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Comments on ‘Software engineer builds straw house for £4k’

Cheap and cheerful Scottish ecogaff

Published Monday 10th March 2008 14:48 GMT

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Hmm, let's see... 

By Ian Ferguson
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 15:02 GMT

Ten months of my time, plus an unmentioned number of others (who might be willing to volunteer the once, but not if we all decide to build our own houses)... would cost... yup, a bit more than £10,000.

Sarcasm aside, it is good to see that some people still have basic survival skills. When the revolution comes, he will be a god among us.


By Christopher Emerson
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 15:03 GMT

So how many of the current UK building regulations does this house meet?

Burn it!

Cheap and cheerful Scottish ecogaff 

By Jason Bloomberg
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 15:13 GMT
Paris Hilton

I read "ecogaff" as "eco-cockup" not "eco-house" and was expecting to see something other than the deserving praise.

Paris : Who knows all about erections.


By Anne van der Bom
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 15:13 GMT
IT Angle

In Africa they build this in 1 month for 40 pence. Very impressed.

I'll huff and I'll puff 

By Evil Graham
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 15:23 GMT

And I'll point to the fact that no-one round my way seems to be throwing out any usable Velux windows or shower trays.

And I hate to say it, but it is built in an architectural style which I can only describe as "hovel".

Arrgh! Hideous website! 

By Name
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 15:27 GMT
Dead Vulture

Has any actually checked out that website link - my eyes, my eyes! Hope he's "engineered" his house better then the website!

Straw house - today ? 

By DrStrangeLug
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 15:29 GMT

Methinks today is not the day to build a straw house - have you seen the windspeeds out there?

Planning Permission? 

By Anonymous Coward
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 15:31 GMT

How do you get planning permission for this? Were architects' drawings submitted? I know very little about the planning process, but I would have thought walking in to the council offices and saying you want to build a hobbit dwelling would not get you very far.

Hot shoe shuffle 

By Ashley Pomeroy
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 15:35 GMT
Paris Hilton

But how long is it going to last? What if there's a breeze? Or locusts?

£600 - Supplies for volunteers? 

By Karl Lattimer
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 15:38 GMT

He must have kept the beer pouring, sounds like a great site foreman...

@Evil Graham 

By Graham Dawson
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 15:42 GMT

... I'm the one with the beard, shouldn't I be the evil one?

Anyway I think the preferred term is "rustic", and possibly "characterful", as this allows the inhabitants to pretend they aren't living like a 15th century peasant. Granted, a 15th century peasant with double glazing and a computer, but still...

What they didn't mention 

By Anonymous Coward
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 15:43 GMT
Gates Horns

By building this house this guy doubled the value of the area he lived in.

£4k and the land? 

By Anonymous Coward
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 15:44 GMT
Paris Hilton

Probably paid £200k for the plot.

It doesn't cost all that much to build a normal house it's the land that costs.

He did it the hard way! + @Regulations 

By Tom
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 15:46 GMT

A steel frame doesnt cost a lot and can be banged together quite quickly.

I reckon you could build a good sized 3 bedroomed house for <10k.

And as for Mr Emersen's comment I think you find all necessary regs were observer - otherwise the council would have it pulled down - lime plastered straw wont burn!

+cost of land 

By michael
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 15:50 GMT

land may be cheep in scotland not in the midlands

So he hasn't paid for his copy of windows? 

By Marvin the Martian
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 15:51 GMT
IT Angle


"Sarcasm aside, it is good to see that some people still have basic survival skills. When the revolution comes, he will be a god among us."

=> I don't think so. If you look at those "desert island survivor" type game/reality shows, the first ones to be booted off are those with any survival skills as their bossiness (read: frustration when seeing inept hairdresser types ruining their dinner) annoys the lot of em.

Ignore the house 

By Anonymous Coward
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 15:55 GMT

Thanks for the link to the website. I've bookmarked it for future reference when showing people How To Make Things Unusable And Horrifically Unpleasant.


By Steve
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 16:08 GMT

I'd like to see the reaction of the estate agent that tries to put a HIP together when he comes to sell it...

Who says propoganda doesn't work 

By Paul Smith
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 16:16 GMT

Years of hearing the tale of three little pigs, and people no longer believe that wood or straw are up to the job. Try telling them that they are cheaper, cleaner, warmer, drier, healthier, prettier and more comfortable and they just insist their cold, hard, drafty, leaky concrete houses are in some way better.

