Builders Without Borders in 2018

Builders Without Borders 2018 – Sustainable Rebuilding in Nepal

In response to the 2015 Nepal earthquakes, a dedicated Builders Without Borders team designed and built the first straw bale house in Nepal in 2018 with its Nepali partner, the Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco Foundation (KRMEF)

The Paral Ko Ghar (Straw House) uses local, natural materials to create safe, durable, affordable, and culturally appropriate shelter. The earthquake-safe straw bale wall system is “shake table” tested, and reinforced with bamboo and nylon fishing net.

The guesthouse showcases its straw bale and straw-clay walls, bamboo floor and roof structure, and durable clay and lime plasters to visitors and the regional community. Local men and women were trained in these building systems while they shared traditional Nepali building methods and use of materials.

In 2019 finish work will bring the project to completion and future projects will be explored. Your support makes this ongoing work possible! Tax-deductible donations are welcome at

See a photo tour of the project below (.4mb PDF).


Thank you and best wishes in the New Year, from BWB co-directors Martin Hammer and Catherine Wanek.

USBG Eco House Team

The Canelo Project, Athena & Bill Steen
Darren Molnar-Port
DeBoer Architects, Darryl DeBoer
Derek Roff, co-director of BWB
Earth & Straw, Inc., Rosemary Morin
Eric Hempstead, Natural Builder
Green Builders, Inc., Polly Bart
Green Weaver Inc., Laura Bartels
Heliconworks, Bill Hutchins
Kleiwerks, Massey Burkes
Kleiwerks, Michael (Meka) Bunch
Mark Schueneman
MudStrawLove, Steve Kemble & Mollie Curry
Natural Builders Inc., Marisha Farnsworth & Keven Rowell
OKOKOK Productions, Kaki Hunter & Doni Kiffmeyer
One-World-Design, Kelly Lerner
Sam Droege, Catherine Wanek & Pete Fust

USBG Eco House Sponsors

Builders Without Borders is most appreciative of our generous supporters listed below (in aphabetical order).
Event Sponsors:
American Clay, New Mexico

Amicus Green Building Center, Maryland

BondedLogic UltraTouch Insulation, Arizona

Betty Wanek, Arizona

Henry (Ed) Raduazo, Virginia

Indigo Engineering Group, Washington, D.C.

Kraftwerks Sheet Metal & Slate, Inc., Washington, D.C.
Shawn Watson, owner

New Society Publishers, British Columbia, Canada

Patricia McArdle, Virginia

Sam Droege & Kappy Laning, Maryland

The U.S. Botanic Garden, Washington, D.C.

Bill Hutchins, Architect, Maryland

Laughing Dog Productions, Washington, D.C.
Tom Donohue, Connie Reinhold

The Lifebridge Foundation, New York

Elizabeth Floyd & James Thomas, Washington, D.C.

Furbish Co., Green building, Maryland
Michael Furbish

Polly Bart, Contractor, Maryland

Solar Energy International, Colorado

Community Forklift, Maryland

Gibbs Smith, Publisher, Utah

Nature Neutral, Virginia

Permaculture Credit Union, New Mexico

Clay Works Supplies, Inc., Maryland

Jean Hanson, Wisconsin
Down to Earth -Sigi Koko, Pennsylvania


Tyler Brown
Qian Chen
Ann Curtsingen
Jennifer Dinglas
Deb Friedman
K.L. Kyde
Bob Larson
Martha Larson
Zena Nason
Jessie Steiger
Tom Steiger
Dan Triman

Please help BWB bring awareness of energy-efficient straw bale and natural building to the steps of Capitol Hill. Support a summer of sustainability at the BWB natural building exhibit by donating, becoming a sponsor, and becoming a member.

US Botanical Garden

……………………………………………………………………………………….. ……...…...….photos by Bill Steen

Visitors to the Builders Without Borders’ exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden could step inside a small building with tall walls of stacked straw bales plastered inside with a variety of beautiful polished clay finishes. Outside the walls are coated with a durable lime plaster and slate, and topped with a long-lasting standing-seam metal roof.

Visitors could also view the Capitol through a strong adobe arch, and relax beneath a bamboo shade trellis to read about America’s traditional green-building heritage, from cliff dwellings and adobe pueblos of the Southwest, to an historic straw-bale church still standing strong in the Nebraska sandhills.

The U.S. Botanic Garden (USBG) organized the 2008 exhibition, called “One Planet – Ours!” to showcase sustainable techniques and technologies including edible school yards, urban orchards, a solar greenhouse, photovoltaic panels, residential wind turbines, green roofs and rainwater harvesting. The USBG is adjacent to the National Mall, across the street from the U.S. Capitol.

Read about the BWB Strawbale Eco-house in the “Roll Call”, the daily newspaper of Congress.

Straw bales may be the most economical and ecological material available for construction today. After a cereal grain is harvested, the remaining hollow stalks of straw can be inexpensively baled into super-insulating building blocks, and quickly stacked into walls by a volunteer crew with little or no building experience. Protected with a proper foundation, roof and plaster, bale walls could last a century or longer, providing an attractive and energy-efficient building envelope for human habitation.

