Urban Strawbale at Numina Studio

The first permitted strawbale structure in San Jose, California

Background

For most of the many years that Numina Studio has existed, we've wanted to have a real art studio in our backyard. Well, 2008 is the year we finally built it. Since we're concerned about the environment, we spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of building would be both beautiful and gentle to the Earth. Our first idea was to use cob, but after some research and getting a better feel for this geographical area we decided that strawbale would be better suited for both the climate and the locally available expertise.

The next step was to find an architect. The first one we talked to thought that alternative building techniques were a fine idea, but did not have enough experience with them to take on the job. That led to a referral to a second architect, who referred us on to a third. The third time was the charm - Noel Cross had already built the first rammed-earth home in San Jose, and he was willing to take on the first strawbale structure as well!

Noel Cross Architects
148 E. Virginia St., Suite #2
San Jose, CA   95112-5881
phone (408) 216-0222
fax (408) 216-0652
http://www.nfcarchitect.com/
Noel@nfcarchitect.com

Then we had to find a contractor. For obvious reasons we wanted someone with experience in strawbale, which led to a similar chain of referrals until we found Michele Landegger. When we got Michele and Noel together and they hit it off, we knew we had our winning design and construction team.

Michele Landegger
Boa Constructor Building & Design, Inc.
1069 Summit Rd
Watsonville, Ca.   95076
http://www.buildingnaturally.com
michele@buildingnaturally.com

When you're doing something new, it's always good to have plenty of expert assistance. We also relied on an experienced practitioner to help us with our earthen plasters. Janine is also experienced with strawbale and saved the day by instructing our bale-raising workshop when the regular instructor got nailed by the flu half-way through:

Janine Björnson
clay, bones, and stones
Natural Building educator, practitioner, consultant
claybonesandstones@yahoo.ca

Public Presentations and Workshops

This is a real working artist's studio, but it is also intended to serve as a demonstration of how alternative building techniques can be very practical and can help combat global warming - even in an urban environment only a couple of miles from the downtown area of San Jose, one of the ten largest cities in the United States. Therefore we shared the construction itself by holding a couple of free slide show presentations as well as weekend workshops where people could watch and participate in the actual building process.

April 11, 12, 13 (2008):

The first slide show was about Natural Building Techniques, immediately followed by a Bale-Raising workshop.

Read the advertising flyer as a web page or as a PDF file.

May 17, 18 (2008):

The second slide show and work party were focused on Earthen Plasters. This presentation was held in our home instead of at City Hall, and the work party covered how to apply earthen plaster over conventional sheetrock as well as to strawbale.

We charged for the first workshop in an attempt to break even on our expenses for running the workshop and presentation, and that's roughly how it worked out. We originally planned to charge for the second one as well but recognizing that for many people price can be a real issue, we decided to absorb the costs of this workshop ourselves to ensure that as many people as possible had an opportunity to participate.

For detailed information about the presentation and workshop, read the advertising flyer as a PDF file.

Photos

Construction is now complete, and we posted photos as the building progressed that cover all steps of the construction in great detail. I'm a bit behind on uploading photos, but the first 350 or so are done. You can see them here (click on each picture to see the whole album - and give it a minute to load, as some albums contain over 100 pictures):
Numina Studio Urban Strawbale Construction
Numina Studio Urban Strawbale Construction - Part 2
Numina Studio Urban Strawbale Construction - Part 3
Numina Studio Urban Strawbale Construction - Part 4
Numina Studio Urban Strawbale Construction - Part 5

You can also see pictures of the solar PV system we put on the roof of our house in Spring 2007 here (click on the picture to see the whole album):
Rooftop Photovoltaic Installation

Video

Last but not least, a neighbor taped and edited a short YouTube video for Earth Day 2008 about some of the things we've been doing over the past couple of years to try to be nice to the Earth. Click on the Play button (right arrow) to watch it:



or click here to watch the full-sized version.


Copyright © 2008 by Rosemary A. DiNardo. All rights reserved.