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The Straw Bale Alternative Solutions Resource is now available online

Published by Chris McClellan on June 10, 2013 in Community News

Spearheaded by our own Dawn Marie Smith, ASR’s “Straw Bale” is the first installment in a series of  technical White Papers in support of leading alternative building materials and methods. Get your copy now!
The Strawbale ASR

The Straw Bale Alternative Solutions Resource. (PDF version) A resource for designers, engineers, builders and building officials working with straw bale as a building material. The document contains detailed, comprehensive and peer-reviewed recommendations and supporting information designed to assist in applying for building permits involving the use of straw bales. 52 pages.

Price: $25.00
Preview: show preview ‘the use and limitations of straw bales as structural and non-structural wall elements in residential and small commercial buildings within the context of the requirements of Part 9 of the British Columbia Building Code (BCBC).’ About the SB ASR. Tim Krahn, Structural Engineer from Ontario wrote: “The NBEG [Natural Building Engineering Group –] was very approving of the document and are looking forward to how this will help the ONBC (formerly OSBBC) continue to develop their resources for Ontario.” Brian Cockburn, Mechanical Engineer from Victoria wrote: “From a designer’s/engineer’s point of view, this is precisely what I would want in a reference guide. It gives an excellent high-level survey of the state of knowledge on strawbale construction, and directs me where to look for specific information.” And Bruce King, Structural Engineer and SB author from California wrote: “Wow, VERY impressive!  Congratulations on a lot of hard work and a job well done!” Research and development of this first element began in May 2012. We have been very fortunate in that, through our various contacts and a process of networking, we gained access at the highest level to professionals in the field of straw bale construction. People who literally ‘wrote the books‘ and who have not only expressed their strong support for the project but, in many cases, have offered to review the document for us during its development. People like Bruce KingDavid EisenbergKris DyckMartin HammerDarcey Donovan, Chris Magwood and Habib Gonzales. We are honoured by their support and interest. As further Elements of the ASR are written they will be available online as a series of pdf documents each of which will contain guidelines related to the use of a specific natural and/or alternative building materials or system (natural methods). The purpose of the ASR is to provide a valuable reference for the entire building community – from homeowners to architects, engineers, building officials, contractors, and all other building professionals – when working on any project that involves natural methods. The guidelines will provide comprehensive, concise and regionally-appropriate information on these natural methods that are not currently addressed by the British Columbia Building Code (BCBC). The contents of the ASR are vetted by qualified professional from different areas of the building industry in order to ensure that the information presented is highly accurate, appropriate and applicable. Furthermore, the professional review process ensures that the guidelines comply with regulatory requirements relating to the use of ‘alternative solutions’ set out in the BCBC. The choice of straw bales as the first element was based on a number of factors, including:

  • widest application across the province of BC;
  • the availability of current and comprehensive information and,
  • the environmental benefits of using waste agricultural materials.

The development of this first element of the ASR creates a framework for the document which will then be carried forward as further elements are added in the future. Future additions will include (but are not limited to):

  • cob
  • rammed earth
  • adobe block
  • light clay
  • earthen plasters and floor systems
  • thermal mass
  • on-site grey-water and black-water treatment
  • alternative healthy electrical technologies
  • passive and active solar integration, and
  • living roof installations.

Grant money generously provided by the Vancity / Real Estate Foundation of BC Green Building program – as well as other revenue raised through hosting events – has been used to fund the work required to research, collate, edit, vet, design and publish the ASR. When the initial research for an element of the ASR is completed, the accumulated data is formatted and circulated for peer-review by qualified professionals within the building industry to ensure that the information is not only technically correct, but also meets the requirements of the BCBC with regards to all the standards set out in Part 9.

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A wonderful journey with bamboo at Damyang, Korea

Published by Chris McClellan on June 6, 2013 in Articles


By LIN, Ya-Yin,

Edited by Michael G. Smith


Life is full of surprises. We never know where we’re going to end up when we take our first step. In 2012, I went to Belgium to attend the 9th World Bamboo Congress (WBC). I had been invited by an architect friend to collaborate with her on the design of a bamboo library for an elementary school. We were looking for information about cutting-edge techniques for the treatment of bamboo as a structural building material. It was our plan to meet with a man at the conference who had built a low-temperature heat treatment kiln for bamboo.

Since bamboo has been retreating from our daily lives and mainstream markets in Taiwan, what surprised me most at the WBC was to learn that it should be so widely studied and promoted by many people from around the world. This high level of interest has led to a great variety of research for many different applications – not only architectural but industrial, artisanal, and culinary as well. Though every attendee at the WBC had a different approach to working with bamboo, whether they represented the private sector or a governmental agency, or were driven by commercial or academic interests, there was a strong sense of collective purpose and action. In many parts of the world, people are turning the traditional notion of bamboo as poor man’s wood into thriving value-added businesses.

