Toronto Straw Bale Retrofit

Location:   North York at Eglington & Allen Road Expressway

Date Completed:   April 2012

Natural Builder: Fourth Pig Worker Co-op

Sustainable Design Features: Straw bale retrofit additions, clay plaster finishes, recycled materials, passive house details + super sealed edges, high efficiency windows & doors, minimal waste procedures.

This house is the FIRST STRAW BALE HOUSE RETROFIT in the City of Toronto. It consists of a second storey and rear straw bale addition on top of an existing post-ware brick bungalow to be renovated.

A healthy indoor environment was achieved with low energy costs that will be a beautiful home for the owners to enjoy for years to come.  This house was built with Passive House principles, minimizing waste from the site, reusing materials, clay plaster finishes, high efficiency windows & doors and choosing materials with the lowest environmental impact as possible.

Eco-Building resource assisted in the resourcing FSC wood, NAUF (no added urea formaldehyde) plywood and other low VOC products to help contribute to worker and homeowner health as well as minimizing the total environmental impact of this project.

The house could have been torn down and started new but we choose to do not waste a good solid structure, so we kept the ground floor exterior masonry walls of the bungalow and added new Ultratouch recycled denim insulation to the interior.  To not demolish and add more waste to landfills, this was the best choice that had the gentlest environmental impact.  The structure was designed to minimize the use of wood framing as much as possible and an electrical chase was added at the baseboard along the straw bale exterior walls on the second floor to make any future changes simpler.

Blending a renovation, natural building and urban construction can offer interesting challenges and opportunities. The foundation of the addition is made of ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms). During the deconstruction of the interior of the existing home  lumber was salvaged that was used for forms, temporary railings and other non-structural applications.

Our firm likes to be as integrated as possible with the construction process of our buildings. We often participate to learn hands-on skills and natural building techniques that we can incorporate better and more efficient design features into future projects. For this project we were volunteered some of our time installing the straw bales and applying the earth plaster (which you can see from our pictures below).