Northwest NEWS

May 28, 2001

Front Page

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Straw-bale house going up on Tolt Hill

by Lisa Allen
   Valley View Editor
   CARNATION - It's going to take more than "a huff and a puff" to blow this house down. At 4,400 square feet, with post and beam construction, the three-story straw-bale Tuscany- style home under construction on Tolt Hill will be sturdy indeed. And, with 16-inch walls, it's guaranteed to keep the energy wolf from the door.
   The home will be the second straw house built in King County. Owners Jack Fecker and Jane Bakken put together a smaller 1,100-square-foot guest house on the same four-acre property in 1997 for use as a temporary residence while they made plans for the larger home.
   Besides the size, the houses will differ in at least two other respects. The roof on the small house sits directly on the straw walls, where the roof on the bigger one will be connected to posts. Also, the 450 bales making up the larger house will be a few inches thinner than the ones used for the smaller structure.
   Fecker said it took two years for King County to finally give him a permit for the first structure, crediting former King County Councilman Brain Derdowski for "taking a stand" when no one else would.
   "After that, it only took six months to get the permit for the big house," said Fecker."It was easier, once King County got used to the idea."
   Straw house building is difficult in Western Washington, mainly because of the wet climate, he said. In dry states, such as Arizona, straw houses are more common, and several have been built in Eastern Washington.
   After construction, the walls are finished on the outside with a concrete stucco and on the inside with a softer stucco, he said. Heavy chicken wire on the bales holds the stucco together. The straw bales are 18 inches high and four feet long, weighing about 60 pounds each. The couple hopes to move in by fall.
   Fecker said the cost for the completed house (using himself as the contractor) will be about $250,000. The house boasts a great view of the Snoqualmie Valley and the Carnation Golf Course.
   The couple is hosting a free "wall raising" workshop the weekend of June 2 and 3 for those who wish to learn how to build a straw-bale house. Hours will be from 8 a.m. "until tired." Architect Terry Phelan will be present. Volunteers need to bring their own food. Bed and breakfast places are nearby and limited sleeping bag spaces are available inside the home.
   "We want to make it easy for people to learn how to do this," he said. "We have about eight to 10 volunteers already, but would like about 30. We want to prove that people can build a nice house with straw."
   Those interested should call (425) 333-5246 for directions.