Festival season during a natural building programme

 In Blog, Student Post

With team expeditions to Spoonfest in the Peak District and The Big Straw Bale Gathering in South Wales bookending week seven of our build, it’s been a serious case of work hard play hard for the Hartwyn team of late! Considering all these festivities (not to mention some serious hours on the road) it’s hard to believe we also found time to erect the framework for the front porch, put up two thirds of the round wood outer rafters, construct the rough openings for all the windows, put in 18 cubic meters of floor insulation and do 80% of the roof boarding!

Douglas fir roof boards going on

Douglas fir roof boards going on

The Big Straw Bale Gathering

Organised by SBUK (Straw Bale UK) The Big Straw Bale Gathering was held at Down to Earth in South Wales. It was both a fantastic opportunity to inspect their wonderful reciprocal roofed eco-roundhouse (incidentally engineered by the guys at Structural solutions who also helped design our very own Hobbit house!)

Reciprocal roof - Down to Earth

Reciprocal roof – Down to Earth

It was also a chance to learn more about their award winning programmes aimed at helping people from ‘hard to reach’ and disadvantaged backgrounds to get out into the countryside and improve their outlook through community and eco-building! All in all, the weekend was a tremendous success! Jam packed with inspiring and thought provoking talks ranging from technical engineering to sustainability and permaculture, alongside a veritable smorgasbord of practical workshops involving clay and straw. All topped off with music, games and a large keg of local cider!

On the long drive back to the wilds of Scotland, two things struck me as I attempted to assimilate the weekend’s events. Firstly, an empowering feeling that we are part of a growing community of people driven by a desire to change the way we live and safeguard our planet for future generations! And secondly that, far from the end of holiday blues I should be experiencing, I couldn’t wait to get back to the build!!!

Roundwood Outer rafters

Continuing on from last week, the outer rafters – linking the inner henge and reciprocal roof to the outer stick frame – were the main focus on Monday and Tuesday. With twelve already in situ (and another 30 to go!) we streamlined the process with a dedicated support team chiseling out notches on the henge end and the less ‘organic’ birds-mouth joints on the outer henge. This enabled the rafters to seat snugly onto the dimension (square edged) timber wall plates.

Chiseling rafters

Chiseling rafters

Front porch roundwood timber framing

One of the excellent things about working in such a large team is that it is not uncommon to spend half a day absorbed in a specific task only to raise your head to discover that another group have bought yet another exciting element of the build to life without you even realizing it! On Wednesday, as we broke for afternoon tea I was delighted to discover that a team lead by our illustrious Hartwyn apprentice Jodie had seemingly
magicked a front port into existence!! Seeing the half sized henge jutting out from where the front door will eventually be, I could instantly imagine someone sitting out there on an evening, watching the sun set with a nice glass of wine!

Front Porch

Front Porch

Lime Mortar Maintenance

Working with lime mortar it turns out is a little like adopting a Mogwai! Particularly with the Scottish weather finally beginning to make itself known. As a rule, the second you’ve finished covering the wall in hessian and given it a light spray down to prevent the sun baking it and drying it out too fast, the heavens open and the next moment you find yourself scrambling for sheets of tarpaulin to prevent it getting too wet and washing out the lime! Add to this the surprisingly satisfying process of consolidation, Aka smushing it in and patting it with a brush, and you’ve got a full time job on your hands! I have to concede however that I actually enjoyed the whole wall building process immensely and the wonderfully irregular, non-uniform effect beats a standard brick wall any day! This week (in addition to the general wall maintenance) a team built stone plinths to support the rafters of the back roof overhang where the hill will come up to meet the green roof!

Glapor Foamglas underfloor insulation

foamglas insulation

foamglas insulation

Mentioned in last week’s blog, it was time for more of the foam-glass insulation/Glapor but this time in the floor. Looking like the illegitimate love child of a lump of coal and a crunchy bar, this amazing load bearing, light weight insulation is amazing stuff and a brilliant reminder that, in the rare event that we’re not using natural materials, it’s a great opportunity to do a spot of recycling!

Boarding out the roof

With the impending arrival of a lorry load of straw bales (and the forthcoming need for a dry space to work in!) the end of the week was a race to get the roof boarded out. Whilst the view was fantastic and temporary refuge from the midges (who were enjoying a festival of their own after a couple of rainy days!) was extremely welcome, the Douglas fir boards proved to be quite the head scratcher as we once more endeavored to knit square with round!

 

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