Slipstraw workshop day by day
Our team has been working hard to make this course possible. We started 6 weeks before by building a bathroom/toilet building to accommodate camping participants (see previous blog posts), so it is fair to say that we are warmed up and ready for other buildings to come. Matthieu, the project’s architect, has been monitoring the building process while Xavier worked on site with volunteers and was recently joined by Efe who will manage the construction throughout the summer. Thanks to all who helped like Ece, Onur, Malcolm, Clément, Şeyma, David, and many more.
This workshop and future ones are part of a broader vision: the 8bin100 project initiated by Aysun and Mehmet Sökmen, our hosts on the farm.
25th of June, late morning
While participants are already arriving and discovering the farm in which they will spend the next week, we are rushing to complete the site’s preparation, aligning tables, organizing tools, leveling foundations and getting materials ready.
Everyone is on time. After a quick lunch we come together in the woods behind the Sökmen’s house to introduce ourselves and meet our participants. This year we have many first year architecture students coming to complete their internship requirements and widen their horizons. The other participants are mainly self builders willing to acquire the skills to build their own homes. Their is a wide variety of backgrounds in the group but all have one thing in common: they are full of energy and ready to get to work.
After a two hours tour of the farm with Aysun and an introduction to the plans of the actual house we are going to build, The bathroom building is shown and lots of technical questions are already brought up.
Around the empty foundations of our future house the group stands a bit puzzled, trying to imagine the work to come and how a building will rise out of these trenches.
26th of June
This first day of work is all about preparing foundations, the first step to set a good base for the building. Our technique is inspired by the earthbag building. Polyethylene rice bags are filled with thick gravel, laid tight next to each other and then tamped to level them and lock them in place. barbed wire is then placed over and the process is repeated to form the next layer. We had three layers in total, enough to have the foundations just above the ground level.
With a lot of empty space between the gravels, no ground water will be able to reach the walls and our house will stay dry.
This job is heavy and we initially planned for a day and a half, but thanks to the size of our team the three layers were done by the end of the day.
By checking the lengths of diagonals, stretching strings and making sure the bags are laid accordingly, we get accurate foundation dimensions and can start planning for the woodwork to come.
For the time-lapse you can see at the top of this page, Xavier set up a special tripod in front of the site and recorded the main construction stages up to a few days after the workshop.
27th of June
With foundations complete the next step is to start building the wood frames that will form the walls of the house. Matthieu designed the simplest possible frame to allow for an easy slipstraw application and a low wood consumption. Pieces of 5x10 pine are assembled with 15cm nails into a 30cm wide frame reinforced with long diagonals. Many in the group are using a saw for the first time, so we make sure everyone ends the day with basic wood cutting skills.
Meanwhile, as we divided the group into three teams, people are also working on mud bricks preparation and plastering on the bathroom building walls. Mud bricks will be laid to form a 2 meters wall inside the house and a small one under the front window. Their primary purpose will be to catch solar heat and store it to ensure less temperature variations inside the house. The plaster work gives participants an introduction to plastering. They apply a rough earth/straw plaster on earthbags to protect them from the sun’s UVs.
Today’s presentation is about bioclimatic design, or how to design your building to maximize its thermal efficiency. This very important presentation will be given in each workshop because taking advantage of solar heath and loosing as little energy as possible are major concerns in natural building.
28th of June
Today woodframes are completed and raised up to stand in place. This is done by lifting them and adjusting their position precisely on the gravel bags foundation. They are then secured in place with temporary diagonals to the ground on both sides and their corners are nailed together once all parts are up. Everyone gets very excited as the shape of the house already starts forming.
On the other side of the field the major technique taught in this workshop has started, under the management of Ece. Slip-straw is a mix of straw and liquid clayey mud which is stuffed into a mold then left to dry to form a strong, yet light material. We will put it into the walls frames directly but for now the plan is to make small blocks out of it.
The slip-straw blocks will help complete the very top of the walls easily. They need time to dry and are therefore prepared as early as possible.
29th of June
Today and until the end of the week, heavy rains will refresh the farm every afternoon. Temperatures drop, but our work is sometimes delayed and we can’t do as much as planned.
This day marks the beginning of the actual slipstraw walls building. Two teams of 4-5 people are running full speed to produce the straw/clay mix while others are mounting pannels to the wall frames, placing the mix inside and compressing it. Slowly by slowly our walls have started growing.
We also start the mud brick walls. Bricks have been produced by volunteers for the past month so many already dry and ready to use. We have 25x25cm bricks and smaller 15x25 ones which allows for an overlapping pattern for wide walls. Between foundations and bricks are wood beams that serve as stable supports for the wall.
We have two short presentations today, one about the structure of earth, the other about natural building techniques.
Today we are cutting and assembling the trusses that will support the roof and today we are ready to install some of them on top of the walls. Meanwhile slip-straw, mud bricks and plastering works are still running.
The rain prevents us again from working efficiently and we spend some of the day in Aysun’s house. Xavier’s presentation about traditional architecture around the world is shown in the afternoon.
2nd of July
Thanks to a better weather today we can work hard to make the most of our last day together. Matthieu demonstrates how to cut a straw bale by inserting ropes with a rebar needle through it. It is time to start installing the insulative layer of straw bales on the roof. They have to be pushed hard between the trusses and will later be covered with a protective plaster.
3rd of July
Today most of us go home and we have to say goodbye. It was an amazing week with plenty of work done and much knowledge learned. A big thanks for everyone for this big effort. We hope you had a great time on the farm and that this workshop will inspire you to build beautiful and comfortable buildings in the future.
The next workshop will be focused on straw-bale building. We will construct the same house, with straw-bales instead of slip-straw.
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