Visitors to the BWB exhibit at the USBG can experience the heat and sound insulating qualities of straw-bale walls, and look inside the wall through a “truth window” that reveals its straw construction. The ceiling is insulated with a cotton batt insulation made from recycled denim, called Ultratouch. Overhead, the oak ceiling boards were crafted from reclaimed fencing. And most of the timber used in the building was locally harvested and milled.

Outside, a traditional lime plaster seals and protects the bale walls from precipitation, insects and fire. Sheltering the walls from above is a beautiful and durable standing-seam metal roof, that can last for a century or more.

The variety of lovely interior plaster finishes are all clay based. The BWB building team applied both locally harvested Maryland and Virginia clay plasters, and a just-add-water plaster product called American Clay, that comes in a rainbow of colors.

The BWB exhibit also demonstrates the versatility of earth as a building material, including a traditional adobe arch and “cob” seating benches. Bamboo, a fast-growing versatile plant, was also employed to create a shade structure, with seating underneath, inviting visitors to relax in a tranquil corner of the USBG. Eco-house – Fact Sheet

Inside the Strawbale Ecohouse, a table of books donated by New Society Publishers and Gibbs Smith, Publisher, offer more information about energy-efficient, ecological, and healthy building materials, technology and design.

To create the BWB exhibit, an experienced team of builders assembled from New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, California and North Carolina, ably assisted by local volunteers. Regional “green” businesses and professionals supported the building by donating and delivering materials, including Amicus Green Building Center, Nature Neutral, Community Forklift, Clayworks, and the Habitat For Humanity Restore.

The dozens of other exhibitors at the U.S. Botanic Garden include the Department of Energy (DOE), National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL), The Nature Conservancy, the American Horticultural Society, the SmartGrowth Network, and many more. (click here for a full list of exhibitors.)

USBG horticulturist and event coordinator Ray Mims says, “Our hope is that this will be a fun, interesting, thought-provoking experience for our visitors. Our goal is to provide the public with take home messages, empower them with knowledge, and motivate them to get involved in some manner.”

For more information on the One Planet Ours! Exhibition, visit

Please help BWB educate about energy-efficient building strategies to housing professionals, government staffers, and visitors to the National Mall. Support the BWB presentation series and the strawbale eco-house exhibit by donating, becoming a sponsor, and becoming a member.

2008 USBG Sustainability Exhibits

2008 USBG Sustainability Exhibits as of 1/28/08

One Planet – Ours!
The theme of one planet is the unifying theme and will also be demonstrated by COOL GLOBES that will be placed throughout the out of door gardens and inside.

1. Philly Orchard Project – Urban Orchard
2. National Wildlife Federation –Back yard Habitat
3. American Horticultural Society –Green Garage
4. Longwood Gardens – Sustainable Garden
5. EPA Greenscapes- Green front yard
6. Department of Energy – Anatomy of a House
7. Sustainable Sites Initiative – Sustainable Garden
8. SmartGrowth Network – Edible Schoolyard
9. Local Food / Fresh Farm Markets – Vegetable Garden
10. Water for People
11. Builders Without Borders – Strawbale Display & “America’s Green Building Traditions”
12. Mariah Power – Vertical Wind Turbine
13. Solar American Initiative – NG pergola
14. Dept of Energy – Alternative Energy Technology – around outside of NG lawn
15. LBJ Wildflower Center – 1st Ladies Water Garden
16. Earth Partnership – curved wall
17. ACTrees; UNEP; Casey – Tree exhibit NG west turf
18. City of Seattle – Green Factor
19. Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance
20. NAPPC – butterfly garden
21. BGCI – conservation
22. IUCN – Red List
23. NREL – alternative energy work
24. ASLA – green roof
25. American Natural History Museum H2O exhibit panels
26. UMD & NE land grant university extension – Landscape Bloopers
27. EPA Energy Star info printed on table ‘covers’ – (things you can do at home)
28. The Nature Conservancy – invasive species trail (inside and out)
29. Peace Corps
30. UMD & NE land grant university extension services – Turf plot
31. EPA – Green Roof
32. Water collection – East side rain garden from roof
33. DOE solar panels – Southside roof
34. UNEP photos – One Planet Many People
35. Center for New American Dream
36. Chesapeake Bay Foundation
37. National Arboretum – Power Plants
38. MNH- Dig it!
39. Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance
40. P3 Expo and Appalachian State – passive solar/affordable greenhouses
41. Sustainable Sites Initiative

Straw Bale Goes to Siberia

by Jeff Ruppert, P.E., Carbondale, Colorado

During most of August 2005, I joined two other natural builders from Colorado, Paul Koppana and Cindy Smith, Hungarian Jakub Wihan, and our guide and translator extraordinaire, Alyson Ewald of Missouri, in the southernmost reaches of Siberia. Our goal was to demonstrate the feasibility of bale wall construction in their region. We were observed by local folks and not so local officials alike who were interested in seeing if this new and mysterious building technology made sense.

As members of Builders Without Borders, Paul, Cindy and I volunteered to help design and build a small storage building (15m x 30m) on a piece of land in the Altai Region. The Altai is known to many in Russia as the “Pearl of Siberia.” It is geographically, culturally and biologically very diverse – a literal crossroads throughout the millennia.

