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West Melton Straw Bale House

Neil and Lindsey Hardisty: West Melton Straw Bale House. June 2016

We came across Harley Builders via Cob House and were recommended by Sven and Sarah from Sol Natural Design.

From the outset we felt we would get on well with Glenn and his team and we were impressed when we first met them. Planning delays meant that we could only start making our cob/straw bales in the winter and Glenn’s team were right there with us in knee-deep mud. Not once did we hear or feel that this was a problem!

We thoroughly enjoyed working with Glenn and his team. Glenn was fastidious around the work site and demanded his team were the same. This was particularly hard with the team working around mud most of the time! We  were totally impressed with how Harley Builders fitted their work around our schedule and accommodated us.

We had wanted to create a calm and welcoming environment with a strong sense of home. We chose deep walls, traditional materials and timber saved from the Christchurch earthquakes, to achieve a feel similar to that of an arts and crafts villa, rich with timber detail. We conceptualised the house design and we wanted to do the straw bale work ourselves. We spent a lot of time gathering up the resources and then tying all the timber into a theme for the house.

Glenn bought into this right from the outset and worked hard to make this happen. He quickly understood what we were trying to achieve and embraced our enthusiasm. It was a ‘jigsaw’ build so there were a lot more challenges than a ‘normal’ build. He treated the build as his own until he handed it over. This alone was the key to a very successful and enjoyable build!

Glenn worked with our architect throughout the design process, making a significant contribution to the final design. He introduced us to specialist craftsmen for our deep window seats and custom/reclaimed rimu kitchen, and also worked with Sarah and Sven of Sol Design, who provided the clay plaster specifications and taught us that building in straw can be fun.

Glenn was extremely accommodating with design changes and there were many along the way. Particularly around where certain windows and doors would go.

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We are grateful to the whole team at Harley Builders who worked consistently to overcome the challenges of re-using salvaged antique architectural materials. The end result has been easily worth it. The house is very special to us and from woe-to-go the build exceeded almost all of our expectations. We were delighted to work with a builder of such integrity and passion for quality.

The house is now 2 years old and everything has performed as expected. It has been built to use the sun for heating including a polished concrete floor in the living areas. The sleeping wing of the house is not straw bale but has been built with extra insulation so that the house is warm and keeps a constant temperature. Even though there is heating in the floor and we do have a log burner, the heating hardly ever goes on.

Straw bale thermal efficiency comes from an R-value of 9, far greater than standard fibre insulation’s R value of 1.8 or any other construction method. These types of properties keep you warm in winter and cool and comfortable in summer with no wasted energy. The natural building material of straw bale has a low environmental impact and is non-toxic which is ideal for those with respiratory challenges.

Glenn has a big heart and enormous strength. He is an impressive person, honourable and transparent, reliable and predictable. He has achieved an amazing result for us and we would love to work with him again one day. We thoroughly appreciate that Glenn turned our drawings into reality and made a home for us we dreamed of.

Award winning Passive house built by Harley Builders

Fendalton Passive House

Andrew and Katy Marriott: Fendalton Passive House

We moved to Christchurch post-quakes to help with the rebuild and ended up staying. We wanted our new home to be low-energy and chose to build a Passive House – a German technique that uses triple-glazed windows, extra thick walls, abundant insulation and other technologies to create an airtight and energy-efficient building. The result is a constant temperature — winter and summer, day and night — of 20-odd degrees.

Our electrician recommended we approach Glenn of Harley Builders because of his workmanship.

Of the 6 builders we interviewed we chose Glenn. We got on very well with him and were pleased his price came in the lowest.

We happily recommend Harley Builders to others. Here are some of the reasons why:

Glenn had a very ‘can do’ attitude. We hadn’t decided on the windows upfront and were pleased that Glenn was open to variations.

Glenn was proactive by saying ‘this is going to work’ or ‘I think there is a better way we can do this’. So there was no rework as Glenn and his foreman John – who was excellent – saw the problems before they arose.

We did make some changes to the plans along the way. John and Glenn made the decision-making process easy as they were quietly supportive in the background. Glenn was very accommodating and great in getting tradesmen onto that work very quickly.


Passive House is a relatively new way of building and some of the plan details needed resolving. Glenn worked through the process to a point where everybody was happy going forward. There are always challenges around the builder – owner – architect triangle.  The relationship just got better and better. Which doesn’t always happen that way around!

A Passive House needs to be airtight and a first test failed on the manufacturing process of a window, something out of Glenn’s control. It highlighted that Glenn’s workmanship was outstanding, that the whole process was managed expertly by him, and that he is an excellent verbal communicator.

We were keen to move into the house as soon as possible as we were living in a pretty substandard rental, but Glenn was adamant that we could not move in until such time as he had got it to an appropriate point. We were disappointed but in hindsight realised that was the best decision not to move in early and really respect Glenn for that.

