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Project Participants:

Legacy builders


Laughing Gravy Studios

Strawbale Home


Above and beyond any of the other 100 projects I have been involved with, this straw bale home has created community. To help achieve a sustainable culture, green buildings must regenerate a sense of community and connection with the natural world thus giving a sense of belonging and chance to discover one’s deeper self in opening up to others and the cosmos. This home has people stopping to ask how they can be involved with the progress. The project owner has been a big resource for this project to be lifted with vision for a better way to live with conscious of how we impact the environment.

In a recent article Common Ground/Common Future by David Orr he states "that restoring the environment is this generation's Great Work, akin to three other significant times and events in U.S. History-the American revolution (throwing off tyranny), the Civil War (eradicating slavery) and World War II (defeating fascism). The challenge of our times is like no other. No generation has ever had greater work to do and no more reason to rise to greatness. 

If you missed seeing this home on the SiGBA 2007 Green Building Tour here is a peak at a beautiful eco home.  You can find the many energy efficient features in this new home including: active and passive solar heating, thermal mass, large Low E2 dual paned windows that let in a maximum of natural light, straw bale insulation and radiant barriers creating a "tight energy efficient envelope." The design also incorporated site and building orientation, views to nature, high quality construction by local artisans and materials efficiency, responsible resource use, and water retention. The living roof makes use of indigenous drought tolerant landscape plants, increases insulation, slows storm water runoff and allows area for bees, butterflies and beyond to co-habitate supporting local bio diversity.  This healthy home uses natural earth and lime plaster walls, earthen floors and Low VOC products for increased indoor air quality.  Low maintenance is a key to green building principles and was a requirement for the materials selected for this project.  Material should endure and improve with age. This is our goal.


The best part of life is our ability to learn from our experiences. No job site, project team or design processes go without challenges. Everyone has different ways of approaching a problem. Remember not to focus on “what went wrong”. Put your energy into how to respond to the challenge with a solution and keep the progress moving forward. Here are a few things to recommend for any project process to go smoothly:

  • Provided more details in the drawings before construction started 
  • Owner’s should read up on the role of an architect if they have not used one
  • Hold pre-construction meetings to review potential concerns before you are standing on the job site slowing down progress 
  • Have regular construction observation meetings
  • Track with thorough documentation project budget and change orders 
  • Use construction professionals experienced in your type of construction methods 
  • If you are doing something you have never done before only do 2 or 3 of those items and have experience in the rest of the methodologies 
  • Have owners willing and open minded 
  • Have good relationships and communication skills with everyone involved 
  • Special construction draws people attention and enthusiasm



Cole Butler, Architect + Imagination Director, Laughing Gravy Studios

Iban Aranzabal, Designer and Builder, Oyu Designs

Daniel Schnurrenberg, General Contractor, Legacy Builders

Jeff Bender, Mechanical Engineer, BEX

Phil Agurrie,  Tahoe City Electric

Randy Crawford, Natural Builder

Kurt Westerlund, Advanced Framework

Paul Laudenschlager, Engineer, Alpen Engineering

Wyatt Ogilvy, Land Planner, Olgivy Consulting

ARCHITECT: Cole Butler

DESIGNER: Iban Aranzabal

BUILDER: Daniel Schnurrenberg

OWNER: Ruth Braly

LOCATION: Homewood, CA

SIZE (SF): 2,075

DATE OF COMPLETION: Estimated Dec.2008

COST/SF: $482



Recycled Content:

  • Rastra Block
  • Strawbale

Waste Diversion:

  • Strawbale
  • Fly Ash in concrete

Renewable Resources:

  • Timber Frame construction
  • FSC Certified Gluelams
  • Earthen Plaster
  • Earthen Floor
  • Ipe Lumber for decks


  • Straw bale infill walls
  • Rastra Block Units
  • Spray Cellulous
  • Expanded Clay between floor plates
  • High density Polyurethane Roof insulation
  • R-12 Insulation outside and above footings
  • Hydraulic Lime Plaster exterior
  • Low-E Glazing
  • Caulking window and door openings
  • Wet Suite fireproofing and waterproofing


  • Low flow fixtures
  • Power Pipe Waste Water heat recovery system


  • Radiant Hydronic floor Heating
  • Personal Controls for each zone
  • Natural Ventilation
  • Low Emission Wood burning stove
  • Air to Air Heat Recovery System
  • Thermal Mass in walls and floors
  • Underground Cold Water Pre-Heat System
  • Natural Paints & LowVOC products


  • Passive Solar for natural lighting
  • Compact Fluorescent
  • NightTime Sky Principles reduces light pollution


  • Solar Hot Water
  • Energy Star Appliances:

Total energy savings at 45% above required California Energy Calculations


  • Living roof to hold storm water
  • Site development – integrate all appropriate best practice for low-impact site development, natural on-site storm water management
  • Protect on-site soil and vegetation during construction.
  • Pervious concrete for driveway

Tags: New Construction
Passive Solar
Advanced framing
Water Conservation
High Thermal Mass

Mail can be sent to: SiGBA P.O. Box 4245 Truckee, CA 96160

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