A grant from The Center for Safe Energy provided the funds for Alyson Ewalds’ organization and translation and our travel expenses. The land is owned by the Milky Way, a sister organization of The Fund for 21st Century Altai. These and other organizations are working to promote eco-tourism and stewardship of the land and its beauty in the Altai.

Upon our arrival, we began pouring the foundation. This was done with the assistance of an electric mixer. We poured the concrete by hand, which took 2 1/2 days. Prior to forming the foundation, the main carpenter on the project buried 3×15 posts at the corners and along spans for the eventual support of the roof framing. These posts were exposed at the corners for future carving. We also used 3×15’s as the top plate, laid flat. After the foundation was complete, we moved on to making plaster samples and completing the top plate framing. Cindy was our “plaster master”, while Paul and myself worked on the structure.

Halfway through the project, before plaster and roof framing, Milky Way and 21st Century hosted a seminar which was advertised in the local paper and on a TV station they run from Barnaul, where they are located. Alyson interpreted for us with great ease and worked on each part of the project with the members of the organizations. It was an ongoing merry participation of eager folks.

Approximately 30 people showed up, along with the local newspaper and TV crew. We explained, again with the help of Alyson, how bale structures worked and described their advantages. There were many great questions. Feedback from this seminar was very positive. Many non-believers found themselves quietly converted to believing this is a building technology worthy of Siberian winters. The seminar injected all of us with a renewed vigor to close in the structure before our departure a week later.

Building material costs rise steadily in Russia, and during the construction process, it became clear that our hosts did not have the funds to complete the roof. Builders without Borders committed to raising the additional $800 required, so building continued. In a special request to the membership, BWB received close to $3,000 for the project! The extra money was used for solar panels, and our Russian partners were grateful beyond words.

For the remainder of the project, Cindy coordinated all of the volunteer labor to apply large quantities of cob and earth plaster to the walls, while Paul and myself put the recycled, corrugated, plastic roofing up. I also worked on making window frames for the reclaimed windows, while Paul did other carpentry tasks, such as putting plaster stops up and making things look neat.

We departed on the 29th of August with tears in our eyes and new friends wishing us well while asking us to return soon. I am sure some of us will return, as this is just the beginning of gaining official acceptance of bale construction in Russia. We are already in the planning stages for another educational straw-bale project in the Altai region in 2008. For more information, visit

Casas de la Cruz

by Alfred von Bachmayr

A mission organization called Casas de la Cruz (CDLC), has been building houses for needy families in Anapra, Mexico, for fourteen years, and has the infrastructure in place to continue building at the rate of four houses per year. The organization builds houses with funding from their community in Kansas City, with student volunteer groups providing the labor. In addition they provide food for over 50 families each month and provide funds for families to send their children to school. A committee of women from Anapra administers all their activities, selects the families to be served and brings the pulse of the community to the organization.

In the fall of 2000, Builders Without Borders (BWB), assisted in the construction of a straw bale house in Anapra, for a local maestro, who had lost his home in a fire. CDLC representatives saw the house going up and expressed interest in constructing a prototype house, in the same way, for their organization. Typically, they had been building uninsulated concrete block and wood frame houses, but the residents had found them to be very uncomfortable in the extreme seasons of the year. BWB agreed to assist CDLC in the building of their next house in February of 2001. The 450 square foot prototype house was designed to be passively solar heated in the winter and protected from the intense heat in the summer. The building would have mud plastered, load bearing, straw bale walls, and roof trusses that were made from wood parts taken from disassembled pallets. The ceiling would to be insulated with straw flakes and the roofing would be corrugated metal. As planned, the building was constructed with the combined efforts of Maria and her two children (the owners), local community members, volunteers from CDLC’s mission organization in Kansas City, and BWB trainers. The building was completed in one month’s time at a cost of $3700 for materials and labor, excluding overhead costs for coordination and room and board for the volunteers.

Proposed Expanded Program
With the success of the prototype residence, CDLC is now interested in building more strawbale houses in the future and have committed to at least three more houses in 2003. A family of 10, two parents and 8 children, has been chosen to receive the next house, which will be built in March of 2003. CDLC has expressed interest in partnering with ZERI/SCI Inc. and Builders Without Borders, to expand their current house building program to include the creation of:

• A micro lending program to aid individuals and/or groups in the formation and initial operation of small enterprises that supply the program with needed materials and services.
• A revolving loan fund out of which micro loans and partial home mortgages are funded. Over time, as more houses are built and more micro loans given, the payments from the loans will grow the fund allowing for more loans and houses.
• An educational component that teaches natural building skills to those interested in creating their own space, a small business or other housing programs.
• The program follows the Zeri methodology which will provide the enveloping philosophy to utilize the waste stream for beneficial use while creating enterprise and protecting the environment.

Program Components
The strength of the program is determined by two factors, the fact that it is built upon the foundation of an existing program that has a long track record and that the proposed aspects of the expanded program have been modeled after other successful programs. These aspects include the owner sweat equity programs and revolving loan funds of Habitat for Humanity, the micro credit lending program of the Grameen Bank and widely used sustainable design principles and natural building techniques.

