Straw Bale Comprehensive – Rock Creek, BC

Date: July 10 - July 16, 2016
Duration: 7 days
Fee: $775
Location: Rock Creek , BC

$875.00 plus gstRegister Here

[*Early bird pricing in effect until June 19th, 2016. Regular price $875]


About the Straw Bale Workshop:

Straw bales finished with earthen and/or lime plasters is a natural building combination that is hard to beat. Being relatively low cost, low impact, high performance, accessible, and comfortable makes straw bale construction one of the most sought after natural building techniques today.

Instructors: Ashley Lubyk & Heather Noakes (Dirt Craft Natural Building)

Chances are, if you are considering a new build and want to use a sustainable method, you’ve heard about building with straw bales. We love building with straw, and of all the natural wall systems that are possible, we think that bale construction, when done right, can provide an exceptionally beautiful, healthy home, with very little impact on our planet (especially when compared to conventional construction). Our bias is that for our climate (Western Canada) bales provide the ultimate balance between insulation and thermal mass to create an energy efficient space that is comfortable and welcoming.

Straw bales finished with clay, often locally processed, to make plasters is a natural building combination that is hard to beat. Being relatively low cost, low impact, high performance, and DIY-accessible makes straw bale construction one of the most sought after natural building techniques today. With enough excess straw to build millions of homes each year in Canada alone, straw bale construction is the champion of upcycling. It’s also beautiful, healthy, and durable.

Heather eyeing the straighness of the wall. Photo by Jack Stillman.

Why build with bales? Are straw bale buildings healthier to live in? Are they safe when it comes to fire? What about mice/ pests? Won’t the walls rot? How much insulation does straw provide? These are some common questions, for sure. And good questions too. For answers to these, and more, including ten great reasons you’d want to build with straw bales, visit our resource page here.

American Clay over drywall in straw bale/ timber frame home. Colour 'Nantucket Sand'.

This week long workshop is designed to give you the information and knowledge you need to build with straw bales.

We will introduce you to the most up to date techniques of straw bale construction through the completion of a timber framed structure. We use an infill straw bale wall system, deal with windows and door detailing, and finish the bales with clay-based earthen plasters inside and out.



One element that we will strongly focus on is plastering.

You can’t build with bales without knowing how you’re going to finish them. Too often we hear from people who decided to build with straw, but didn’t consider how the bales would be protected. The plasters are at least, if not more important, than the bales themselves. As straw bale building pioneer Bill Steen has said, “Straw bale building is more about the plasters than the stacking of the bales.”

Plasters inform building design and detailing; they are what you’ll see every time you come home; they are what will keep your home healthy; and plasters are what keep the walls from taking on excess moisture.

And you plaster system needs to be part of the decision making during the design process.



Earthen plasters actually match the needs of a straw bale wall system perfectly. Clay naturally likes to sit at a lower humidity than straw bales. This means the clay will constantly be pulling excess moisture that may be present from your walls, and releasing it into the air. However, while earthen plasters can be very hard (if mixed right), they don’t stand up very long to the erosive forces of water. This is where understanding lime plasters can be vitally important. A traditional craft that is learned through apprenticeship, lime work is a developed skill, but we’ve distilled it down for you.  We’ll cover proper design and treatments for earthen plasters, as well as cover the other plaster options that are out there. We will go over choosing a plaster system that is right for your project. Read more about how earthen plasters work for natural buildings on our resource page here.


Ashley is pleased with something!


Workshop Overview:

What we’ll be doing hands-on:

  • Straw bale infill construction
  • Wall assembly
  • Re-sizing bales
  • Local clay assessing & processing
  • Earth-based plasters: recipes & mixing
  • Proper clay & lime plaster application
  • Lime plasters: recipes, mixing & assessment
  • Air barrier detailing for a high performance building envelope
  • Window, door, and roof carpentry for straw bales


High five! Some quick progress putting up straw bales.


Topics we’ll cover in the classroom:

  • Foundations options for natural buildings
  • Choosing the best materials
  • Site selection
  • Designing a home for straw bales
  • Climate-appropriate design
  • Material-appropriate design
  • Efficient & effective building envelopes from a building sciences perspective
  • Choosing an appropriate plaster/ finishing system
  • Planning for plumbing and electrical wiring
  • Passive solar & efficient design
  • Putting thermal mass to work in a northern climate
  • Structural concepts
  • Framing option
  • Building Codes and how to work with them
  • Becoming an owner-builder – planning and managing your project
  • Strategies for getting more experience and education


Who should take this workshop?

