Chartreuse Blog

Straw Bale Structure Almost Finished at Summit House

We are almost there… the roof is taking form!

A roof bearing assembly, or box beam, sits above the box columns.  It is constructed of a double 2 x 6 for the exterior perimeter and a single 2 x 6 for the interior perimeter.  The underside of the beam will be sheathed in plywood to act as a fire stop for the wall.  The box column will also act as a nailing strip for the plaster mesh applied over the bales.  The trusses will sit above the roof bearing assembly.

The trusses are up and the fly rafters are being constructed over the drop end.

Plywood sheathing is next.

Progress Continues at Summit House

Bruns Construction continues building the structure for the straw bale shed at Summit House…

Box columns are up!

The box columns are constructed of a double 2 x 4 on the exterior and a single 2 x 4 on the interior of the column.  15/32 plywood is used to sheath the boxes on both sides.  Plywood is used, as opposed to OSB, because it will stand up to moisture better if any water were to get inside the bale wall.

The columns are as deep as the bales and sit on the base layer of sills and between the second layer of sills.  They are bolted to the sills and the foundation (two per column) with 7″ x 1/2″ anchor bolts.

The first column to go up will frame the double door.

Bruns Construction Begins Sill Plates/ Schoeneman’s Donates Lumber

Bruns Construction, of Sioux Falls, is donating their time this week to build the structure for the straw bale shed at Summit House, and Schoeneman’s Building Materials has donated all of the lumber.  A huge thanks goes out to our co-sponsors!

The sill plates , or toe-ups (as they are often called in straw bale construction), are used to raise the bales above grade to protect them from water damage and infiltration.  At Summit House, a double 2 x 4 was used for the interior sill and a double 2 x 6 was used for the exterior sill.  All the lumber on the project is pressure treated to prevent decay.

First, the sills are measured on the foundation.  A moisture barrier is laid above the foundation and below the sills.  A second layer is added above the inside sill and below the exterior sill to direct any moisture out of the wall.  A third layer will be added above the exterior sill to separate the bales from the wood.  The second layer of sills is notched to allow the box columns to sit between.

After marking anchor bolt locations on the plates, holes were drilled for the 7″ x 1/2″ anchor bolts at 3′ o.c.  The bolts were then hammered into the plates and foundation.

Weep holes are cut into the exterior sill plate at 2′ o.c. to allow any moisture to escape the wall.

Amert Construction Pours Straw Bale Shed Foundation

Amert Construction, of Madison, SD, donated materials and their time to pour the foundation for the Summit House Straw Bale Shed.

The foundation is a four inch slab-on-grade with thickened edge.  Below the slab is 6″ x 6″ #10 reinforcing mesh, 6 mil vapor barrier, and 4 inches of washed gravel.  A 1.5″ ledge was formed into the foundation edge to support the exterior plaster coating that will eventually cover the straw bale walls.  1/2″ rebar is embedded in the concrete to impale the bottom two courses of bales (two per bale).

Huge thanks to Amert Construction!

Local Contractors Prepare to Build Shed Frame

Plain Green is less than two weeks away, and local contractors are preparing to begin work on the structural frame for Sioux Falls Seminary’s Summit House future Tool Lending Library.  The project is progressing as a Community Service Project built in conjunction with the sustainability conference.

The Plain Green Conference and Marketplace brings two days of advancing sustainability to the Washington Pavilion in downtown Sioux Falls April 28-29, 2010. Plain Green is the premiere conference on green design, business and ideas on the Northern Plains.  This year, the event will open with the bale raising and plastering of the straw bale shed at Summit House by Plain Green attendees.

The shed will be an example of infill construction using a modified post and beam structure.  Infill straw bale is predominately used in construction for a few reasons. First, infill is easier to meet code, get insurance, and get mortgage lenders because it is more like traditional methods of construction than structural straw bale. It is adaptable, fits into many architectural styles, is changeable after construction, and allows for a much larger structure. It is also easier to repair or replace damaged sections. The use of a post and beam structure allows for the construction of a roof before the bales are stacked. This allows the bales to be protected from the weather during construction.

The foundation will keep the bales well above grade. As long as the bales are not able to leach water from the ground, any foundation type can be used, with appropriate design considerations for material weight and climate.  At Summit House, a slab on grade with a thickened edge will be used.  Two pressure treated sill plates or a “toe-up” will be constructed around the perimeter and filled with pea gravel to provide a capillary break. A waterproof barrier will separate the toe-up from the foundation as well as the toe up from the bales.  Rebar will impale the bottom courses of bales to keep the wall in place on top of the toe up. Weep holes will be added to the exterior base plate to allow drainage.  Two foot overhangs will also protect the bales from moisture.