Specifically the program will include the following components:

• Simple electrical and plumbing systems in each house including a biological waste disposal system that utilizes waste water to grow landscaping and fruit trees.
• The opportunity for owners to finance amenities such as solar hot water heaters, solar stills, solar ovens and water cisterns.
• Designs that are developed with owner input and feedback.
• Owners of the new houses have to contribute a specified number of hours to the construction of the house through their family and friend network.
• Thermally efficient envelopes, passive solar space heating and sustainable, natural building materials and techniques.
• Metal roofs to assure longevity of the buildings
• The owners commit to mutually agreed upon conditions, such as their properties will be kept neat, they will be willing to show their houses to others who are interested, etc. This idea is taken from the Grameen bank that has 16 conditions all people borrowing money agree to.
• Simple rainwater catchment systems.
• A family selection committee consisting of members of the local community.

Program Context
This program has been designed to be more than simply a housing program for needy families. It has also been designed to address social justice issues, environmental issues and oppression. In previous projects, several things were observed that caused the inclusion of the additional components listed above. When housing is the sole focus and product, often the families still have severe economic challenges in their lives, keeping them in a disempowered state. Therefore it became apparent that in addition to the building of houses, opportunities could be created to provide a livelihood to people in the community by assisting in the formation of small enterprises that produce components for the houses. In this way, as more houses are built, more enterprises could be supported and more people could have a decent livelihood, keeping them from being subject to oppressive work environments.

In addition, it was found that volunteer participants coming to work on the projects from the United States often left the projects with an entirely new awareness of poverty and oppression. They often returned to work on additional projects or worked as coordinators for the organization. The project has become a vehicle for peoples of different socio-economic backgrounds to work together, acquiring knowledge of each other’s similarities and differences, while making lifetime bonds. In addition, individuals from more affluent backgrounds, when provided the opportunity to work with people living in poverty, often make the connection of how the lives they lead are perpetuated by inexpensive goods and services produced by the same people they are working with in these poor environments. They then often start to understand the need for social justice and the distribution of wealth. Their contributions then become the backbone of the program.

In order to perpetuate and expand the aspects described above, an educational component is factored into the program. It is meant to make knowledge available to peoples of all walks of life in sustainable building practices that house people comfortably and prevent environmental degradation. They can go on to build their own houses, start small enterprises or create other similar programs. Children need to be involved in this process, as they are the ones who will carry the weight in the next generation. This will be achieved by conducting instructional workshops throughout the process on a wide variety of subjects using the building as a hands-on model to learn from.

Program Funding
The funding for the proposed program would come out of the revolving loan fund that is funded initially by:

1. Individuals, foundations or corporations that see value in contributing to the program as has been experienced for the last fourteen years by CDLC.
2. Income from individuals paying for training or workshops conducted during the building of the houses by coordinators and trainers.
3. Mortgage and micro-credit loan payments paid back into the revolving loan fund by homeowners and funded businesses.

Over time, as more houses are built and more businesses financed, the payments from these loans, paid back into the revolving loan fund, will increase the size of the fund, thereby decreasing the need for contributions. This will build the strength of the program locally and allow for the empowerment of many more people over time.

BWB Mongolian Tour of the Southwest

September – October, 2000

Many thanks to all those who helped Builders Without Borders to welcome the Mongolian UNDP delegation on their Straw-bale Research Tour of the US Southwest.

All along the way we found people willing to open their homes, and dedicate their time to sharing their experiences in straw-bale building with the Mongolian Team. All in all, the team toured 37 sites in 4 states including Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska, and South Dakota, including attendance at the Second Nebraska Straw-bale Conference. Throughout the tour, the team was brought together with some of the most experienced straw-bale builders in the U.S. and worldwide.

Builders Without Borders is proud to have been able to support the Mongolian team in making personal and professional connections, coordinating the itinerary, providing logistical “ground” support, and helping to advance their work which may become a model project of global significance.

If you would like to know more details about the tour and specific itinerary, please contact Susan Klinker.

Project Details:

Builders Without Borders is pleased to announce that we will be hosting a delegation of Mongolian United Nations Development Program project officials for a 16-day Straw-Bale Study Tour of the US Southwest.
The team consists of Mongolian architectural and engineering professional and administrators who are currently involved in a multi-million dollar straw-bale building initiative. The model project has important implications for the use of straw-bale building technology in developing countries worldwide.

Plans have been confirmed for the team to arrive in Denver on September 17th. The tour will culminate with participation in the Nebraska Straw-Bale Conference the week-end of September 29th through October 1st.

The tour itinerary is shaping up to be an exciting and informative series of meetings. Throughout our planning, we have found people to be wonderfully willing to open their doors and share their knowledge and building experience with us. We are looking forward to a successful tour,
making new friends, and connecting further with the expanding network of natural builders worldwide.

BWB Members are invited to meet the team in person at one of the planned receptions, or at the Nebraska Straw-Bale Conference.

6:00 pm Monday, Sept. 18th – Reception at the Blackrange Lodge, 119 Main St., Kingston, New Mexico. (505) 895-5652

5:00 pm Friday, Sept. 22nd- Reception at Eco-Seco, sustainable urban development. 815 Camino Don Emilio, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Hosted by Alan Hoffman, (505) 920-4444

A third reception is planned in Pueblo Colorado. However, last minute changes to the team’s arrival time has put plans on hold.

