when a home dreams green it dreams strawBale

Sustainable living for a Sustainable future, for when a home dreams green it dreams strawbale.
From the beginning it was our intention to build ecologically friendly, structurally sound, naturally efficient homes, using a minimum amount of embodied energy. These methods resulted in a home that is comfortable, artistic, and modern while minimizing the monthly and ever increasing utility bill. To that end I believe we succeeded.
After a decade and 8 homes, my goal now, is to promote the continuance of the strawbale paradigm. I wish to use this blog as a vehicle to perpetuate the ideals that we can reduce our 'footprint’. That we do have options that don’t include following the path of oil. That sometimes the best solutions are the simplest ones.
In the end, the big bad wolf, he huffed and he puffed and he huffed and he puffed and.........The 3 little pigies sat comfortably in their home of straw, completely unaware of the danger out there. The wolf contemplated, totally in awe. Perhaps it weren’t so bad to have a home made of straw.
©gregory vroom walter 11/29/11
I believe that the most comfortable home I have ever been in is a Strawbale home.
It is not my intention to teach everything there is to know about strawbale, for there are plenty of books already written that do this quite well, of which I will recommend. Rather my intention is to share the knowledge I have gained from designing and building eight homes that have all performed beyond expectation. I hope you find my posts and pages informative, enjoyable and helpful.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A letter to congress.

Increasing U.S. oil and gas exports to other nations will only accelerate fracking at home, transforming rural and impoverished communities into sacrifice zones and endangering public health, natural resources and local economies.
The oil and gas industry claims that fracking for gas can lead to energy independence, but that is simply not the case if we're just going to export that resource abroad.
Ultimately, approving and building infrastructure is a lengthy, expensive process, and the limited oil and gas reserves available under U.S. soil will not support the money and energy needed to ship it overseas. Instead, we should invest in renewable energy.
Not just renewables but responsible building practices that naturally will reduce the need for energy while increasing comfort. see: www.thestrawbalecottage.com
Why are we continually in such a hurry to use up our resources? If we are a country of conservatives, why can't we practice true conservatism and save our resources for a rainy day? The rich and powerful will remain the rich and powerful.!
There is only so much wealth [ resources ] on the planet why use them up all at once. Those are our resources and one of the many things that should help keep our country powerful.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Strawbale Workshop Set for September 13th - 20th 2014

This Work Shop is Full. stay tuned for future workshops.

This Workshop is designed for people who are truly interested in building Strawbale either for a home, shop or outbuilding. Whether you have been thinking about building it yourself or acting as the general contractor or having someone build for you the information that I share will be invaluable and hopefully will give you the confidence to take the next step towards building a home that is naturally efficient with a smaller embodied energy footprint. Much of what I will be sharing would apply to standard stick frame construction.

The Work shop will be hosted on my 70 acre off grid inholding called the Way Back Inn.

For more info about the property see: http://www.thewaybackinn.com/;

There is plenty of room for car and tent camping, facilities, and kitchen amenities.

 For when a home dreams green it dreams strawbale ™

In this workshop we will be Building a small studio of my own design. The Studio will be approximately 200 sq. ft. The foundation will be of “Earthship Design” made of tire. Then we will switch to Strawbale for everything above grade.


 Workshop participants can expect to learn my basic techniques for residential Strawbale construction from design to foundation to roof including electrical wiring in a strawbale wall and at the least a general overview of my approach to Natural Plasters and Finishes.

Itinerary: Each Morning will begin with a discussion of Passive Solar and Construction design principles as it applies to Strawbale Building. Including but not limited to site location, infrastructure, building envelope, Vapor and moisture management heat transfer and how it relates to mass and glazing, plaster paints and finishes and myth busting ie…fire, earthquake, wind, moisture and engineer testing.

I have designed the course so that Individuals may sign up for 1 or more days or the entire week.

Sat. 9/13

            Arrival Set up camp,

2:00 PM;

Tour of property and it's infrastructure; Photovoltaic system, septic, gravity fed well and spring, Historic Log Cabin and Tyre Strawbale addition.

Discussion; an overview of what we hope to learn over the coming days.

Cost: $25.00 per person

Sun. 9/14 – Fri. 9/20

            9:00 – 10:30 AM. Open Discussion; design principles etc…

            11:00 – 12:00 getting that day’s job started; layout, assignment of duties, organization and work.

            12;00 – 1:00 Lunch

            1:00 – 5:00 Finally we’ll get something done!

Cost $75.00 per person per day.

            $10:00 per tent site per day

            $15:00 per person per day for meals. Meals include: Continental breakfast, Deli style lunch, and family style dinner prepared by teams to be determined at orientation.

