The straw bales for our walls started to arrive on site this week. We don’t have any National Trust arable land on this estate, but we managed to get our straw from the farm next door, so it hasn’t come far.
Straw bales have fantastic insulation properties, and if used in the right way, make an economical and very environmentally freindly walling material. They also go up satisfyingly quickly.
Fisrt of all a bale ladder was built all the way around our new oak floor at the outside edge of the building. You should also be able to see how the lovely new floorboards have been protected with a corrugated black plastic cover, just to make sure they aren’t damaged during the rest of the build.
The bale ladder is made of Black Down pine, it keeps the bales off the floor, each of the gaps in the ladder was filled with sheepswool insulation, and then the bales go on top.
A metal bale spike is attached to each “rung” of the ladder to secure the first course of bales.
After that it is a bit like massive lego as the layers of bales are built up. Each bale is held in place with two wooden bale spikes which are hammered through it into the bales below, this keeps the whole wall really sturdy and solid.
The bale spikes are made out of coppiced sweet chestnut, we have been lucky to have the help of another working holiday this week, amongst lots of other jobs the volunteers were working up in one of our coppices cutting the spikes for us.
On the outside of the building the bales will either be lime rendered (if they are protected beneath a verandah) or have a cladding of oak boards. Where the oak boards are going a frame of studwork is being built. You can see it in the picture below, you can also see where the floor is starting to be created for the link building which will connect Speckled Wood to Hunter Basecamp. This link building is where our biomass boiler will be going (quite excited about that!).
On the other walls where the render will go a chicken wire mesh has been constructed against the straw, this will help hold the render in place, it did look like some sort of strange fight club cage when it was being built, but none of it will be visible in the finished structure.
Everyone here has been working really hard again this week, and the results are plain on site, the build is motoring forward at the moment, its been fascinating seeing so many different parts of the structure coming together, I’ve been interested in straw bale use in construction for a long time, and have really enjoyed seeing ours starting to go into place.