Though its prominence has lately been fading away, the chinese culture has always had a strong bamboo tradition. In addition to its utilitarian functions, bamboo was a major artistic subject. Praised by poets and frequently occurring in literature, paintings and music, bamboo was a symbol of pure character and integrity. What’s happening nowadays is that although our bamboo artifacts and art may have achieved their highest artistic and handicraft value in history, bamboo has long since lost its relevance to our daily lives.

It turned out that the people from Taiwan who attended the 9th WBC were so inspired that we decided to establish a national organization named the Taiwan Bamboo Society. The goal of this non-profit organization is to unite people and resources in order to revive the interest and usage of bamboo in Taiwan.















The next unexpected step was that I saw a letter from Mr. Michel Abadie, the president of the World Bamboo Organisation (WBO), soliciting members for the international organizing committee for the 10th WBC. I volunteered and was accepted as a member of the Technical Committee of the 10th WBC.

Now at last I come to the main subject of this article: the 15th Bamboo Festival in Damyang, Korea. When the county of Damyang was preparing for their annual event this year, they invited the 10th WBC Technical Committee to meet with them during the festival. Three of us represented the WBO in Damyang in May, 2013: the chair of the technical committee, Ms. Nirmala Chongtham from India, the co-chair, Mr. Jean-luc Koujoumji from France, and myself from Taiwan.

I left for Damyang with eight other Taiwanese bamboo craft artists, two of whom had been invited to exhibit their artifacts along with artists from five other countries. My first Korean lesson began by reading traffic signs with Korean-English parallel texts on the way from Incheon international airport to Damyang, trying to figure out the rules of the Korean phonetic alphabet. It was not too hard; in fact, I found it pretty logical. Sejong Daewang, a great king six hundred years ago, invented the Korean written language so that even the most humble people could learn to read and write.


As we approached Damyang by car, we began to see more and more bamboo growing along the roads and on surrounding hillsides. In the region’s early summer, the air was agreeably cool and fresh.

As a visitor to Damyang, you get the feelings that someone has been trying every possible way to make your life related to bamboo. The most obvious thing is that you have bamboo shoots prepared in many different ways presented in small dishes practically at every meal – breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is bamboo sausage in the food stalls along the riverfront by the Yeong-San River. You may have refreshing bamboo tea, bamboo wine or bamboo beer to go with it. In restaurants, you commonly see huge bamboo shoots dipped in alcohol displayed in big jars. It is said that with bamboo in the alcohol, you cannot get drunk. Rather than testing this theory, we sipped bamboo tea and bamboo vinegar when we were thirsty. (The chopsticks, surprisingly, are made of steel instead of bamboo which most east asian people use.)

Apart from the culinary uses, there are all kinds of locally produced bamboo products, old and new. Bamboo odor-absorbers, organic bamboo soap, kitchen cleansers, clothes-washing detergent in liquid as well as in solid form were common items on the shelves. In the exhibition hall at the Bamboo Festival, people were lying on a therapeutic heated couch with its surface made of bamboo charcoal tiles. Nirmala even received a nice massage from a lady selling all kinds of body treatment utensils made of bamboo. We visited a bamboo oil factory, too. The owner stated that cosmetics including of his products make your skin whiter than ever, and that bamboo oil also keeps crops and domestic animals disease-free.


If you care for some outdoors activities, try floating down the river in a bamboo raft. Bamboo lanterns were flickering along the riverbanks and hanging under the bamboo tunnel. You could see children busy filling their bamboo water guns. Some would step into the temporary fish pond on the shallow side of the river, trying to catch fishes with their bare hands. Suddenly, we heard drums pounding and there came a parade circulating the area on their way to the bamboo market.

The most amazing experience for me was to sleep in a hanok, a traditional Korean residence. It was like a dream come true. The hanoks were situated in the Bamboo Culture Experience Village, surrounded by groves of bamboo of course. If you take a walk in the morning along the trail, it will lead you to a vast bamboo park on a hill covered mainly with the three major local bamboo species. Bamboo craft masters and scholars were sitting here and there under the roofs of traditional pavilions, making bamboo fans or painting personalized inscriptions on the fan you just bought from another master.


Back in Belgium, at the 9th WBC in 2012, I had first met the Korean delegation from Damyang. A very impressive and passionate team led by the mayor, Mr. Choi, was there to present themselves as a candidate to host the 10th WBC. I was just one of the attendees of the congress and they were total strangers to me at that time. Who would have figured that a year later I would be visiting their county, making good friends with the people of the place. Life is a sheer miracle.

The theme of the 10th WBC is “Bamboo for a Greener Future”. It will be held from June 27th to July 1st, 2015 in Damyang, concurrent with a World Bamboo Fair running from June 27th to August 15th. I am sure that Damyang will be ready to give visitors a very warm welcome. Damyang is undergoing huge renovations to become an eco-city showcasing sustainable bamboo markets and businesses. Curiously, there is no bamboo construction tradition in Korea. The mayor is determined to change that no later than 2015.


