Empowering People to Build Green (A Short History)

Child Planting a TreeAbout 17 years ago, I started building houses. Actually, I started renovating old houses while always attempting to salvage whatever I could along the way. I was tired of seeing all the waste and debris on construction sites. I was tired of the usable materials that builders were calling waste and throwing out. In general, I was ready to make a shift into responsible construction. It has taken a while for that shift to sink in and I believe it is currently settling into the construction market as a whole. I hope the shift is successful.

Over the years, during my own personal construction shift, I moved from renovating houses to building new ones. Mine would be different. Mine would be green. Really green. There was some whisper out there about the green construction field, but very few builders in my area were doing anything about it. I jumped in fully and started building straw bale homes with energy efficient details like radiant floor heat, solar systems, natural flooring, and more.

I worked hard to shift my clients from standard construction to my vision of green, which wasn’t always easy. Many would rather spend their money on the fancy kitchen appliances than on a more efficient heating system. They wanted to “see” where their money was spent not reap the rewards of the efficiency. As frustrating as this immediate gratification mentality can be, I did manage to find some clients with an open mind and a clear dedication to the greater good.

Although successful as a builder, I found that I was only able to reach about 6 families a year with any great success. This was the number of houses I could build in a year without losing track of my focus and quality. To me, this was not enough. I became aware that I could not impact the world as positively as I wanted to at that rate of connection.

While I was building houses, I was also selling instructional videos on how to build with bales to people all over the world through our website. A big inner shift took place when people started recognizing me in public. I have been met with smiles and “Hey, you’re that straw bale guy!!” many times all over the country, often in random places like airports and grocery markets. I saw something in those random meetings that would change how I approach my business relationship to the world.

I recognized that for me to truly impact the world of construction, I had to reach more people, convince them of the idea of building with bales, and do it quickly. A new company was born. Today, my focus is entirely on teaching and mentoring others. I no longer build custom homes. Instead, I teach people how to build their own custom home. Through my videos, blog, web releases, radio shows, interviews, lectures and more I reach thousands of people every year and turn them on to this great building technique.

I also teach, hands on, in my seven day intensive straw bale construction workshops. In the workshops I reach roughly 150 people face to face each year and teach them how to build their own straw bale house. In addition, I reach another thousand or more via my electronic data and work closely with about 20 as a consultant on their personal projects. I believe this larger outreach and connection will accelerate the turn away from the “dark side” and to the “green side”. My passion is empowering people to build green.

I hope this reach and influence grows and brings more people into the light of straw bale construction. Improving the health of our planet starts with small steps and transitions into the larger scene or bigger picture. You’ve heard the phrase think globally, act locally? Well I hope that I am a part of that transition from local to global and that I inspire people all over the world to join me in making healthier more natural homes. I used to say that my work would change the construction industry one person at a time. I have moved that expectation up to 1000 people at a time. I hope you join me too.

8 Responses to Empowering People to Build Green (A Short History)

  1. Tamra Wed, January 28, 2009 at 9:27 pm #

    Andrew,

    We’re glad you’re teaching, Your a great teacher!! thanks for making the change to teaching!! For those of you who are thinking of doing a workshop it really is worth the time and money!!

    ~Tamra

  2. Andrew
    Andrew Thu, January 29, 2009 at 8:17 am #

    Thanks Tamra. I appreciate the kind feedback.

  3. Mark Gates Fri, January 30, 2009 at 6:53 am #

    Andrew, Just had to say that the courses in straw bale building that you offer through your website are a fantastic resource and I would have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone interested in building with straw.

    Keep up the great work
    Mark Gates
    Strawbuildings. Ltd

  4. Andrew
    Andrew Fri, January 30, 2009 at 9:16 am #

    Thanks Mark. I appreciate the kind feedback.

  5. Anna Curnow Thu, February 5, 2009 at 9:49 pm #

    Thanks Andrew – Your DVD’s were invaluable when it came to the part were we, the owners, stepped in and took over from the builders. Thanks to you we had the confidence to do the straw bale walls and plastering and save for the odd little hairline crack (which is easily resolved) we now have a perfect house/work in progress. Everyone who visits extolls the beauty and temperate climate in our home – they love the walls and the fact that even in a heat wave our home is a comfortable temperature.

    I wish there were more people with the confidence to be as generous as you are with your knowledge and experience!

    I can’t recommend your DVD’s highly enough (especially the wagging dog tail).

    Anna and Nat
    Owner/part-builders
    New Zealand

  6. Andrew
    Andrew Thu, February 5, 2009 at 10:29 pm #

    Thanks for your kind words. I am so glad to hear of your success story. Congratulations! My dog is very proud of her screen time. 🙂

  7. Steve Satow Fri, February 6, 2009 at 7:49 pm #

    Hi Andrew. Want to add my voice to those above in thanking you for championing the straw bale cause so well and so generously. When I attended your 7-day workshop last year it was – for me – a ‘make or break’ experiment. The result was a definite ‘make’ and I am now committed to a path of building with straw here in western Canada as well as trying to further the cause in this part of the world. Thanks also for thinking of me recently when you pointed a fellow straw baler in my direction. And if anyone in western Canada wants to contact me, please feel free to pass on my email address so that we can help each other out!

    Best regards.

    Steve Satow

  8. Andrew
    Andrew Fri, February 6, 2009 at 10:02 pm #

    I’m glad to hear you are on the “make” path Steve. That’s great! I hope things continue to shine for you. We would love to come visit you one of these days as well. Viva Victoria!

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