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Bega, NSW – Loadbearing home


This 2 bedroom load bearing house was built in 2009 with the assistance of a 5 day workshop

bega1Bega the vision

The vision was to build a zero energy home for this family in the Far South Coast of NSW.

The specifications for the house included 100mtrs sqr build, 2 bedrooms with concrete water tank, solar hot water, compost toilet and strawbales in the ceiling

A five day wall raising workshop was run to bring this home to lock up stage in just 12 days

The following is an article written by Steve Strevens, 25 May 2009.


the last straw

THE first house on the Bega Eco Neighbour-hood  Development (BEND) is quickly taking shape.

On first glance it may appear to be a house the three little pigs might like, but this house of straw is far from that.

It is a straw bale house, where the perimeter walls are built, as the name suggests, from straw bales and then lime render applied on the exterior and clay render on the inside.

The ceiling is also lined with bales.

The interior walls, the plumbing, electricity and other parts of the fit-out are all similar to traditional houses,

The house is being built by Frank Thomas from Straw Bale Construction for Bega couple Tina Yang and Carsten Eckelmann.

Mr Thomas has three workers on the site, but there is ample help from others who use the opportunity as a workshop to learn more about the way these houses are constructed and perhaps use the information to build their own.

As well as volunteers from the Bega Valley, people have come from Brisbane, Perth, Melb-ourne and other places around the country to help.

Mr Thomas said workshops were a common process.

“First of all they may have seen it on television or a magazine or talked to a friend and become interested,” he said.

“Then they come along and see if it all makes sense to them and find out if that is something they want to do.

“They can see the concept and see if it really works.”

This first-hand experience, according to Mr Thomas, helps them make a decision on whether they want to build that way themselves.

“We use straw bales in the envelope of the building for high insulation purposes which will produce energy efficient homes,” Mr Thomas said.

“The RV is 10 compared to a batt that has an RV of 3.5.

“The house also has an energy star rating of eight which is the highest in the country.”

As for fire, Mr Thomas said the CSIRO had tested and approved the process.

“In Germany they have tested this for 90 minutes at 1000 degrees.”

Mr Thomas said the process was “not out of touch with the building industry, it’s not a completely ‘hippie’ building”.

“You need a base, you need a plumber and electrician, the dividing walls, windows and doors are all standard,” he said.

“The only thing really different is the wall system that has much higher insulation properties and therefore becomes cheaper in running costs.”

Based in Jervis Bay, Mr Thomas started building straw bale houses in 1997, with this his 91st.

He has built them in Queensland, Whyalla, Sydney, Melbourne and many areas in between.

“I recently finished the biggest animal hospital in the world for Terri and Bindi Irwin from straw bales,” he said.

“It was 1400 square metres and cost over $5million.”

According to Mr Thomas, the process was “becoming more and more mainstream because of the insulation and energy properties”.

“For instance, we’ve built for universities and million-dollar homes in Sydney,” he said.

Mr Thomas has taught the process at TAFE in Sydney for four years and has been asked to teach in Brisbane and Melbourne as well.

“There is lots of interest everywhere,” he said.

“Doing it this way, the people that build can make friends out of the workshop and meet like-minded people.

“That transports the information to other places in the country.”

Tina Yang said she first saw the idea in a book about small straw bale houses and “it looked beautiful”.

“It was all natural material and was absolutely the right thing to do,” she said.

Ms Yang attended a workshop at Dignam’s Creek and it went from there.

“I’d always felt cold in normal homes and wanted a warmer one,” she said.

“I don’t like wasting energy and this will save me with running costs.”

Ms Yang said her home is “perfect; it is beautiful and the spirit here is really good”.

The home will hopefully be finished by the end of July and Ms Yang said she was looking forward to moving in.