To register Contact me---Greg Walter @ 719-539-0420 or  greg@wanderlustroad.com  or Fill out Registration form here


About the Instructor: Greg Walter has over the course of the first decade of the 21st Century has designed and built from the ground up eight Strawbale Homes, three of which used tires for the below grade stem-wall / foundation.

                My interest in alternative construction or natural building goes back to at least my late teens. While living in Red Feather Lakes I was exposed to a variety of interesting folks who definitely did not fit into the normal social paradigm. From tree houses, to modern day homesteaders who were literally living off the land, to multi generation mountain folk whom had their own 19th century belt drivin, off grid machine shop and foundry. I was also introduced to books like Homework , Homemade Houses, and books that featured folks who had turned old trucks and busses into comfortable homes. As someone living on my own throughout my teens and early 20’s these all had a powerful influence on me.

            Later on through my 20’s I would be turned on by the Earthship books by Micheal Renalds, Living the Good Life by Helen and Scott Kneering and Bill Mollison’s Permaculture: a Designers Manual. During this time I started to here of Strawbale. This was some time in the late 80’s and early 90”s and there was something that really rang true to me about that kind of construction. At the time there really wasn’t much literature on the subject but the idea--- it just stuck with me.

            At the same time I was finishing up a 10 year career in ski bumming and as I was nearing my 30’s I began to burn out on the lifestyle. I mean really, if you are thinking of yourself as a granola crunching, tree huggin, 3-pinnen hippy carrying the weight of the world----well, ya can’t be livin much higher on the carbon and economic food chain than living at 10,000 feet, riding a chairlift every day, and workin for tips off the more well to do folks of society. Or at least that’s how I began to see it. No offence.

            So that’s when I decided to buy some off the grid property and take my own stab at “Living the Good Life” and sustainability and all that stuff that really is ever elusive and not that easy to attain. But, in my opinion is sure is worth the try. I mean you gotta believe in something. Right! Anyhow, I went about finding a local Strawbale Guru and a small little self-published guide called Build it with Bales by Matts Myhrman. Soon I found myself building a Tire and strawbale addition to an old historic log miners cabin that I was also remodeling on the property that I had purchased.

            After starting that project I was approached locally by someone who wanted me to help design and build her home. It was also a tire and Strawbale hybrid.

            Ten years and eight homes later; which I designed and built, and with a lot of research and reading I now feel confident, inspired and obliged to share the knowledge and passion I have acquired.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Ted Talks. Save the bees-----says it all

What this lady reveals in her ted talk and her closing statement, in my mind........is the solution!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Past Projects

The Thomas Residence

For our second Strawbale Building in Smeltertown, we built a 1640 sq foot home for some more folks wanting to lower their ”Carbon Footprint”. The home is part of a piece of land that is also home to the Cox / Hvoslef project. It features, a variety of historic buildings that comprise of an old homestead. The home incorporates traditional natural plasters inside and out, an adobe earth troumb wall, in-floor radiant heat, solar domestic hot water, and 3000-Watt Solar Grid Inter tie system. This home also features a passive solar radiant air floor influenced by the work of James kachadorian’s in his book “The Passive Solar House”.
Built in 2008-2009; The Thomas’s Home has very clean lines. They wanted a modern, European look. To accomplish this we used no trim for baseboard, doors, or ceiling. The result; a nice clean simple finish. This Strawbale home is Energy Star Rated



Merry Cox and Eric Hvoslef’s Residence is an artists home with an artists touch. Definitely the most fun we’ve been able to have to date.! This pad not only has all the amenities that you expect from The Strawbale Cottage But cool touches through out. Such as; The grill of a 57? Chevy pick up with the chrome arrows saying Apache integrated in the main rooms plaster walls. The headlights work too! Tadalakt style shower walls, an old steering wheel incorporated into the truth window among other cool details.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Passive solar water bottle light

Check out this 3rd world invention of the solar tube light!! has potential in any natural home. Will need to replace the water with alcohol or something but still ????

Alfredo Moser: Bottle light inventor proud to be poor

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ok, Back to the business of building a tyre and strawbale hybrid.

Ok, Back to the business of building a tyre and strawbale hybrid.

Remember; when a home dreams green it dreams strawbale.

© gvroom

 Micheal Renalds  books Earthship’s 1&2 Had a huge influence on me and in my opinion a must read for anyone interested in sustainability, green and natural building etc… His concepts are sound and harmonize well with the permaculture ethos. 

Personally I chose to build a hybrid using Earthship concepts below grade and strawbale above grade. I chose this option for a couple of reasons. One, packing tyres is a hell of a lot of work, and one only needs so much mass for an efficient passive solar home.

I have since built 3 homes using tyres to get above grade. They work great when berming into the earth and honestly are not that bad to pack from the ground to about chest high. After that they get incrementally more labor intensive.

It is important that you keep your
courses on the
same level!