This course will be of interest to you if you are considering building with straw bales whether that’s your dream home, a secondary suite, garden retreat or studio. We offer a unique and experienced look into the world of natural building, and specifically how to use clay and earthen plasters to achieve an effective wall system in combo with straw bales (including the base-coat plasters, finished paints and plasters, and earthen floors).

You don’t need any previous building experience! It will be well suited to owner-builders wishing to build a home that is cost effective, energy efficient, uses sustainable materials, and accessible to people of all skill levels. If you are considering building a natural home, whether you do it all yourself, or hire help along the way, this course will give you the tools you need to make sure that you can manage your project effectively. It will also be very useful if you are a professional looking to ingrate a more sustainable element into your designs.



A Bit More:

We pack a lot of information into this workshop, so each day will be full. Our workshops are hands-on, and we encourage full participation to make sure you get the most out of the week. However, we don’t want anyone to push themselves, so it is up to you to gauge your physical contributions. Work will be strategically paired with technical lecture style presentations to allow for maximum learning and comprehension of each topic.

You can also expect a small class size, 12 – 15. We deliberately manage our class sizes to balance hands-on learning with close instructor interactions. As with all of our workshops, you can expect a comprehensive note package that covers what we’ll be going over during the week as well.

Your experience at a Dirt Craft Workshop is important to us. We recognize that many people may be taking holidays, and most certainly time out of a busy summer, to join us, so we are committed to making sure that we meet and exceed you expectations of what you will learn, while making sure that it is as enjoyable as possible.

Why Take a Dirt Craft Workshop:

We have taught over 500 students, and worked on many projects since we officially became a business in 2010. This means we have encountered many different, and sometimes difficult situations. We bring this experience and knowledge to each workshop, so that when you encounter your own difficulties, during your own project, you will be armed with all of the necessary information to make decisions when the time comes.

Learn From Experience:

We strongly believe that natural building is best learned in a hands-on environment, and this is why we always work on real projects in our workshops. Our goal is to ensure that you get the education and experience you need, to have the confidence to work on your own projects. We want to contribute in a positive and meaningful manner to the natural building community and we think that education, with integrity, in the latest building techniques can expand and add to this emerging field.


Have a look at our project gallery here for more on straw bale, plasters & more.

Register Online:

$875.00 plus gstRegister Here

[*Early bird pricing in effect until June 19th, 2016. Regular price $875]

Feel free to review our cancellation policy here.



Date & Time:

Course will start at 9am on Sunday, July 10th and run until about 4:30 Saturday, July 16th. We are anticipating beautiful, Okanagan summer weather. As such, if the thermometer rises, we may be adjusting each day to morning & evening sessions, with the afternoons off to enjoy nearby waterways.

Accommodation & Camping:

Camping and meals are included in the course fee, and include 6 breakfasts (no morning meal on the first day), 7 lunches, and 6 dinners (no dinner on the final day). Camping will be primitive but enjoyable. As we will be working on the future home on the property, services on site are somewhat limited, but we intend to make sure that you are comfortable. There is also a local campground five minutes away if you’d prefer to stay off site.

The property, just outside Rock Creek BC, offers great views of the valley, surrounded by native ecology, including the magnificent Ponderosa pine. The Kettle River is only minutes away, and offers great swimming opportunities. If you’re keen, there are many hiking trails to explore, and the area also has good mountain biking. The small hamlet of Rock Creek offers a funky cafe and trading post serving organic coffee, and there is a gas station, and the Rock Creek general store offers a basic selection of goods.

 Other Notes:

**Please note that we will be in contact with you leading up to the course. We’ll be sending you specific course information, directions, what to bring and what to expect. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions. Thanks!

When you register online, we save your contact information so we can reach you with details about the workshop. We respect your privacy, and never sell to third party! If you would rather bypass PayPal (the secure service we use to process credit card payments; and you don’t have to have a PayPal account to use our online registration), we gladly except email money transfers or cheques. Please contact us if you would like to pursue these options. Thanks!