‘Ecological’ – What is that? – Part II

‘Ecological’ – the sustainability approach – Part II (of VI)

Well, there is no certain answer, but it all depends on many factors as told in Part I;

A chipboard factory uses a lot of energy. The release of formaldehyde from the particleboards are a great concern.
A chipboard factory

1) The chip-boards, or particleboards, are usually made from chips of some waste from some saw-mill or such. The glue is a combination of chemicals and the process of making chip-boards uses a lot of energy. The laminate is plastic. You maybe need to replace this kind of table-top every 25 years.
The release of formaldehyde from the particleboards is also a great concern.

2) To saw a stone into measure and to make the final product smooth and the edges round = a lot of energy needed. The durability of the stone can be hundreds of years, if the house does not burn or somebody smash it down with a hammer.

Saw-mills has often also kiln and drying facilities.
A saw-mill

3) To make it from hardwood by yourself:
To buy a ready-glued sheet of hardwood, sawn into the dimensions needed. Then just sand the edges and such and coat it with something, or maybe just oil it. The coating has to be such that it will not give the food, or what ever you make on that table-top, any toxins. All sorts of lacquers or paint do not fit a kitchen. [To paint hardwood is a crime against humanity.]

If the logs are lying unbarked during summer, there is a great risk of mold, blue-stain and insect attacks.

The logs should not lay directly on the ground.
If the logs are lying unbarked during summer, there is
a great risk of mold, blue-stain and insect attacks.

b) You buy hardwood boards. The boards are sawn with some amount of energy. The planks are put into a kiln and dried in a chamber specially built for that purpose.
You can use different hardwoods, in order to get different colour-patterns, to suit your thoughts of architecture and design. You need water-resistant glue, but considerably less than is used in chip-boards. You need quite many tools in order to press the boards together, plain and sand them. Then you need to coat it. After 25 years, you might to need to sand your table-top and coat it again.

A table-top of birch for a desk, size 100 cm by 200 cm

c) You buy fresh hardwood boards directly from the saw-mill. Or as we aim to do; make the logging, then saw the logs with a DIY-band-sawmill. The logs are through-sawn – still not squared. [You can also square them before drying. They dry faster but tend to be curved sideways. We will write later about “How to square hardwood”]

Stacking non-squared boards on sticks in a shady place. The drying process takes 6 - 12 months when dried out-doors.
You stack the non-squared boards on sticks in a shady place. Depending on the thickness and what time of the year you have sawn the logs, the drying process takes 6 – 12 months when dried out-doors.

Planing birch

After that you have to square the boards and re-stack the boards inside a place which is constantly warm and dry. There the wood should dry for months, depending on the temperature. A minimum is about 4 – 9 months.

A stack of birch is opened and the first furniture components are selected for gluing the steps of the stairs that are under construction.

This can sound like a very time-consuming way to proceed, but after the first time, and when keeping the process continuous, you always have dry wood at your disposal. It is the cheapest and most energy efficient way to make any furniture.

The downside is that you need to buy a lot of tools and equipment to produce everything needed from scratch – from unsquared boards, that is. But to manage making different things from wood is a great hobby and very useful to learn and teach the kids.
Also teach your spouse, so that when you hear nagging about “we should buy this or that”, you can show where the tools are. Believe me; DIY makes wonders in a person’s personality. A silent spouse is something to have.

To be continued…

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Fan post!
February 13, 2010, 21:48
Filed under: In English | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The following picture was submitted to us by an avid fan, who understands our rabbit minds very well.

Two rabbits logging - first steps and saw

We will be working under cameras which will be connected to the Internet 24/7.

ProVillage in the Google SketchUp Warehouse

Some of the models for the project are now viewable in the Google 3D Warehouse.

This is only the beginning. I will try to upload one picture per week mainly on the topics which we have covered and will be covering in our blog in the future. Things have been progressing at such a pace that we have to collect our marbles and put them into some reasonable order again.

– Tero



Once you have gathered some knowledge of the land and a design which you have found appropriate, the origin of the bales is to be found out.

It would be helpful to know exactly how big the bales are, and which kind you are going to supplied with – and at least their approximate dimensions. This is crucial during the design and engineering of the framing.
There are many farmers with available bales, so there is also a lot to choose from. Do meticulous research on the quality aspects of the bales. The difference in price does not vary that much, and this little extra effort is worth its while it in the end.

Visual inspection

strawbalesThe colour of the bales tell a lot of the history of the bales: If they have seen weather or not? Have they been stored properly? If there is a lot of white powder coming from the bales when they are agitated, it can be considered as interior mold. This can also be judged by smell; in the case of mold, the smell is unmistakably musty.
If the the visual inspection reveals that the bales damaged by water, moldy or otherwise not in good condition, it is advisable not to use the bales in the construction because then the whole construction would be placed into jeopardy.