If you would like to become involved in the tour in some other capacity, please contact Susan Klinker at (505) 895-5400, preferably before this Friday, Sept. 15th


United Nations Development Program (UNDP) supported straw-bale work in Mongolia has important implications for the use of renewable energy technologies and natural building in development schemes worldwide. The project was started approximately 5 years ago by the Adventist Development Relief Agency (ADRA), and has now become a large scale UNDP project involving the construction of schools, clinics, and hundreds of homes. Straw-bale building technologies provide a great benefit to the people of Mongolia, by providing low-cost super-insulated facilities which help to make the country’s limited financial resources stretch further than ever before.

Generally, the group of 5 arch/engineering officials will be seeking technical expertise, testing results, and code and permitting information, as well as troubleshooting some of the specific issues which have arisen in their unique environment. Upon return to Mongolia the team will relay information to other building professionals and technicians through training seminars, technical reports, media campaign, video, etc.


Mr. S. Ganbold. He is the National Project Coordinator of our project and, as such, is responsible for the day-to-day management of the project. By training, he is a mining engineer, but he has worked for the past ten years in management positions, first within something called the National Development Board, then within the Ministry of Finance, and for the past 3 years on this project. His interests are general, and starting this year he will manage a new phase of our project focusing on straw-bale housing. He speaks good English and will serve as main interpreter for the group.

Ms. G. Sarantuya. She is a construction engineer and works in the Agency for Construction and Architecture. Among other things, she is the main ACA counterpart for the project. She participates in management decisions concerning about the project in Ulaanbaatar, cooperates in technical aspects of the project related to research and building codes, and participates in monitoring trips with project staff to our construction sites. Her primary interest will be on design principles and construction techniques for straw-bale structures. Ms. Sarantuya speaks no English.

Mr. Ts. Sharaa. He is also a construction engineer, a consultant for ACA and director of an engineering consulting firm called Monseis. Most importantly for us, he is the lead consultant currently under contract to develop the national building codes for straw-bale construction in Mongolia. As such, his main interests are scientific and technical – he’s always very serious about his calculations, numbers and figures. Mr. Shataa also speaks no English.

Mr. Ya. Nyamsaihan. He is chief engineer in the Engineering Design Bureau of the Erdenet Corporation. As such, he led the group that designed the 12 straw-bale kindergartens and health clinics that were built under the project this year. The project also retained his services as Resident Engineer on these projects, to be responsible for construction inspection and monitoring. But better yet, the Erdenet Corporation has a 1200-member credit union, and about half of its members need and want housing. Erdenet is looking at straw-bale as an inexpensive alternative, and has agreed in principle to build straw-bale housing for about 40 families next year. Nyamsaihan will lead the design of about 10-20 model homes, and Erdenet will finance their construction. Mr Nyamsaihan speaks very limited English.

Ms. Sa. Enkhtuya. She is the project officer within the UNDP office responsible for monitoring our project. She does not have a technical background, but she is responsible for seeing that the project meets its objectives. Like all UNDP staff, she is interested in issues related to poverty reduction, and will be interested during this trip to learn more about low-cost housing options and financing for the poor. She speaks excellent English, and will share the job of interpretation with Ganbold. Unfortunately, she will not be able to participate in the whole trip. Sh will join the group when it passes through Denver the second time.

All of the above are forty-something-ish. All have masters degrees. And several of them studied in Russia and speak Russian fluently.

Mongolian Straw-Bale Research Tour

Sept. 12- 16- Canadian Research Tour, based from Alberta.
Sept. 17- 25- Southwest Research Tour.
Sept. 26- Oct.3- Nebraska Conference and Tour.

Southwest Research Tour (BWB coordination)
Sept. 17- Sun.- Arrive in Denver, from Alberta
Meeting w/ Owen Geiger and Robert Andrews, BWB & Habitat for Humanity visit/tour 2 Habitat for Humanity Houses Meetings w/ Larry Bogard, designer, SB office, Tom Reilly Architect, Clint Tawes code official
6:00 pm Reception in Pueblo hosted by Owen Geiger TO BE CONFIRMED
Overnight in Pueblo at the home of Pastor Sid Skirvin and wife Shirley.

Sept. 18- Mon.- early morning departure for Kingston, NM ( full day of travel)
6:00 pm Reception at the Black Range Lodge (C. Wanek – slide show of BWB
European & award-winning Belarussian SB initiative) Participants include members from the Arizona SB community and Mike Comier (El Paso Solar Energy Assoc.)
Overnight at Black Range Lodge.

Sept. 19- Tues.- AM tour of Kingston SB, including greenhouse, guest house, chicken coop, plus straw-bale home with steel post & beam framework in progress.
Steve MacDonald (SB Author, BWB) & Sue Mullen’s low-cost Post & Beam straw-bale houses & SB construction in progress. Lunch hosted by Steve & Nena MacDonald.
Evening Presentation at Hogan at Sacred Mountain Camp, near Laguna Pueblo. Review and Discussion of Navajo Hogan and similarities between Monglian and Native American cultures.
Overnight at Sacred Mountain Camp (guest house.)

