Local straw bale homes featured on Ontario Natural Homes Tour

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An off-grid timber frame straw bale home and a straw bale renovated home, both in the Baysville area, are among 30 across the province being featured in the Ontario Natural Building Coalition’s annual Natural Homes Tour.

The self-guided tour provides a look inside the homes, and gives visitors a chance to hear from the owners about all aspects of their homes.

“Natural building may be the housing equivalent to the increasingly popular local food movement—living in energy efficient homes and additions that are crafted from minimally processed, renewable and local materials,” notes a media release from the ONBC. “People choose natural homes for reasons ranging from energy efficiency, to the healthiness of the materials, to a desire for architecturally interesting and unique homes and additions. There is an appeal for every interest and the demand continues to grow.”

According to the ONBC, more than 500 natural homes, offices, additions and institutional buildings have been constructed in Ontario over the last several years, and that construction often costs no more than conventional construction.

The North Tooke Lake Road home owned by Rick Zytaruk and Susan McGrath was renovated to include many environmentally friendly features.

“We converted this leaky and poorly insulated ’60s home in Lake of Bays, Muskoka, to a quiet, comfortable year-round family haven through a combination of straw bale wrap, dense pack cellulose, an additional exterior wall and straw bale insulated addition,” they write in their description of their home.

Their home was modeled using the passive house planning software PHPP “to help us maximize our energy savings,” they write, and used a variety of ‘green’ interior and exterior finishes including clay-based earth plaster, limecrete basement floors, and rammed earth retaining walls. A small European wood boiler/fireplace and solar hot water system provide most of the home’s year-round heat and hot water needs.

The interior of this environmentally friendly Baysville home owned by Rick Zytaruk and Susan McGrath is cozy and modern (supplied)

The interior of this environmentally friendly Baysville home owned by Rick Zytaruk and Susan McGrath is cozy and modern (supplied)

The Lawson Road home of Janis and Paul Ecclestone is also on the tour.

From the outside, it looks similar to any other home, but it contains a variety of natural building elements including straw bales, solar hot water and photovoltaic energy, and a highly efficient GARN heating system.

The Ecclestone home was constructed with straw bale insulation and has other green features, too (supplied)

The Ecclestone home was constructed with straw bale insulation and has other green features, too (supplied)

The Ecclestone home under construction

The Ecclestone home under construction (supplied)

A $10 passport (available at naturalbuildingcoalition.ca) provides admission to as many places across the province as you can visit on the day of the tour—Sunday, September 29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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2 Comments

  1. I hate to say this, but a few years back my neighbor built, at great cost in time and $$, a straw bale home. I visited it during construction and after he finished it. It was interesting.
    I have to note that if one was to simply build a standard stick framed building, paying close attention to the vapor and air barriers and if one employed an increased insulation value everywhere, which is easy to do with just some slight modifications to the framing, that the resultant home would be just as energy efficient or better even and would go up much quicker, with standard construction techniques at a lower cost.
    The straw bale house is a bit over rated I think.

    • As the company (Fourth Pig Green & Natural Construction) that did the work on the Tooke house referenced in the article it is no surprise that we are fans of straw bale buildings and encourage you Brian (and everyone!) to come by during the open house (1033 North Tooke Lake Rd , Baysville) for a tour and chat (we will have staff there).

      People in straw bale homes tell us they like the extreme comfort, the quiet, the deep window sills, the ability for a wide range of designs and finishes, the lack of chemical off-gassing and the significant reduction in embodied green house gases in the building. In our experience a straw bale home can be a great option at a competitive price to other high performance buildings.

      We love talking about natural sustainable building and all are welcome for a friendly informative tour on Sunday, Sunday, September 29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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