Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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Building with Strawbales – Barbara Jones (2002)

**Building with Straw Bales – Barbara Jones. Green Books. (2002)**


Barbara Jones is undoubtedly the leading authority on strawbale construction in the UK and Ireland. She has built over 30 structures, ranging from small sheds and workshops to stunning individual homes, and has been constantly inventing and pioneering new techniques and details. It is appropriate therefore, that she pens the first ‘homegrown’ book on strawbale construction.

Until now, almost all of the literature available on strawbale construction has been American, where the climate necessitates a different approach to detailing and design than would apply in, say, the rain lashed coasts of the west of Ireland. Although some books, (Magwood & Mack’s Straw Bale Building being the best example so far) have attempted to deal with this, this is the first book to offer the practical experience of a woman who has built on the Yorkshire Moors, Dartmoor and in the West of Ireland, to name but a few.

‘Building with Straw Bales’, to paraphrase those dire TV adverts, ‘does exactly what it says on the cover’. It is an excellent practical workbook, which covers all aspects of strawbale construction. Starting at the bottom with foundation details, she offers designs and details which she has evolved herself over many years of refinement and trial and error. She then looks at the different styles of wall raisings, and although her passion for the load bearing or ‘Nebraska’ style shines though, she is also honest about its limitations and the pros and cons of the other approaches. Her section on plasters and renders for strawbale is the best available in print, covering all the options, and the section on further reading and resources is comprehensive and thorough.

She also addresses the issues of planning, laying to rest many of the planning-related myths around strawbale (‘you’ll never get planning for it’, ‘they always turn those down’ etc). Her approach throughout is one of well-founded optimism, “here is a technique which works and which is wonderful, and here’s how to do it