Spring in AustinAs I look out of my window at the nearly 18″ of snow that fell a couple days ago, the idea that Spring is nearby seems a bit hard to swallow; however, the fact remains that Spring is slowly finding its way into corners of the US and other parts of our amazing planet. My sister, who lives in Texas, sent me this beautiful picture yesterday declaring “I think I missed winter this year!” Of course, that can be balanced with the conversation I had with the host of the Montana straw bale workshop (August 2013) yesterday in which he declared “as much as I love the snow, I am ready for it to be gone at this point.” I suppose it all depends on where you live.

PlanningHere’s one thing I know about the coming of Spring: if you have been thinking about building a straw bale house, now is the time to start focusing in on your design. Once the ground melts and the grass starts to turn green, you will have missed your opportunity to get a head start on the summer construction season. It’s important to realize that designing a home or even deciding on an existing design, takes some time. In fact, a custom design can take anywhere from 1-3 months to complete, so if you start in April or May you may not be done with your designs until July. Throw in 2-4 weeks of plan review and it will be August before you can even break ground.

Snowed Inn by Steven PadgittIf you plan to use natural plaster on your house, which I sincerely hope you do, then you must know about the limiting timeline that you are faced with. Plaster should not be exposed to freezing temperatures for at least 72 hours after application. If you don’t start framing your house until the second week of August and the frosts start knocking on your door in October, you are going to be hard pressed to get any plaster on your hose before winter hits. Although there are ways around it, there is no question that having a full three coats of plaster on your house before the winter comes is the best way to go.

Arkin Tilt Architects - Photo Eric MilletteI’m excited to share with you that we have recently added a bunch of straw bale home designs (full sets of plans) to our website bringing the total to nineteen sets. The homes shown here are just two of the many designs you can check out. Several architects have shared their work with us as an effort to help inspire you. As such, the feel of the designs, as well as their scope and scale, varies quite a bit. We have everything from simple and rustic homes to elaborate and elegant designs. We hope you will take a look to see what fits your style.

Here’s a quick and obvious note on costs: it’s expensive to build a house and designing a custom home adds significantly to that cost. That said, you can purchase preexisting plans for much less than it would cost to custom design your own place, and your timeline will be greatly reduced as well because you won’t have to wait for the plans to be completed. What’s more, if you like the look of a design but wish something could be changed to make it fit your specific needs, that’s not a problem. We can put you in touch with the architect and they can, in most cases, make the changes you want for an extra fee (it will still be way less expensive than a custom design, even with the alterations).

Chris Keefe of www.OrganicFormsDesign.com

Take advantage of the current downtime that has set in due to the weather. I can guarantee you this: it will make your building season so much more relaxing if you get an early start on your project. Just imagine choosing a plan, perhaps making a few specific alterations to “make it yours,” and then sending it out for bids all before the snow has even melted! In this scenario,  you will have your contractor scheduled and your plans approved before the first flowers have broken through their shells and will be building as soon as the ground has thawed. This will give you lots of time to complete the work necessary to be dried in by the time freezing temperatures come along. Having built many houses in all season, believe me when I say that building in the Spring and Summer is the way to go. It will be more enjoyable, less expensive, and easier to get your home built while the weather is good. Take this time, while the weather is…wintery, to confirm your design and prepare for the upcoming construction season.

I look forward to hearing from you as you decide on plans and start your projects! I love seeing people’s dreams come to fruition and I love being a part of that process in any way I can help! Check out the designs from Arkin Tilt Arhcitect, Organicforms Design, Integral Design Studio, and Steven Padgitt today. We will be adding new plans from new architects and designers in the future; however, there are so many amazing designs available right now, we don’t feel the need to rush it, even with Spring fast approaching!

About the Author

Andrew Morison is a specialist in straw bale and green construction. He has shown thousands of people how to build their own straw bale projects through his comprehensive series of instructional straw bale, concrete foundation, and plastering DVDs, as well as his hands on workshops. You can check these out at www.StrawBale.com/store.

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