The asbn – Austrian Straw Bale Network, a registered society since 2008, has been informing about different techniques of straw bale building (load-bearing, post and frame with infilled straw bales, bales of straw for reconstruction, added straw bale walls as insulation …) since 1998. It did so on it’s website www.baubiologie.at, through consultings on construction methods, in studies, at straw bale gatherings, at fairs, by giving lectures and last but not least with their book „Neues Bauen mit Stroh“ (“New Building With Straw Bales”), which was published 2008 in the third, completely revised and extended edition. All these theoretical means for conveying knowledge are necessary, but insufficient without hands-on exercises: workshops on straw bale building have been internationally regarded as the best possible instrument to deliver actual results for decades. Whoever attended such a workshop was very likely going to build a straw bale building him- or herself. For this reason the asbn took the effort to increase the very limited number of workshops held in Europe and to upgrade the quality of the theoretical and hands-on instructions significantly.
Contents and Objectives
Construction of the „virtual building site“ in order to create a permanent educational
centre for straw bale building that is not subject to changes in weather;
Compilation of papers to support the hands-on workshops, in which different techniques are shown. This papers are to be expanded with theoretical contents, which have not been subject of previous documentations (or only in too small a degree): building physics, basics of organic building, acquiring of building materials, quality control…
Holding of workshops für self-builders and professional builders
Conception and construction of the virtual building site
Conception of the contents of the workshops for self-builders
Conception of the contents of the workshops for professional builders
Organisation of the workshops (schedule, advertising, inviting of lecturers,
organisation of the visits of existing straw bale buildings, general administration)
Compiling of the workshop-papers and documentation (PPP)
Holding of the workshops
Documentation of permanent results of the workshops (optional)
Constant optimization of the workshop-papers and documents
Constant adaptation of the virtual building site at the state of the art
The straw bale building workshops met, as could be expected, an urgent need; any of the workshops for self-builders were fully booked within days after scheduling. The workshops for professional builders, on the other hand, didn’t work out as well – they were not fully booked, one even had to be cancelled. It was therefore decided to no longer separate the two target groups but instead schedule workshops for everybody interested. The quality of the workshops could get improved significantly compared to similar offers, theoretical as well as practical. First of all, the workshops were tied to a fixed schedule and offered monthly – which was only possible because they were not part of an individual building project, but events for themselves. This made it also possible to compare different building techniques. Furthermore papers and documentations were compiled, as hand-outs for participants, which was no part of any straw bale building workshop so far. The virtual building site did its job perfectly and works now as a permanent exhibition, that helps the asbn with its consulting on straw bale building. Other results are: the professionalization through minimization of the time necessary for building straw bale walls led to a decrease of the costs. Multiplicators were educated which brought a notable dynamization of the whole market and the straw bale activities in general, also due to the coordination of interests of the most important Austrian proponents of this building technique.
The success of the project and the dynamization of the straw bale activities through it have led to an even greater demand for workshops and well compiled theoretical material than ever. The chosen route – professionalization, intensified inclusion of self builders, qualitative and quantitative improvement of workshops, intensifying of the network-activities – prove right in all aspects. The momentum, given that fitting resources are available or provided, could well be used to follow the way further along and contribute to broaden the general effect of straw bale building.
Prospects / Suggestions for future research
The asbn underlined its position as Europes most important network regarding straw bale building and gave the development of this technique another strong impulse. The increased dynamic led to a parallel increase of the demand for workshops, which will be met until further notice.The most substantial needs for catching up could be noted in the fields of knowledge transfer from science to self and professional builders and in public relations. The documentation and presentation of informations came considerably far; what’s missing is an all-covering, up to date depiction that can, other than the theoretical workshop material, stand for itself.
Some juridical questions concerning self building remain to be answered. Regarding all sustainable building techniques in Austria, the efforts should generally be increased substantially. E.g. in Germany the construction of a centre for renewable primary products is already on the way (Ökozentrum Verden, www.oekozentrum.com); it will procure workshops and feature exhibitions, lecturing facilities and stores for biological building materials. Given that establishing a demonstration project in the course of holding the workshops for self builders would be a preferable way of giving a greater purpose to the workshops, this undertaking could be part of greater concept, which, once realized, will have led to the existence of an Austrian centre for renewable primary products. In the course of this events Austria might gain some of her former significance as a ground
breaking nation concerning the environmental performance.
Author: asbn – austrian strawbale network (Österreichisches Netzwerk für Strohballenbau)