing Rabbit, we use reclaimed, recycled, or “sustainably harvested” lumber in our construction, exclusively. I plan on getting the timbers not from old barns, but newly milled to our specifications. There are no clear guidelines about doing this, but I suspect that finding a responsible miller that will selectively cut trees, and not simply clear them, will be the way to go. In an ideal world, I would find and cut all the trees myself, but alas…. we are working on a timeline here since health (and thus having a completely healthy indoor living environment) is our first priority.
Organizing Natural Building Workshops
In addition to all of this, I’m happy to report that we will be trying a different approach to building this house than we’ve ever attempted before. The plan is to host two major natural building workshops to achieve large amounts of construction in relatively short periods of time, and hosting skilled instructors to lead these highly organized workshops. Participants will receive very intensive learning experiences in the areas of timber framing and straw bale building next summer, and we will rocket the building timeline forward at a much faster rate than we could by building the house entirely by ourselves with the help of a couple of work exchangers.
Expect more details on these workshops later in the summer. It’s going to be a great experience for folks looking to build with us at Dancing Rabbit and take home real skills for doing their own natural buildings!