This news story is probably encouraged by the concrete industry as it does show how badly the job can be done if you put your mind to it.

Mines the coat with the word 'smug' on it.


By Anonymous Coward
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 16:25 GMT

"software engineer", do you mean Linux Kernel hacker? That would explain the sandals, beard and copious of free time to build wooden shacks.

Re: Regulations and straw-bales 

By Anonymous Coward
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 16:34 GMT
Thumb Up

As another 'software engineer' and also 'farmboy' I've been planning my own straw-bale house for some time, albeit a bit larger than this one (6 beds) as one aspect of an off-grid self-sufficient home. I'm expecting to begin building this summer.

There's been at least a couple of straw-bale homes featured on Channel 4's Grand Designs.

Wheat straw is generally treated as a waste product by farmers and is shredded as it comes out the back of the combine-harvester. It could be another useful income stream if there were more use of straw in building.

Contrary to intuition, compressed straw bales between rendered (plaster/lime) walls survive fire tests much better than conventional materials. Studies were done in the U.S.A. and Canada by fire inspectors a few years ago. The outer loose bits will burn but the compaction of the bale itself means there is insufficient oxygen for the entire bale to burn easily.

Lime rendering also breathes and prevents build-up of condensation.

The insulation rating of rendered straw-bale walls is also vastly better than other materials; it stays warm in winter and cool in summer without needing a lot of additional heating or air-conditioning.

Regulations don't prevent the use of straw-bales or other 'alternate' technologies, but they do impose a requirement to demonstrate the proposed materials and design abide by those regulations.

There's quite a thriving community of straw-bale builders across the U.K., Europe and the U.S.A.. Because you can throw regular-sized bales around easily by hand it makes a house-building project a great fun project that groups seem to love to be involved in.

According to studies the building materials for a typical conventional brick 3-bedroom detached house (bricks, breeze-blocks, plaster, roof) cost around £25,000 - for a similar sized straw-bale home, between £1,000 and £3,000 depending on roof-type.

He built that. 

By Anonymous Coward
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 16:34 GMT
Paris Hilton


Braver man than I Gunga Din.

Nothing new 

By Kwac
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 16:45 GMT

Bit late with the news; houses have been built in this was for a couple of thousand years. Even featured on a Channel 4 programme a few years back - the builder was a forester, and part of the planning permission was that he had to remove it when he left his job.

So yes, planning permission IS required (in Britain) as its a 'permanent structure' and no, fire isn't a problem (compacted straw coated in clay & lime doesn't burn readily).

I understand the use of compacted straw in building is a lot more common in north america than europe. Good insulation (sound as well as heat).

Has he thought about this? 

By Joe
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 16:47 GMT

What will he do if the Big Bad Wolf shows up? Will he let him in, by the hair on his chinny-chin-chin?

Price very wrong... 

By Adam
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 16:52 GMT

The material costs may have been around £4000 but the labour costs have been factored out of the equation. Looking at the site, there appears to have been 2 people at a minimum working on the house at any one time and they would need to be experienced 'chippies' to be able to get this right. So 20 months = 80k? (Probably more but lets give them the benefit of doubt here). I would be nice to actually have a figure on the amount of labour involved.

However I do applaud them for what they have done. I do wonder though if they could have gotten away with buying/making a log cabin to a similar standard in a much shorted time. Particularly using the newer twin walled log cabin designs out there.

I do realise this was an exercise in using traditional methods here, but if you are prepared to slap in a velux window, then you might as well go the whole hog and build/buy in a log cabin kit and put the whole thing up in a weekend :)

Re: Big Bad Wolf 

By Elmer Phud
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 17:02 GMT
Paris Hilton

The wolf has problems with this construction as it has elements of all three traditional juvenile porcine dwellings in it.

Rather than trying to demolish it he advertised it in Hampstead for £1.5m. a proper killing

Paris as she has been known to do a fair bit of blowing in the past

One more item for the list.. 

By John
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 17:14 GMT

Forgot to mention how much he paid for the land ;)

Another, more attractive example 

By Rob W
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 17:23 GMT

Concidence, but I just ran across this site yesterday:

The Hobbit Home!

A straw house you say? 

By DV Henkel-Wallace
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 17:37 GMT

Well blow me down!

And a related story... 

