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Smoko Strawbale

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Houses - New
Every project ABA work on is unique because we are always working in collaboration with the clients. Working with owner-builders takes this to another level espcially when they are building almost the whole thing themselves. This allows for so much more experimentation when you know that they have the skills to tweak and work out any problems as they go along. We love it! Located in the bushfire prone Australian Alps, the house is off-grid and provides all it’s own energy, water and waste treatment on site. They also produce a lot of their food on site too and the clients are amazing cooks. One of the clients had parents living on a farm so they came to ABA with the desire to use strawbale construction as they could get the bales for free. The building form was generated by ideas of what was easy to build, easy materials to source and transport to site, and bushfire resistance. The curved roof form to the main part of the building allowed a large span with no flashings or points to catch leaf litter. This shape was later reflected in a strawbale sauna (with a delicious little plunge pool set in a forest gully). The first step to enable the build was to construct a large shed to enable water collection on site. The owners lived in this as they built the house. 100,000 litres of water storage with solar PV panels and batteries are located near the shed. The house is set on a steeper part of the site and has a north aspect facing to the side, along the length of the narrow valley. The house is set into the site with a large basement area & 1.5 storeys above. This allows the roof form to follow the angle of the slope and also gives a generous ceiling height to the living area & a master bedroom tucked under the eaves – with magnificent north views. The metal cladding on the north side of the house has been used like a trombe wall which is a passive solar heating device. The air cavity within the wall superheats with the sun on it and vents at low level in the first floor living area can be opened (often around 11am in winter) to let this warm air boost the temperature in the house. Temperature sensors show that when it is 15° outside, and 26° inside, the air within the metal-clad wall is 37°. Not a bad temperature boost when it is chilly outside! Of course in summer the cladding needs to be vented to the outside. The house is in a BAL 27 bushfire risk category and all external surfaces are metal or 3cm thick render over the strawbales. Gravity-fed external sprinklers are installed under all the eaves to wet the walls before and during a fire front. And there is a bushfire bunker set into the slope in the basement. Great for peace of mind.
Energy rating


Project Team

Ande Bunbury, Karen Abernethy, James Wong, Cheng Chia Hoo




Ande Bunbury

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