The shed will be stuccoed with a cement-lime plaster.  Plasters are made up of a binding agent, the main component of the plaster, a structural filler such as sand, rock or aggregates, and water.  At least three layers are applied, a scratch coat, a brown coat, and a finish coat. When using cement and lime plasters a metal mesh is used as reinforcement in the plaster.  A moisture barrier will not be used.

The project is presented by Puetz Corporation.  Co-Sponsors include Bruns Construction, Amert Construction, Koch Hazard Architects, Jeld-Wen, Schoeneman’s, Carlson General Carpentry, and the Pettigrew Heights Housing Resource Center.

Meet the Candidates
March 23, 2010, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Local Green Events | Tags:

Meet the Candidates for Mayor and grill em about their green plans for Sioux Falls!

Where: Leonardo’s Cafe at the Washington Pavilion (301 S. Main Avenue)
When: Wednesday, March 24th, 2010,  5:00 until whenever!
Why: Drinks and good green conversation.  Ask the questions that are important to you!

“There’s a big election coming up, and Sioux Falls will pick a new mayor. We’ve invited all six candidates to Green Drinks on 3/24 for a bit of Q+A with you. Leonardo’s Cafe at the Washington Pavilion will open special for this event.

Things will get rolling around 5pm, with the normal networking time. We’ll pass the convo starter bucket if you need it. Then, starting at 6pm we’ll give everyone a chance to share their own green news and notes with a ’round-the-room, and take in a two-minute intro from each mayoral candidate. Following the get-to-know-you stuff, we’ll ask the candidates a few of your questions on the green future of Sioux Falls (Green Drinks, Sioux Falls).”

To submit your questions ahead of time visit

Green Drinks is a monthly mixer organized by Astronaut and the Sioux Falls Green Project for anyone interested in conversation about all aspects of sustainability. Sioux Falls is just one of almost 600 cities world wide making green conversation over drinks. For more information about Green Drinks check out the website at

Mark your calendar for future Green Drinks:

  • Thursday, April 29 at TBA. Featuring a mash-up with the Plain Green Conference + Marketplace.
  • Wednesday, May 26 at some cool place to be announced. Featuring a little “Trash Talking 101.”

More future dates:

  • June 23, 2010
  • July 28, 2010
  • August 25, 2010

Plain Green Volunteers to Build Sioux Falls’ First Strawbale Building

McCrory Gardens, Brookings, SD. Photo by Dean Isham.

Live/ Work Studio in Grantville, Kansas

Contact: Whitney Parks
605.782.8728 or
Or visit

The Plain Green Conference and Marketplace brings two days of advancing sustainability to the Washington Pavilion in downtown Sioux Falls April 28-29, 2010. Plain Green is the premiere conference on green design, business and ideas on the Northern Plains.

This year, Plain Green will open with an exciting event, a community service project, integrating hands-on learning, sustainable building concepts, and community stewardship.

The Project

The Sioux Falls Chapter of Architecture for Humanity and Sioux Falls Seminary have partnered to organize the construction of a Straw Bale Shed, April 27 and 28, before the Plain Green 10 Conference.  Sioux Falls Seminary’s Summit House, located near downtown Sioux Falls in the Pettigrew Height’s Neighborhood, will be the building site for the new straw bale shed, a gateway project that may lead to creative thinking about development in the neighborhood.  Sioux Falls Seminary students serving at Summit House hope to eventually use the structure as a Tool Lending Library for the residents of the Pettigrew Heights Neighborhood for simple home maintenance and repair.

Want to get involved?

If you are interested in learning about straw bale construction, would like to help build the first straw bale structure in the City of Sioux Falls, or if you would like to volunteer your time for a good cause, join the building team. Spend two days bale raising and plastering with a straw bale specialist from Nebraska, Joyce Coppinger, Managing Editor and Publisher of The Last Straw Journal.  Participants will learn sustainable construction skills with hands-on involvement while building the straw-bale shed.  Space is very limited and an application is required.  Though there is no fee, space is available for Plain Green attendees only.  Register at  After registering, you will be emailed an application.  Team selection will be completed by April 13, 2010.

This Community Service Project is made possible by Koch Hazard Architects and Chartreuse Research, in partnership with Architecture for Humanity, Sioux Falls Chapter and Sioux Falls Seminary.