By Anonymous Coward
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 18:01 GMT

The first (straw) and second (twigs) little pigs were found murdered inside the grounds of their homes after a wolf blew their houses away. A third little pig who built his house out of bricks & mortar and was a family member to the two little pigs murdered earlier in the day was detained by police on suspicion of aggravated assault. This was after the third little pig decided to boil a pot of water under the chimney which the wolf used as an entry point for breaking & entering. The wolf who was sent straight to hospital for 1st degree burns is expected to be detained & questioned by police about the murders of the 2 little pigs when he makes a sufficient recovery for questioning.

Software engineer? 

By Anonymous Coward
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 18:31 GMT
Paris Hilton

52 year old "software engineer" takes 4 calendar years, probably many man years (10 months of "active build time") but "only £4k" to build a house. And it looks like a house worth £4k!

Sounds like he applied the same project management skills to his house building as most people that call themselves something-not-engineer engineers do to other things.


(not an engineer)

Town and Country Planning Act 

By Ambriel
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 18:34 GMT

Can you imagine the reaction when he first broached the subject with the council's planning department?

Our local council planning officers are so anal they couldn't find their own arses in the dark without the aid of both hands, a map, and a torch.

out on bale 

By skeptical i
Posted Monday 10th March 2008 22:48 GMT
Thumb Up

In Southern Arizona some of the local building codes allow use of straw bales in home construction, but not as load-bearing structures (i.e., the walls essentially have to be post- and- beam with straw bales as "filler"). And as has been pointed out already, with a thickness of at least 18" of compacted straw, these walls have amazing insulative properties (and -- bonus! -- are also termite- resistant). As for labour costs, these can be reduced if one takes a page from Tom Sawyer's book by calling the house- raising a "hands- on workshop" and charges folks $50.00 or so to work, er, learn new skills.


By yeah, right.
Posted Tuesday 11th March 2008 01:08 GMT

Given the relatively uniform level of ignorance in the comments so far, here's one for you. Straw bale houses are actually approved by many building codes, including some that make British ones look positively unsafe. High levels of natural insulation, mostly fireproof (yes folks, it has been tested. It's more fireproof than a typical wood frame house), and even more earthquake and wind proof than many "mainstream" types of building. Overall, it's an excellent construction method.

Although I have to admit his particular construction looks really shoddy. Not bad for a first effort though.

Yes please, I'll take one to go... 

By David Shea
Posted Tuesday 11th March 2008 03:40 GMT

There's plenty of straw-bale houses out here in Australia. Easy to build, termite resistant (and that's a big plus out here) and great insulating properties (anyone who's lived in a Queenslander over the winter will know all about why insulation should be considered when building a house.)

Personally I'd love to live in a place like that - with a little solar power for the essentials (my Macbook) and a weekly trek to the nearest internet cafe (probably Glasgow)

The penguin, 'cos it's about the most hippy icon you have....

Mine's the thermal long johns and mink coat....

Better not drop any needles 

By Anonymous Coward
Posted Tuesday 11th March 2008 03:48 GMT

You'd never find them....

bale storms 

By tony trolle
Posted Tuesday 11th March 2008 06:24 GMT

I think you can get grants for bale houses.

ewok house? 

By adam roberts
Posted Tuesday 11th March 2008 12:18 GMT
Paris Hilton

When can I move in, I love those ewok's


By David Wiernicki
Posted Tuesday 11th March 2008 13:15 GMT

Look! Despite extremely advanced technology which would allow the inexpensive construction of a highly efficient, small dwelling with very little labor, we are instead going to break our backs erecting an impractical anachronism!

If you want to tell people to live like peasants, just say it - don't try to claim it's some kind of utopian 'off-the-grid' crap. If you want to actually help people live more efficiently, rather than push your dirt-floor agenda, look at what can actually be done with modern materials and techniques for the same price. As some others have pointed out, you can do a lot with free labor.

I wonder if this guy's oh-so-eco philosophy will extend to his staying in a straw off-the-grid hospital when he's ill. No? Well, then...

Waste of money 

By Mad Dave
Posted Tuesday 11th March 2008 13:36 GMT

If he wanted, he could just have bought a flat in Cumbernauld for about 2K

Planning Permission? 

By Peter Clark
Posted Thursday 13th March 2008 14:58 GMT

He didn't get it, or own the land - silly boy.

I see in today's Times, the owner is insisting he take it down.

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