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.