Straw Bale Greenhouse

You can huff and puff, but you can't blow this [greenhouse] down.
-- Larry Meiller of Wisconsin Public Radio.

Everything old is new again by rehabilitating the timber-framed, south-facing corn crib/granary used for agricultural purposes. As of December 2002, the first phase of an active and passive solar-heated strawbale greenhouse will be completed, keeping true to the agricultural use of the structure. South and some west-facing walls will contain insulated glass glazing with the remainder of the structure in-filled with strawbale and covered with 2-inches of cement-based stucco on the outside and 2-inches of clay-based stucco on the inside. Various recycled materials have been salvaged for this project, including collecting wood, old metal doors, and windows destined for landfills.

Completed through a 2-part workshop, sponsored by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA), and with the incredible assistance and contributions of friends, neighbors and others in the community who joined in our efforts during the summer or "straw bale September." Jason Perry, among the many who pitched in during the fall 2001, took some amazing photographs of the straw bale construction process. The project was managed by Matt Sterling, owner of Native Earth Construction of Amherst, WI, who was also the workshop instructor.

We're growing papayas, banana, and coffee and other tropical fruit and plants. The greenhouse will serve as a demonstration project for family farmers looking to survive in an increasingly challenging economic climate, and we're now offering a selection of a few of the innovative and sustainable items we currently use for sale at our Greenhouse & Garden on-line store. Unless small farmers can find new or alternative markets for cultivated or value-added crops, the current trend will continue with lost livelihood, lost farmlands and lost agriculture. By demonstrating the feasibility of retrofitting an existing agricultural outbuilding into an energy-efficient, sustainably-designed greenhouse, farming can be expanded into new markets by growing and selling year-round or by meeting their own food needs. This is the first known project retrofitting a corn crib/granary into an active and passive solar-heated strawbale greenhouse. A fact sheet on the design was developed for reference.

In many ways, the project was also inspired by the father of "organic architecture," Frank Lloyd Wright who lived in nearby Taliesin, Wisconsin. We strived to have the building embody Wright's "architecture of democracy:" architecture designed to serve the purposes of a community of self-reliant individuals working together, in harmony, with nature. And there is, too, organic architecture: architecture attuned to nature, exemplifying humandkind's development within nature.

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7843 County P
Browntown WI 53522
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