Sept. 20- Wed. morning departure for Albuquerque (1.5 hrs drive)
Meet with Cadmon Whitty, Tour his home renovation, retrofit SB exterior, many half bale and sculptural interior walls. Lunch hosted by the Whitty Family.
Tour Straw Bale Garden Walls
Tour Passive Solar Home at 2621 Decker, NW, home w/ 5 years energy accounting.
Corrales Post Office, Joe Fortin, Award Winning Green Builder.
New Mexico Solar Energy Association ( passive solar design)
Optional Cultural Event- New Mexico State Fair
Overnight in Albuquerque at the Home of Derek Roff & Dorothy Stermer Sept. 21- Thurs. Early morning departure for Santa Fe/Pojoaque.
Meet w/ Scott Pittman (Pojoaque, SB/Adobe, masonry stove, permaculture landscape in progress)
Christ in the Desert Monastery – Adobe & SB, off the grid solar PV system (with architect Janice Vascott & PV solar designer.)
Lunch at Monastery (or Ghost Ranch)
Meet w/ Tony Perry -Steel Frame, Complete Owner Builder Systems
8 SB homes within 1 mile of Tony’s Home.
Overnight at home of Rob Althouse & Nancy Kenney (yurt).
Mary Lowe House on Reservation lands (optional- video)

Sept. 22- Fri.-Full day in Santa Fe Region
Meeting with Living Structures: Danny Buck
slide show on straw-bale Construction, presentation of dataloggers, moisture monitors, moisture/mold studies, prepared by Carl Rosenberg,
Meeting with Fermin Aragon of NM Construction Industries; State planning and permitting official, involved in finalization of SB codes for state of NM. (meet in city office very close by)
Tour Joan Baker House- fairly high end house in downtown Santa Fe.
Lunch at Cloudcliff Bakery- Organic wheat farmers and bakers. Lunch will include a brief presentation on what they do, and how it links with larger issues of sustainability. (2 blocks from Living Structures office)
Tour Goodwin house, small, simple, low cost house.
Tour Beneficial Farms- 2 story SB and adobe structure with attached greenhouse.
5:00pm Public Reception at Eco Seco sustainable urban development, hosted by Allan Hoffman, w/Alternative Building Alliance, Greenbuilding Assoc., SBCA, etc. Brief presentation by Mongolian Group.(20 min.) Brief Presentation by Alan Hoffman and/or Rob Althouse.
7:00 pm Reception for Straw-bale community at Eco- Seco, Music and Dancing

Sept. 23- Sat.- Day off, cultural activities and shopping. (Wallmart, Santa
Fe Market)
Optional Cultural Activity-
“Gathering for Mother Earth” at Pojoaque Powwow grounds
Depart for Alamosa/Crestone, Colorado

Sept. 24- Sun.-Morning tour of the home of Teresa Benns, load-bearing, code-approved owner-builder home.
Meet w/ Straw Bale Broker Jerry Gomez
Presentation of ranges of quality in bales.
Meet w/ farmers, demonstrate baling process
Potential meeting w/ Baling Machinery sales rep.
Various High Altitude Cold Climate Bldgs. in Crestone
Meeting w/ Kelly & Rosana Hart, earthbag and scorria home.
Tour Sanctuary House, meeting w/ William and Barbara Howell.
Intro./Tour, Haidakhandi Universal Ashram, SB, adobe, & earthship.
Vegetarian Supper at the Ashram and optional evening service (singing/chimes)
Overnight at the Ashram, in the new SB Dorm.

Sept. 25- Mon.-morning departure for Colorado Springs
Meet w/ Kiva Construction at the home of Kimber & Elizabeth Janney.
Home renovation in progress, possible tour of nearby new SB home.
Lunch hosted by the Janney’s. Additional guests include Architect Bill Beard, Sarah Mock and Ray Ferguson, and Owen Geiger.
Meet w/ Bill Beard, SB Chapel in Littleton/ Catholic Church
Overnight in Denver/ Englewood at the home of Sherry Litasi

Bill Harmsen coord. AM in Boulder
Jeff Ruppert, Engineer, Testing Program presentation
Depart after lunch for Nebraska (6-7 hrs travel time)
Or depart late afternoon and drive to Ogallala.

Sept. 27- Wed.- Nebraska Historic Bale Building Tour

Sept. 28- Thurs.- Drive to Halsey Conference site, conference registration

Sept. 29- Fri.- 2nd Nebraska Straw-bale Conference

Sept. 30- Sat.- 2nd Nebraska Straw-bale Conference

Oct. 1- Sun. – 2nd Nebraska Straw-bale Conference

Oct. 2- Mon.- Depart for Denver – Overnight in Denver

Oct. 3- Tues.- Depart to Beijing via San Francisco. 8 am.

Sacred Mountain Camp National Indian Youth Leadership Project

July 2000

Many thanks to all who participated in the NIYLP Straw-bale Hogan Project at Sacred Mountain Camp, and contributed so much to making the event a success.

We are especially grateful for the generosity of project architects, Alfred von Bachmayr and Janice Vascott. Without their significant contributions of time and talent in design, planning and preliminary coordination, this project could never have occurred.