I think tyres make excellent Foundations and stem walls. Unlike concrete which is brittle and therefore inflexible, tyres can move with the earth but because of their width still remain stable. And we all know that the ground is in a constant state of flux.
When collecting tyres it is important to get all the same size. In my case they were R-75-15. You will want to learn what the most common SUV or truck tire is in your area, as they will be the easiest to collect. My county is rural with about 14000 souls and supports 3 tire stores. With that said I was able to collect 300 tires in about 3 weeks. Keep in mind these were all the same size tires. That puts into perspective how many tires we use and exemplifies the importance of finding ways to use this soon to become precious resource, and they make great foundations.
When prepping the ground to use Tyres or REU’s [ rammed earth units ] the same rules apply as to any other footer/foundation. The grade needs to be level and on “undisturbed soil” or packed to 50 psi per engineering specs.
This is usually done with moistening the dirt and tamping with a mechanical tamping device.
In this photo we are building up our corners. Because I wanted my corners to be at right angles the tires would not overlap so we poured concrete 1/2 tires and tied them into the tires with rebar.
 My approach to packing tires is to use two people working as a team with one person on opposite sides of the wall. One person shovels and packs while the other pry’s open the rim of the REU with a pick axe. The shoveler first fills the tire and then packs out the inside of the tyre first by hand and then with a small 2 pound sledge hammer. This will fill the tire to nearly the required amount with the least amount of effort. 
Note: when the REU [R-75-15] is packed to 10” you have achieved the proper psi per engineering specs of 50 psi. [I have the specs on this and would be happy to share them]. It is also important that you keep each course on the same level. Sooo---always shoot grade and use string lines. We will be discussing more on this as we go.


jumping Jack Tyre, it's a gas, gas, gas!
To finish packing the tyre to the required psi, overfill the tyre with your shovel, then use a “jumping jack” to finish packing the tire out. The jumping jack works great as it’s foot fits perfectly in the hole of the tyre and not only tamps the earth down, but pushes it out to pack out the sidewall. This is also a two man job. I found the jumping jack to be much easier than using a large sledge or pneumatic sledge to finish packing out the REU’s.
Using between 3 & 400 tyres in a project would take a crew of 6 people about a week to complete. The cost compared to what the same amount of mass in concrete would cost me with labor included.
One reason why REU’s work so well is that the rubber acts both as an insulator but also as a conductor. So as one tyre heats and becomes warmer than the tyres around it the rubber helps to conduct the heat to the surrounding cooler tyre.
this is about 500 sq. ft. and took a work party
 of friends a long weekend to accomplish what
 you see here.Oh! and a lot of beer.
Here we are on our last course of REU’s. In the background you see a packing team giving their last touch to a tire. Note the small sledge.  In the foreground you see rebar poking out of the tires. The rebar is beat vertically down through the tires to tie them all together. To accomplish this I used the same tool that is used for t-posts in fencing. The rebar is then left long to tie into the concrete bond beam.

In this photo we see-----Jubilation!, and for good reason. We are celebrating the successful pour of the bond beam. Now this was no easy feat. First of all our forms left allot to be desired. The beam was formed on top of the tires, as wide as the tires, about 30”, and a foot thick [total overkill I might add], keep in mind that we are at the Way Back Inn and getting a cement truck up there, well that alone is asking a lot, not to mention that on that day I had a crew of two. Anyway, about the bond beam, the purpose of the bond beam is exactly as it is described; to bond the tires together and to create a level surface from which to build off of. Note the rebar sticking out of the bond beam. Those were for stabbing into the first course of straw to tie everything together. This I would later learn is not necessary and would not do this again on my next 7 homes.  

On my future homes where I have used tyres I would have the bond beam engineered to use a minimum amount of concrete. I think we shrunk it down to the size of a typical footer which is 8” thick by 16” wide.

Kevin is filling the v's with an adobe/cob mix.
Now you can see in the photo above, the V’s or holes between the REU’s. Those need to be filled. On future homes I would use 2 ft. by 8 ft. strips of ply wood on both sides of the tyres. These would function in a couple of ways: They would act as a means for me to maintain level and plumb, and they were forms where I would pour concrete into the gaps between tyres after every course was packed. This method proved to be a much easier way to fill the V’s and resulted in a fairly plumb and square wall.
At this instance be sure to install a good French drain.
Now one of the laws of thermal dynamics state that when two materials of different temperatures are touching, heat will got to cold and vice versa. So in the case of using mass as a heat sink for your home, unless you don’t mind the earth and or elements drawing the heat stored in your mass down to its temperature, you have to isolate/insolate your mass from these elements. If you do then the mass will maintain a consistent temperature based on the ambient temperature of your home. I highly recommend doing this. It is also important to create a moisture barrier between the earth and your tyre wall/footer/foundation. Condensation will eventually deteriorate the integrity of your wall and will also act as a heat syphon.