The DBF website:

For more information about WBC, for now please read here:

The WBC website will begin to take on information by 1 June.


ya13 ya14 ya15 ya16 ya17 ya18 ya19 ya20 ya21



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In Support of Straw Bale in British Columbia

Published by Chris McClellan on June 6, 2013 in NBN News


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NBN Board of Directors Call for Nominations

Published by Carrie Campbell on May 29, 2012 in Articles, NBN News

Dear Friends,
We are currently looking for board nominees for our 2012 elections. This is a 2 and a half year term starting in August. The board meets once a month by Internet teleconference and has a yearly weekend retreat where we meet in person. Duties can include project management, volunteer coordination, fund raising, web development, interaction with the public, and being excited by Natural Building. If you are interested in seeking a place on the NBN Board of Directors or would like to nominate someone else please contact us. Applicants must be Natural Building Network members in good standing of at least one year.


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Under Construction

Published by Chris McClellan on May 1, 2012 in NBN News

Dear Friends,
We are in the process of upgrading our server. Please forgive the little weirdnesses that pop up, and if something really strange is happening please let us know.

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2011 Straw Bale Building Research Program Releases Energy Performance Report

Published by Chris McClellan on March 30, 2012 in Articles, Community News

As part of the research for their new book, The Natural Building Companion:A Comprehensive Guide to Integrative Design and Construction, Natural Builders Jacob Deva Racusin and Ace McArleton used state-of-the-art technology, including infrared photography and blower door testing, to document the thermal and moisture performance of seven straw bale homes in the northeastern U.S. As NBN helped fund and publicize the project, Deva and Ace have shared with us the results of the study, which NBN members are welcome to download here:

SPOILER ALERT: What they found was that attention to detail makes a huge difference in building performance. Anywhere timber frames or rafters or other structural members break the insulative envelope is a potential problem spot and requires a greater level of detailing to avoid compromising performance. Hidden checking in timber frame members and unsealed joints within the frame can allow significant air infiltration. Consistently across all test cases, the largest sources of air leakage occured in non-straw-bale-wall components of the assembly, particularly in roof penetrations, roof edge detailing, and window-unit-to-rough-opening sealing.
More of this type of research and documentation needs to be done on natural material building systems, especially in an “as built” situation. The thermal performance of a house, especially in harsher climates, has a profound impact on the ongoing ecological footprint of a building, and the comfort and well-being of the people who live there. Our hats are off to Deva and Ace.

Their book can be found at

Ace and Deva are co-owners of New Frameworks Natural Building, a Vermont-based contracting and consulting business specializing in the integration of natural materials, holistic design principles, an intentional process to create high-performance structures of beauty. They also teach natural building courses through the Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Warren, Vermont.

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Natural Building Network Seeking Webmaster / Developer

Published by Web Team on October 4, 2011 in NBN News

Natural Building Network is a not-for-profit membership association promoting natural building principles, materials and practitioners worldwide. We support ecological regeneration, social justice, the building of community and economic opportunity, and the recognition of indigenous wisdom as essential in creating healthy, beautiful, and spiritually-uplifting habitation for everyone.

Web Team Project Manager position available.

We are looking for a webmaster for quarterly or biannual software updates of the NBN website.
Occasional troubleshooting of PHP and CSS.
Site improvements as defined by the Web Team and Web Project Manager.

Mad skills with:
PHP development
Membership site experience with aMember a plus

Please contact us if your interested in this opportunity.

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Special Invite to Natural Builders for Village Building Convergence

Published by Mark Lakeman on May 25, 2011 in Community News

Dear Friends,

(Please pass this message along to others in the natural building community, because they are invited too!)
This is from Mark, or mOcean. I’m emailing you to invite you to a special evening that will focus on and celebrate natural building as the opening evening of this year’s VBC. As part of the evening’s events, we intend to celebrate and honor people who are working and learning in the natural building movement. This night will feature news and presentations related to the legalization of light straw clay and the use of cob in the building of russian fire places!

The main event will be a gorgeous presentation by Paul Baker-LaPorte and Robert LaPorte on their several decades of work with light straw clay.

So, we are putting out a call to all the natural builders in the NW region with this invitation! Come join us, you will get in for free! Just come to the gate, let us know that you are a natural builder, give your name and affiliation if you have one, and come on in! The event will occur on the opening night of this year’s VBC, Friday, May 27, festivities start at 5:30PM. The venue for VBC11 is at St. David’s of Wales, 2800 SE Harrison in Portland. We hope to see you then!

Mark Lakeman

Principal & Design Lead Mark Lakeman, Co-Founder

1639 SE 12th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97214