Having built a straw bale studio at Sunnyside in 2007 and designed a demonstration straw bale house for Fife Housing Association, appointing Quercus to manage the build of this project was an obvious step for architect Sally Ruel the Architect and her client. Quercus have a flexible approach to project design and management and they were able to choose the services they wanted and provide others themselves. In this case Quercus provided technical assistance, budgeting, labour, scheduling of materials and knowledge of what is an unusual construction.

The straw bales forming the external walls of the house are loadbearing. They sit on a platform of I-joists that are in turn supported on Larch beams bolted onto an array of timber posts dug into the ground. This method of foundation allows the building to float independently of ground levels, in this case a southward slope overlooking the Tweed, with a simple solum treatment of stones on a membrane.
The client’s connections in the farming industry made the sourcing of bales easy, as was their erection, which took place on one sunny May day with 30 friends and family. Family have featured in a big way as relations had was able to draw on slating, plastering, plumbing and some joinery expertise from before adding Quercus’s skills and that of other local tradesmen.

From the wallhead the next stage was to crane in two large oak trusses made by Alba Green Oak Frame of Cousland near Dalkeith. The trusses support oak and larch purlins to carry a roof construction of I-beams similar to the floor. There was some nervousness and lots of effort at the end of the working day using tarpaulins to keep the bales dry, until wind and watertightness was achieved. At later date in the programme the floor roof and upper gable walls were filled with warmcell, a recycled paper insulation. The project was fortunate to get the services of Gordon Eadie as structural engineer who made himself familiar with the unusual elements of the design and helped manage issues such as the settlement of the straw bales as the loads are taken up.

The straw is protected with lime render supplied by Masons Mortars of Leith. Inside this was coated along with the division walls with a clay plaster. The house is strongly coloured with green timber windows and red tinted lime wall under a recycled slate roof and grey metal roofed balcony. The other major material is the larch provided by Abbey Timber of Abbey St. Bathans. This used for cladding, beams and balustrading and left untreated will go silvery grey over the course of time. The local and recycled sourcing of materials as a theme continued with the use of pitch pine to make the kitchen units and trim supplied by Trunk Reclaimed of Bellingham. A wood stove for space and water heating is supplemented by a solar panel, whilst photo voltaic panels provide electricity, the majority of which will be fed into the grid. The final feature is a composting toilet making Standalane a truly unusual dwelling.