Our son is a carpenter in Hamilton and came on moving day whilst the builders were still working on-site. He commented that the atmosphere was unusual as it felt like a family and that it was a happy building site.
We were always made to feel welcome on-site and the team respected our values by not swearing and cussing and keeping the music volume turned down.  Prior to open homes for friends and families Glenn’s team would clean up the site on a Friday night.

Any build can be stressful but Harley Builders ensured that the process was manageable and to a certain extent enjoyable.

Our home has functioned very well.  Just prior to Christmas it was 36 degrees outside and 23 degrees inside without the use of an air-conditioner or heat-pump in reverse as we don’t have either.

Glenn has a positive ‘can do’ attitude so along with his faultless workmanship he and his team were the perfect choice to build our dream Passive House. Throughout the process great communication, exceptional problem-solving skills and a clean and tidy worksite were key.



Governors Bay Straw Bale House

Darren and Alice Good – Governors Bay Straw Bale House

Harley Builders were recommended to us for our 190m2 architectural multilevel hillside new build. From our first meeting Glenn and his team have been fantastic to deal with, clear straightforward communication and a well organised approach to our build, always with plenty of good humour!

Glenn was perfectly fine with me working on the site during the build and this was particularly helpful as I was there to handle any issues that came up with the build. There were a few anomalies within the architect’s design and these were always sorted out quickly. He always stayed ahead of the game and was able to spot any potential problems and have a solution before they caused a delay.

The triangle between himself, the Architect Richard Wilden and us worked exceptionally well.  Glenn’s multi-tasking was exceptional and he had a pulse on all aspects of the build at all times. He is very much a practical, hands on building company owner which is very much appreciated.  He is exceptionally knowledgeable around all aspects of building a straw bale house on the hill. The house is performing as expected. It’s very dry and warm. The plaster inside helps regulate the humidity thus eliminating condensation in the house. The macrocarpa cladding is holding its colour well and there are little to no splits.

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Our house was a very technical build with 4 separate floor levels, a round room and lots of big macrocarpa beams. You could see the guys were really enjoying working on it, pitching an octagonal turret roof with exposed macrocarpa beams and T&G ceiling on the round room, pitching the main roof and dormers on site and carefully installing the macrocarpa board and batten cladding.

Their level of craftsmanship and attention to detail is excellent. One of the building inspectors was so impressed he said after a tour ‘Wow! I haven’t seen a house with this much craftsmanship for 5 or 6 years. It’s houses like this that made me want to become a building inspector, but they are few and far between’.

Everyone who has been to visit the house has been impressed.   Glenn could address multiple aspects of the build very easily. We were particularly pleased with his diagrams and verbal discussions around the technical facets of the build. We felt at ease asking ‘dumb’ questions and always received an in-depth and non-judgmental answer from him and his team.
Glenn is a good, honest, decent bloke.

Ironside Finished Features 038

Ironside House Restoration

Ironside House was extensively damaged in the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes. We thought at the time: “How the hell are we going to fix this?” But we took the approach of “where there is a will there is a way”. It is listed as a Group 4 protected heritage building in the Christchurch City Plan so a repair was decided on and from there, we began a long journey with Harley Builders to restore the building to its former glory.

We were looking for a builder who was sympathetic to heritage work and who could share our vision of restoring Ironside House back to the original. We’re pleased that right from the start, Glenn and his team at Harley Builders bought into that vision.

The whole project lasted 3 years, which included bracing and moving the building backwards off its original site (after removal of damaged materials) and moving it back again after fixing the piles.

We got along extremely well with Glenn and he really enjoyed the challenge of the restoration work, which at times was a very big challenge indeed! The project was a continual moving feast and many unexpected things cropped up as you can imagine with a building of that age and the damage caused by the earthquakes. So not only was Glenn flexible in his approach, but was always very obliging and enthusiastic.

At the time we were dealing with Insurance companies and trying to secure Heritage grants for the repair, so it was a frustrating but rewarding project. Glenn was sympathetic to the timeframes and challenges along the way.

He helped as much as he could and we remember that in the early days – when the red zone cordon was in place – he came and shored up the house which had been red stickered and was leaning into Montreal Street. Basically the house would have been demolished without the work Glenn did then!


Glenn worked exceptionally well with the architect and other professionals that were involved in the project. He always had our best interests at heart.

We were particularly pleased with the quality of finishing from Glenn and his team. We were not prepared to compromise and were always focussed on restoring everything back to the original. Glenn bought into that concept and accommodated our requests where he could. He provided the right people to do it the right way. His sub-contractors were great and all seemed to work in well.

Jeremy, our son, worked on the project full time and he enjoyed working with Glenn and his team. It was always a tidy, well organised work site and it had a good atmosphere. Everyone seem to get along and often they would share a joke or two.
After having started the repairs we suffered more cracks and splits from the December earthquake. We remember saying to Glenn “How the hell are we going to fix that?” He simply said “Don’t worry, we will”. And he did!

The House has achieved some significant awards:

2012 Heritage Retention Award – Highly Commended

2013 Civic Trust Award

2014 Heritage Retention Award Winner