Thanks, also, to those who sent their moral support even though they could not be there with us. The NIYLP project presented several unique challenges, none of which proved insurmountable, and we feel proud that this BWB pilot project was a wonderful achievement. It was an exhausting and exhilarating week of what often turned out to be 12 hour work days.

Despite inclement weather, the straw-bale hogan withstood several afternoon thunderstorms including one which brought 3″ of rain in an hour.

Presently, the hogan roof is closed in, the door and windows are installed, and the majority of rough plastering work is complete, both inside and out. Two finish plaster workshops with NIYLP Americorps volunteers are planned in early August in coordination with completion of the ceiling and installation of the brick on sand floor. See the pictures.

The dynamics of team “diversity” proved to be a signature characteristic of the project, providing both challenge and opportunity, as teenagers and adults from widely varied backgrounds came together to fulfill common goals.

Compliments to NIYLP staff for inspiring the spirit of cooperation, and BWB team leaders for making sure everyone had a chance to contribute.

As a pilot project, Sacred Mountain Camp provided valuable learning experiences for us, and we received some great press coverage, including an article on the front page of the Albuquerque Tribune.

A more detailed report about the event follows, including notes about some of the unique challenges of the project, and “lessons learned”.

Anyone interested in volunteering to work with finish plaster workshops may contact our office or just stay tuned for more information.

We also welcome feedback or suggestions relative to the project, as part of our project evaluation process.

Thank you,
Susan Klinker

Project Details

Project Dates: July 9th -July 15th, 2000

Total # Volunteers: Approx. 75

Participating Organizations:
NIYLP, National Indian Youth Leadership Project, and Americorps
American’s for Native Americans
Civil Air Patrol
Builders Without Borders

BWB Project Coordination Team:
Janice Vascott, Architect
Alfred von Bachmayr, Architect
Catherine Wanek, BWB Acting Director
Derek Roff, Project Coordinator
Susan Klinker, Project Coordinator

BWB Volunteer Participants:
Graham Driscoll
Bob McKinney
Benjamin Miner
Terry Morawitz
BJ Harris
Carl Rosenberg
Robert Ward
Carl Ballenger

Press Coverage:
We are proud to have received coverage for the NIYLP project in at least three New Mexico news papers, including the front page of the Albuquerque Tribune (7/14/00), the Albuquerque Journal (7/14/00), and the Gallup Independent (7/13/00).

Project Description:
The NIYLP, Sacred Mountain Camp project involved the collective efforts of several non-profit organizations. At least 75 individual volunteers turned out, eagerly focused on learning techniques for natural building. The program was designed as an opportunity for Indian and non-native teenagers and adults to share in cooperative work projects, cross cultural experiences, and educational activities. The agenda focused primarily on sustainable earth architecture projects including the construction of a straw-bale hogan, and an adobe amphitheater. Builders Without Borders team members provided instruction and leadership centered on straw-bale building, and earthen plaster techniques.

After several months, and many hours of donated design and coordination time, the NIYLP program was carried out during the week of July 9th through 15th. Accommodations for participants were camp-style, with meals graciously provided by Americans for Native Americans volunteer cooks. Educational activities included an informal group discussion on Navajo hogan traditions, a straw-bale building slide show under the stars, presented by Catherine Wanek, review and distribution of available educational resources and literature, and lots of hands on building experience. Other culturally related presentations included performances by the Native American “Pollen Trail” Dancers, and Lakota and Navajo Dancers, Norman and Ramona Roach. A “Beauty Way Song” closing ceremony was also conducted by Edwin Cadman.

Although the building schedule was condensed to only 5 days, dedicated volunteers often worked until dark, enabling the majority of the construction to be completed. Several BWB skilled carpenters volunteered to remain on site and finish the installation of door, window, and roof panels, which were completed by Sunday evening. Finish plaster workshops will be conducted in early August.

Additional projects had been proposed, but not initiated due to time limitations and budgetary constraints. These included the construction of a straw-bale emergency shelter and adobe ovens, which may be addressed at future NIYLP camp sessions.

All in all, this project was a positive and rewarding one. Seeds were planted and strong connections were made with many participants which should flourish in the years to come. Particularly inspiring, was the response of several young Native American women who participated. They feel strongly that straw-bale building techniques should be used more widely to provide comfortable, sturdy housing at an affordable cost. To this end, they have decided to create an organization which they will call, the Native Women’s Straw Bale Building Association, and are currently developing a business plan to provide services to families interested in building straw bale structures of their own. The Association plans to work both within tribal lands and off the reservation.

Project Challenges:

Diversity of Participating Organizations
Although it was exciting to engage such a diverse group, there were times when conflicts between the distinctive styles and agendas of each group seemed to inhibit team dynamics. There was both smooth sailing and rough road. The polarization of values stretched between educating about permaculture, simplicity and sustainability, to quiet reverence for the sacred nature of the place and time, to a paramilitary approach to civil service and “chain of command” workflow. As in any project, it takes time to get to know each other and understand how to best work together. As the week progressed, we became more aware of each others’ unique contributions and interests, improved communications, and began to sense an upswing in our learning curve.

