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 The Last Straw -
 The International  Journal of Straw  Bale and Natural  Building

- Promoting natural building, and sustainable design and development, through research, training, education and consulting services.

Track 1: International Straw Bale Housing Track
The primary resources used in the Global certification program are: Builders Without Borders Straw-Bale Construction Facilitators Guide by Dr. Owen Geiger and Katia LeMone, Build it With Bales, Version Two by Matts Myhrman and S.O. MacDonald, More Straw Bale Building: A Complete Guide to Designing and Building with Straw, by Chris Magwood, Peter Mack and Tina Therrien, Alternative Construction: Contemporary Natural Building Methods edited by Lynne Elizabeth and Cassandra Adams, The Straw Bale House by Steen et al., The Last Straw Journal on CD-ROM, and the Sustainable Building Electronic Directory at the Geiger Research Institute of Sustainable Building at

The 14 Modules in the Global certification program for the International Straw Bale Housing Track are outlined below:

Module 1: Introduction to Straw-Bale Construction

Topics: In addition to assignments that cover the basics of strawbale, students build a straw bale emergency shelter to gain hands-on knowledge of straw-bale construction.

Required resources: Straw Bale Emergency Shelter Plans by Matts Myhrman, Judy Knox and Dr. Owen Geiger.

Recommended resources: Straw Bales for Shelter video by Matts Myhrman, Straw Bale Building Special video by Bob Bolles, The Straw Bale Solution video by Catherine Wanek.

Module 2: Overview of Natural Building

Topics: Students are exposed to a wide range of natural building methods frequently used by strawbale builders.

Required resources: The Art of Natural Building: Design, Construction, Resources edited by Joseph F. Kennedy, Michael G. Smith and Catherine Wanek.

Recommended resources: A Sampler of Alternative Homes video by Kelly Hart, Architecture Without Architects by Bernard Rudofsky, Architecture for the Poor by Hassan Fathy, The Natural House: A Complete Guide to Healthy, Energy-Efficient, Environmental Homes by Daniel D. Chiras, The Dirt Cheap Builder CD-ROM by Taylor Publishing.

Module 3: Social and Economic Development (SED) Affordable Housing

Topics: Major SED and affordable housing program concepts are introduced.

Required resources: Building Without Borders: Sustainable Construction for the Global Village edited by Joseph F. Kennedy, A Model for Affordable Housing Projects: Social, Cultural and Moral Approaches to the Building Process in Navajo Communities by Dr. Owen Geiger, House of Straw Straw Bale Construction Comes of Age,

Module 4: Basic Design Considerations

Topics: Site selection, designing for basic human needs, passive solar design and other design considerations are introduced.

Required resources: (Refer to the list of primary resources.)

Recommended resources: Straw-Bale Code Testing video by Catherine Wanek.

Module 5: Building Layout and Foundations

Topics: Building layout and low-cost foundations are introduced.

Required resources: (Refer to the list of primary resources)

Module 6: Straw Bale Walls I

Topics: This module covers protecting the bales, ideal building bales, stacking the bale walls and stacking bales flat versus on edge.

Required resources: (Refer to the list of primary resources.)

Recommended resources: Volume 2: A Straw-Bale Home Tour by Catherine Wanek.

Module 7: Straw Bale Walls II

Topics: This module covers making custom and angled bales, attaching things to straw bale walls, pinning the walls and filling the gaps.

Required resources: (Refer to the list of primary resources.)

Module 8: Straw Bale Walls III

Topics: This module covers post and beam (infill) straw-bale construction, loadbearing strawbale, hybrid structures, bond beams and plumbing and electrical considerations.

Required resources: (Refer to the list of primary resources.)

Module 9: Doors, Windows, Interior Walls and Floors

Topics: Students are introduced to fundamental techniques of installing doors, windows and interior walls in straw bale houses, as well as low-cost flooring systems.

Required resources: (Refer to the list of primary resources.)

Recommended resources: Earthen Floors by Athena and Bill Steen.

Module 10: Roof Construction

Topics: Students learn fundamental roof design and construction techniques that can be applied to affordable straw bale structures. In addition, this module also covers ceilings and ceiling insulation.

Required resources: Roofing: Design Criteria, Options, Selection by R.D. Herbert III.

Module 11: Plastering and Finishing Details

Topics: This module covers the basics of earth and lime plasters, as well as built-in furniture and other finishing details.

Required resources: The Natural Plaster Book: Earth, Lime and Gypsum Plasters for Natural Homes by Cedar Rose Guelberth and Dan Chiras.

Recommended resources: Earth Plasters for Straw Bale Homes by Keely Meagan, All About Lime: A Basic Information Guide for Natural Building by Taylor Publishing-DirtCheap Books.

Module 12: Capstone Project Phase I

Topics: This is the final project of the program that demonstrates mastery of essential skills. Students design and build a functional straw bale structure of approximately 150 200 sq. ft. interior space, such as a guesthouse, studio, office, homeless shelter or other similar structure. Projects that serve the underhoused are encouraged. Phase I includes creating a floor plan, site analysis, cost estimate, schedule and a project proposal that summarizes the main features of your Capstone Project.

Required resources: A Shelter Sketchbook: Timeless Building Solutions by John Taylor, Estimating Home Building Costs by W. P. Jackson.

Recommended resources: Built By Hand: Vernacular Buildings Around the World by Bill and Athena Steen and Eiko Komatsu, A Pattern Language and The Timeless Way of Building by Christopher Alexander.

Module 13: Capstone Project Phase II

Topics: This phase includes creating a site plan, foundation plan, wall section drawing, at least one elevation drawing and a detailed list of materials.

Required resources: Straw Bale Details: A Manual for Designers and Builders by Chris Magwood and Chris Walker, Building With Awareness video The Construction of a Hybrid Home by Ted Owens.

Recommended resources: The Beauty of Straw Bale Homes by Athena and Bill Steen.

Module 14: Capstone Project Phase III

Topics: The final phase of the capstone project includes the construction of the straw bale structure designed in Phase I and II. In addition to building the structure, students must submit a final report summarizing the results and lessons learned, along with photos and signed affidavits by approved parties.

Required resources: (Refer to the list of primary resources.)

Recommended resources: The New Strawbale Home by Catherine Wanek.

Additional information:
One of the primary texts for the Global Straw-Bale Construction Certification Program, Builders Without Borders Straw-Bale Construction Facilitators Guide, was co-authored by Dr. Owen Geiger. The BWB Guides were written specifically to create strawbale training programs in developing regions. Dr. Geiger is the Founder and Director of the Geiger Research Institute for Sustainable Building ( and the developer of this certification program. He developed the Global certification program to encourage sustainable building practices, train the next generation of natural builders and increase affordable housing options to those most in need.

To register for this certification program, click on Straw Bale Certification Registration.

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