Earth floor dancing and installing straw bale insulation

 In Blog, Student Post

This week was a great week for some real visual progress on the build. With the sub floor layer of our rammed earth floor in, the sky light fitted and the roof nearly finished, and the beginnings of our straw bale wall started, it was a very exciting week!

Earth floor build-up

After most of the team returned from an eventful weekend at The Big Straw Bale Gathering, we started back at work on the Tuesday. This was a day of little jobs, with the group breaking off into smaller teams to tackle some ground work jobs so the earth floor could get started. One team levelled the Glapor Foamglass insulation and compacted it with the wacker plate, ready for the earth. We then put a layer of Geotextile, a layer of non-woven, permeable fabric which stops the rammed earth being compressed into the insulation. Then, a PEX barrier pipe was laid in a large coil, ready for the underfloor heating. We chose to do this to make use of the large thermal store that the rammed earth will create, by heating from below, the earth will heat quickly, and keep the heat, releasing it slowly into the house, like a battery.


Boarding the roof with local rough sawn timber

Some of us braved the rain and worked up on the roof, finishing the boarding. This was especially tricky because the sharp angle of the reciprocal roof beams meant lots of small, very angled pieces of boarding. After lots of difficult cutting and nailing, the roof was finished and we could start nailing on the Tyvek. DuPoint Tyvek is a breathable, waterproofing membrane, this is the first point of waterproofing on the roof, underneath the insulation layer and finally, the turf roof.


Making stakes to hold the straw bale walls in place

We also made some stakes out of Rowan which are going to be used to keep the straw bales in place in our stud walls.

Wednesday saw the finishing of the Tyvek on the roof and the reciprocal roof beams being trimmed. Jodie and a few of the students set about the task of making the window frame for the oculus window. A 16-sided frame was made and the window was fitted.

Dancing to compact the rammed earth floor

Then came what might have been the funnest task on the build so far, starting the rammed earth floor! We moved around 30 tonnes of earth from the site, by hand, into the building and because we are sticklers for tradition (and we all love a boogie) we stammed it all down using the method OF DANCE! After a whole day of stomping and grooving, we had compacted all the earth, resulting in our completed sub-floor layer.

Topping Out Ceremony

Because the tallest point in our building was now complete, it meant the topping off ceremony could begin! After some nice words from Jeffrey and nailing the traditional branch to the inside, to ward off spirits and protect the house, a few celebratory beers were drunk!

Straw Bale walls begin

Thursday was another momentous day, with the beginning of our straw bale wall! While Joe finished boarding the porch, everyone else had a lesson from Jodie, the straw master. Surprisingly difficult to work with, each bale had to be re-tightened with twine and trimmed, shaped and curved to fit into the intricate bends and curves of our beautiful building. Working in pairs, the team slowly made progress on the base few layers of the walls, notching out spaces in the bales where the stud frames sit, to minimise gaps where the air could get in, causing drafts.  

Friday was another day of battling with straw bales. Once everyone got the hang of working with this new material however, work progressed quickly. As the walls grew upwards, we started to get a real vision of the final interior space of the building. Our hard work really paid off this week, finally being able to sit inside and enjoy the space we had lovingly created.

Straw Bale Wall Construction

Hartwyn Natural Building Course

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Many thanks, the Hartwyn team

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night sky above hartwyn build