A new school of straw bale building opens

The library extension at Shelf, near Halifax, built by Todmorden based Straw Works
The library extension at Shelf, near Halifax, built by Todmorden based Straw Works

A Todmorden based company, Straw Works, has launched the School of Natural Building (SNaB) following an increase in demand for their training courses.

One of the aims of the School is to encourage 50 per cent women and 50 per cent men trainees. That way Straw Works hopes to address the current situation where only one per cent of the construction workforce are women.

Through the School of Natural Building (SNaB) the high standards that are currently associated with Straw Works’ work and courses will be perpetuated, said Straw Works’ founder and the school’s principal, Barbara Jones.

The trainees will undergo a rigorous programme which will be taught, examined and certified by Barbara Jones.

Barbara discovered straw bale building in 1997 and in doing so found her passion. She was the first person in the UK to design and build straw bale council houses back in 2008 and currently works tirelessly to raise the profile of straw bale building.

Examples of straw bale building can be seen nearby, including the library extension at Shelf, Halifax, the circular meeting room at the Ecology Building Society, Silsden, and the Outback Centre at Lightowlers Road, Halifax.

“In view of climate change and other factors such as health, cost and accessibility we need to raise awareness about how natural materials can be used effectively for construction.” said Barbara.

Twelve trainees have started on the SNaB programme which has two stages: Practical Building and Professional Development.

Previous experience is taken into account and is recorded on individual learning logs. Assessment is timed to suit individual trainees, so there are no cohorts going through the programme at the same time. However trainees who meet on different modules are tending to form support groups.

In time their communication will be facilitated by a closed FaceBook page, and successful trainees will be able to advertise themselves on a school website.

Barbara added: “Straw Works has no dedicated budget for the school, but just like Incredible Edible, the need is here so we’re going to do something about it! Todmorden will now also be the home of Attainable Sustainable, and the SNaB will be offering quality training to everyone who wants to be part of a healthy 21st century construction industry.

“All courses are self-funded, but in time we will be able to offer bursaries to those who would otherwise be excluded because of their financial situation.”