BWB community building projects in the future will also likely include volunteer groups with diverse cultures, interests, agendas and purposes for participating. In dealing with the diversity of needs, it is important that our attention remain focused on “process” as much as the end “product.” By encouraging an environment of education, communication, respect for diversity and appreciation of the land and its resources, we hope to build a skill base for creating positive team dynamics in the future.

Limited Time Frame
The time frame on this project shrank from the proposed 2 weeks, to 10 days, to 6 days, and finally to 5 days. The demanding nature of the schedule put undue pressure on the quality of the “process” and created a less than ideal environment for learning. We were fortunate that several volunteers (namely Carl Ballenger, Graham Driscoll, Carl Rosenberg, and Robert Ward) were willing and able to stay on site and finish closing in the building to protect the structure from weather damage once the camp had ended.

The basic nature of volunteer availability will probably limit time schedules in a similar manner on most future projects. Coordinators should have a back-up plan in place for completing any unfinished critical work necessary for the protection of the structure. It may also be advantageous to plan a project for multiple, phased shifts of team participation over an extended period of 2 weeks or more.

Remote Site
The camp’s remote mountain site increased delivery costs for materials, made interim trips for supplies difficult, and inhibited communications from the site (no cell or land phone service). Several volunteers experienced frustration and difficulty locating the site. In addition, a resident bear became interested in our activities and visited the camp almost daily.

Again, it is likely that we will encounter similar circumstances on future projects, especially those carried out in other countries. We hope to build the organizations’ resources of tools, equipment and supplies which may be carried along with our members to each project site. These may also eventually include equipment for drinking water, food preparation, and emergency medical care.

Lessons Learned: (see also the article in The Last Straw Journal, Fall/Resource Issue, 2000.)

Emphasize the need for good preliminary planning, including:

Establish clear design priorities- and define trade-offs between cost, rapid time frame, and quality. Several design decisions for the hogan were made to enhance durability of the structure, or to minimize labor time to fit the schedule. Consequently, the finished product did not reflect lowest cost alternatives in every aspect of the design. Having a clear definition of priorities early in project development will hopefully minimize “second guessing” of decisions on future projects.

Define a partnership agreement- identifying the roles, and responsibilities of each partner, as needed to achieve agreed upon objectives. Early planning work between partners on this project was mainly based on casual verbal agreements. This seemed to cause confusion about who was doing what and when. Once specific goals and objectives for the project were defined, and partner roles and responsibilities were outlined, project communications and progress seemed to flow more smoothly.

Discuss issues of liability- in case of injury, and establish a Waiver of Liability. Although this was not an issue on this project, insurance coverage should almost always be addressed when coordinating group building projects.

Obtain materials well before work begins- use local materials wherever possible, communicate about possible substitutions (due to cost or availability) and coordinate deliveries so all materials can be reviewed on site before building team arrives. Unfortunately, due to several factors, materials and equipment for this project were not procured until the last week. This caused unnecessary stress for all team members involved. It also shortchanged communications about possible substitutions (we had to take what we could get) and potentially increased costs for last minute purchases and deliveries.

Need for Quality communications between groups, including:

Coordinate daily meetings- to enhance team communications and spirit, identify potential problems or conflicts, and provide a setting for general comments and feedback from participants. In hindsight, more scheduled meetings with team leaders may have enhanced our project process a great deal.

Keep track of the schedule- by discussing identified targets of completed work for each day, accommodating the unexpected, and posting the overall schedule at the site.

Involve dynamic team leaders- to motivate volunteers, help keep people absorbed in the work, and assure that participants are having a positive overall experience. Several NIYLP staff members were inspirational in their ability to fully involve the youth in their work!

Need to be realistic about what can be achieved in a limited time frame- and have a back up plan for completing critical work should the schedule slip.

Make appropriate provisions for safety needs- including safety goggles, hard hats, gloves, masks or respirators, and earplugs. Although most of the above noted safety items were provided, we could have encouraged their use more effectively. Also, it is important to ensure a first-aid kit on site and access to someone nearby who is trained in first aid. Although there were some blisters and scrapes, we were fortunate to have no serious injuries on this project. Because of the remote location, it was reassuring to have 2 medical doctors on site (who were participants with ANA).

Keep materials simple and easy to work with. The use of metal lathe is extremely hard on the hands, and could be eliminated wherever possible. Burlap, plastic or wood lathe may be substituted in the future. We also found the hexagonal roof design required skilled carpentry. Therefore, roofing systems were not part of the educational process as much as they could be on a simpler structure.

Be prepared for weather- including having pre-sized tarps to cover walls, bales, tools, etc. tie downs, and bunji-cords (to prevent tarps tearing in high winds). A large event style tent, donated for use on this project proved invaluable for protecting materials, equipment and people from the daily afternoon rains we experienced at the Sacred Mountain Camp.

The National Indian Youth Leadership Project focuses on working with Native American youth to nurture indigenous values, strengthen youth leadership, share intergenerational strength and wisdom, and to serve as a catalyst for positive change in indigenous communities. Builders Without Borders supports the NIYLP’s efforts toward revitalization of traditional building techniques, and empowering both native and non-native citizens toward reclaiming the ability to build comfortable, sustainable structures for living.