Bale density

One important factor when choosing the bales is the density of the bales. Most building codes which recognize straw bale construction commonly require a specific density for the bales.
Calculating the density in some regions is usually calculated by the dry density of pounds per cubic foot (1.10 kN/m³).
It is essential to know the density of the bales in order to guarantee the building inspector of the quality of the bales.
A field test can be conducted in order to make sure of the density of the bales.

Moisture content

moistureThis might be most important factor when choosing bales. If the moisture content reaches over 20% , this level is enough to give a habitat for mold and decay. It is difficult to reverse the process of mold and the process produces two things the bales need to rot: moisture and warmth.
When measuring the moisture of the bales, keep in mind that the bales take and lose moisture in relation to the ambient moisture. When reading the moisture content, the reading should come from the bales and not the atmosphere.
It is not recommended to measure the moisture content in the early morning, when the dew may affect the reading.

straw baleQuestions such as what science do the local codes require in making the decision also have to be answered. And furthermore, it is much more desirable to have the straw bales from the local area for the building to have a lower impact towards the environment.

After you have found a suitable supplier concerning the bales you can move on to the next phase of designing and construction.

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Why build with straw bales? It can be said with great certainty that tens of thousands of people have been aroused to building their homes or other constructions with straw bales around the world. Until now, it has come to our attention that all around the world there are projects going on involving straw bale building, and the number is surely to grow with the awareness of the pros of building with straw bales.

Below are a few points which speak for the methods of incorporating straw when building with straw bales.

Energy efficiency

thermo slimAs the costs for heating and cooling rise, energy efficiency is gaining more and more attention.  It is said that a well designed and built straw bale home can lower the heating costs by 70 % compared to a conventional home. It can be considered as a significant saving.


People are generally attracted to the thick walls which resemble medieval architecture or adobe homes in Latin America. A straw bale house has a totally different feel to living it, than a conventional house. The material is versatile enough to make various kinds of forms into the general building and firstly one just has to get to know the method in which way the combination of straw and other materials behave.

Acoustics/noise suppression
acoustics 004 png
Straw bale homes are remarkably quiet. The thick walls muffle sounds and diminish echoes. The most important aspects to take into consideration when planning a straw bale home is to get the correct balance of sound insulation, natural light and energy design.

At some locations around the world the technique of building strawhouses has been implemented when building recording studios. And it can be thought that workshops where noise producing machinery are operated, the strawbale walls would make conditions more bareable.

Fire rating

Homes built with straw are extremely fire resistant. A straw bale home is three times (3x) more resistant to fire than conventional homes – this is due to the fact that there is not enough oxygen in the bales for a fire to burn lively, and since the bales are covered with a thick and earthy render. In this case, one should think of a 5 cm layer of plaster covering the bales.

Environmental aspects

Millions of tons of straw is produced and burned every year. Instead, the straw can be used to produce a healthy and pleasant living environment. It also said that the amount of volatile organic compounds is less than in many other conventional buildings

See: VOC’s – Volatile organic compounds (

The ease of building

Everybody can learn to build with straw bales after a few guidelines are taken into consideration. When building with straw bales, the most difficult task would be the taking into consideration of the framing, electronics,  plumbing, etc…

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Eco-building – Part 2: Is it possible to build a 10.000 €uro house, which can also be lived in during the winter?

The objective is to build a house in accordance with the regulations and norms of the European Union, while not costing more than 10.000 €. The materials to be used are stone, strawbales, material obtained from the thinning of a forest, recycled materials, clay and sand.

The calculation does not include:

  • The price of the lot.
  • The road to the lot.
  • Transport, i.e. the trasportation of the raw materials to the building site (varies remarkably and is case specific)
  • Supply of electricity and Internet to the site.
  • The building of possible machines and apparatus for construction.
  • The required inspection fees and similar fees of various regions (which vary remarkably according to region).
Picture: Tero Syvänen

Picture: Tero Syvänen

Included in the calculations are:

  • 70 sqm of heated space
  • 50 sqm of covered cold space
  • Water input/output, plumbing
  • The treatment of ‘black’ and ‘grey’ water
  • A composting toilet
  • Electrical instalments, made mainly up of a great number of sockets and lighting spots
  • The heating and ventilation system
  • [For the waterproofing of the roof, an approximate of 1000 € is intended to be allocated, but this information is slightly unsure]
  • Doors and windows
  • The facilities required for the kitchen
  • Shower facilities
  • Flooring
  • Paint and other material required for the decoration of the interior
  • A lot of work


From our three separate ’ProVillage’ -documents one gets a relatively clear idea about our project:

The documents can be found both in Finnish and in English.

The downloading might take a while, because the files have an approximate of 130 images.

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Eco-building – Part 1: Establishment of a family-oriented village for artisans

Displayed  are some on the main building materials incorporated with the construction. Picture: Tero Syvänen”

A conceptual model of the house intended for construction.
The facade has been omitted in the picture in order to give an impression
of the dimensions.

Presently our introductory files are being translated into Chinese, Russian and Arabic – and their English and Finnish versions can be downloaded from here.

Other languages to follow.  We can be contacted at:

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