Saturday, 22 June 2013

Straw Bale Workshop 1: The Point of No Return

This must be the same for every building that has ever been constructed. First, it is built in the imagination and only then can it be built on the ground. So, through the winter I have been building, in my mind, a straw bale workshop.

I already have a garage. Brick construction, uninsulated, ice-cold in winter, and jammed full of stuff. There's a large workbench in the centre made of recycled chipboard from some built-in wardrobes that we took out of the house; some tea-chests full of wood pieces and scraps, shelves of paint, hardware, electrical spares, glass, garden tools, bicycle parts, scrap metal, old carpet, canoe paddles, camping gear, drain rods, tools, theatrical props, fencing and piles of rubbish for recycling. It does function as my workshop. In fact, on my earlier blog, the DIY dome, there is video of work actually taking place there. But it's usually a struggle to find space to work in there, and for three or four months each winter, it's like working in a meat store.

The workshop (in my mind) will be large and spacious, easy to heat and within my capabilities to build. Here's where I would like it to go:

It's next to the dome, outlined with blue rope around four stakes. There's an existing shed in the way, but I can move that. There's also a leylandii hedge which I've already taken a saw to. (Leylandii! Never liked it anyway!) I can still move the stakes: thinner, longer, more or less angled, left a bit, right a bit. Nothing is absolutely settled yet. 

The plan is to build a structure 8.4 metres by 4.75 metres. Taking account of the thickness of straw bale walls, this should produce a building with a floor area of just under 30 square metres. Subject to a few other conditions, this means that it will not require planning permission or building regulations approval from the local council.

Next step was to move the shed. Here we go:

That didn't take long to get the roof off and the walls down. It took another week or two to reconstruct it on the other side of the garden. 

At this point, I'm not fully committed to the time and expense of building. I'd just chopped a hedge down and moved a shed. I could still back out, build something else, build somewhere else, put it off for a year or two. 

Things really started to get serious a couple of weeks later, in early May, when our neighbour John came round, with  his digger. He had come to pull the hedge stumps out, but that only took about 15 minutes. He said "Shall I dig your foundations while I'm here?" You can't really say no to an offer like that, can you?

(BONUS: I got to drive the dump truck!)

So you might now say that I had passed the point of no return.

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