Straw Bales Bio Construction
Without a doubt the current situation, in terms of the climate crisis and the growing concern for living in a way that reduces environmental impacts by
maximum, is leading many people to become increasingly interested in the
Rubén Solsona and Patricia Cebada have turned this need in virtue and try to bring people closer to bioconstruction, putting
emphasis on a different way of building, one that is more ecological and does not harm the
Since 2002 these entrepreneurs have been in charge of “Karuna Workshop”, where the people learn how to autonomously build ultra buildings
efficient, with sustainable techniques and without damaging the planet. Today we try to know more about Patricia and Ruben, their commitment and their particular way of conceive the building.
Tell us a little bit about your history/background. How did this project “Karuna” come about and what does it consist of? objectives of these bio-construction workshops?
Karuna Workshop came up in 2002 when Ruben and I (Patricia) were looking for another way of living more freely, where we could live more naturally and without tie us to the banks. We decided to build our own house when we met the Straw building techniques.
Although I am an architect I have never I planned to build with my own hands, knowing these techniques we saw that that was possible and we jumped at it.
With that experience and after doing other projects and works, we decided
to create some courses and workshops to help people who would like to do
same as us.
Who are your workshops for? Can any person participate, or it is necessary to have prior knowledge or skills in order to participate in or fully understanding the teachings?
This training is aimed on the one hand at individuals who want to build their and on the other hand to professionals who want to broaden their professional and enjoy their profession with a much more friendly way of building with people and the planet.
It’s designed so that people with no construction experience can get to build his house. We have students who have built their house without having taken even a saw before.
The training has evolved and now we also include a module special constructive skills program where you learn how to handle tools and skills among other topics.
What are the advantages of this type of Bio construction with respect to traditional construction?
They have many advantages. One of the biggest differences is what kind of
constructions allow for self-construction, which is something that few
constructive allow. I don’t see myself building a brick wall or
thermocouple. However, by building with straw bales, it is possible to make the construction without previous experience.
Another advantage is that your house will be made with natural, non-toxic materials that make you sick. Most houses have a significant toxic load,
apart from the electromagnetic fields that are so damaging. The planet doesn’t suffer as much as with conventional construction.
This type of construction that you propose basically uses materials like straw, mud, wood for building. Is there a big difference of costs compared to a traditional building or other models bioconstructive?
There is a big difference, you can save about 62% of the cost of a housing. Above all, when you build it yourself and save on labor, you
is the bulk of the cost in a building. In addition we have optimized a design to further lower costs and save on expensive items.
We are talking about that in a 120m2 house with a high efficiency energy and quality you get to save 97,000 This for many people is a lot of money that allows us to avoid a mortgage.
Considering that housing is the biggest investment in the life of a person and who takes more than 50% of our income, it is important paying attention to a solution that allows you to have a house (which also will be much healthier and more energy efficient) for less than half.
We believe that this is revolutionary and that little by little there is a change of consciousness about it. In Spain, more and more people are is encouraging them to lead in building their homes, in whole or in part.
Why use straw as a raw material? What feature or advantages from the architectural point of view with respect to other materials? What is the thermal and insulation efficiency of this type of straw-bale structure? What can you tell us about issues such as fire resistance or humidity?
Straw is an exceptional material. It is totally renewable, and every year
can build thousands of houses from local production. It’s a by-product of
agriculture where we give it a second use, we can get it very near us, and also captures CO2 from the atmosphere. It’s abundant, cheap, ecological and local. It has a similar composition to wood but we avoid cutting down trees to build houses.
Since it has a lot of air in its interior has very high levels of insulation that with other materials would be expensive and unfeasible. The only barrier we have to break down exploiting construction with straw is the myth of the three little pigs and the idea of precariousness and African hut. This is already changing.
It also behaves very well in the face of fire and seismic movements. At
the technical tests carried out in laboratories in Germany, France and the United States Together, the walls exposed to fire have exceeded 120 minutes, with 30 minutes what is required of a single-family home. With 120 minutes we can build large buildings with many floors because it guarantees with you increase the evacuation time.
The biggest enemy of straw (and any house) is moisture. We take most precautions in the construction design to protect the thatch, such as
good eaves, height of the straw from the ground and plumbing in partitions and not in walls among other solutions.
In addition to single-family houses, the traditional in this type of constructions, it is also possible to build collective housing?
Yes, it is possible. In fact, in other countries there are blocks of flats of up to 8 plants. Besides there are other types of buildings such as public buildings, from town halls, passing through office buildings.
Why do you think that being cheaper and with qualities that nothing has to envy that traditional building is not being carried out this alternative?
There are several factors that have slowed it down but the trend is changing and there’s a lot more interest now. On the one hand, building with straw is very disruptive and Spain doesn’t have an innovative and launched mentality.
The three little pigs have done a lot of damage, but our job is to say that that has no real basis and is just a story. Construction professionals and homeowners are beginning to realize that the new world has to do with sustainability.
The implementation of bio-construction is inevitable in the world current, because it becomes a must. Current legislation is still conservative but the European Union is pushing for this necessary change. Bioconstruction with Straw is growing a lot in other countries nearby. France is building more than 1,000 houses a year, also building in cities.
The European Union has a budget line to promote this type of construction because we need to be able to meet the objectives and the climate of 2030. Spain is finally starting to wake up and there will be a boom when a couple of celebrities build their luxury homes with this technique. Only it’s only a matter of time.
Patricia, from your personal experience as a trained architect, do you think it is being given the importance it should (given the advantages and the problems it solves) to this bio constructive typology both at the institutional and educational level (during the architecture)?
No, it is not being given the importance it deserves. It is still being taught and building with very unecological materials. Bioconstruction in general and especially straw-bale construction has an enormous potential and in Spain it is not yet present in the institutional world.
We understand that this is a movement in which collaboration is vital for its consolidation. There is some kind of association or entity that represent and through which to improve legal development, promotion and construction of ecological houses?
We are part of the Network of construction with straw where we are
in contact with other people who build with straw.
However, buildings with straw bales already meet the requirements
necessary to comply with the legal route.
Please tell us as it usually is the experience of to build a house with straw bullets.
Building is creating and that in itself is very special. If it’s also your house it’s usually an unforgettable experience, because everything you do with your hands acquires an immense value to you. We not only promote that the normal” people build their own house for a financial or qualities, but also, to live the great experience that is to build your home.
Home is much more than the house, because it has to do with experience and the bond you create with your home. The essence of a home is to live in a place that gives you security, peace and many good memories. Perhaps this is the most intangible vision, but it is a very real experience and lasting in time.
A more short-term view is that building your house is a lot of planning,
common sense, illusion and certain constructive skills. In essence a house
is just a sequenced set of small tasks added up over time.
You just have to know that sequence. Planning gives you clarity of mind and
constructive skills, safety and great enjoyment. We can return to trust in our ability to create our home, as we did when we were kids with our cabins.
Bio construction is another instrument we have at our disposal to to a large extent alleviate the enormous impact this sector has on the crisis climate. Training workshops and promotion of this type of building such as Patricia and Ruben´s are a very inspiring example and a clear sign that with commitment and responsibility we can solve many of the problems
posed by the housing sector.
Price, environmental impacts, depletion of resources, sustainable alternatives… All this and much more proposes Workshop Karuna.
If you are interested and want to know more about their workshops or the bioconstruction visit their site.