A low-impact woodland home by Simon Dale

Straw bale and earth-sheltered hobbit house by Simon Dale. | www.facebook.com/SmallHouseBliss

Simon Dale and Jasmine Saville are concerned about the affects of fossil fuel use on the environment. To minimize their own environmental impact, they designed their own low-impact home in Wales. Simon and his father-in-law built it with the help of friends. In Simon’s words:

The house was built with maximum regard for the environment and by reciprocation gives us a unique opportunity to live close to nature. Being your own (have a go) architect is a lot of fun and allows you to create and enjoy something which is part of yourself and the land.

Main tools used: chainsaw, hammer and 1 inch chisel, little else really. Oh and by the way I am not a builder or carpenter, my experience is only having a go at one similar house 2yrs before and a bit of mucking around in between. This kind of building is accessible to anyone. My main relevant skills were being able bodied, having self belief and perseverance and a mate or two to give a lift now and again.

Straw bale and earth-sheltered hobbit house by Simon Dale. | www.facebook.com/SmallHouseBliss

The house is about 50 m2 (540 ft2) in floor area, including a loft bedroom. It is insulated with straw bales in the floor, walls and roof. Although it is dug into a hillside and covered in earth, the home is open to a patio off the loft on the uphill side. Large windows opening out to the patio keep the house bright:

Straw bale and earth-sheltered hobbit house by Simon Dale. | www.facebook.com/SmallHouseBliss


Simon highlights the following environment-friendly features of the home:

Dug into hillside for low visual impact and shelter
Stone and mud from diggings used for retaining walls, foundations etc.
Frame of oak thinnings (spare wood) from surrounding woodland
Reciprocal roof rafters are structurally and aesthetically fantastic and very easy to do
Straw bales in floor, walls and roof for super-insulation and easy building
Plastic sheet and mud/turf roof for low impact and ease
Lime plaster on walls is breathable and low energy to manufacture (compared to cement)
Reclaimed (scrap) wood for floors and fittings
Anything you could possibly want is in a rubbish pile somewhere (windows, burner, plumbing, wiring…)
Woodburner for heating – renewable and locally plentiful
Flue goes through big stone/plaster lump to retain and slowly release heat
Fridge is cooled by air coming underground through foundations
Skylight in roof lets in natural feeling light
Solar panels for lighting, music and computing
Water by gravity from nearby spring
Compost toilet
Roof water collects in pond for garden etc.

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Photographs and quoted text copyright Simon Dale, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. Learn more about this small house on Simon’s website.

Text copyright 2012 SmallHouseBliss. All Rights Reserved.