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Become A Workshop Host

Now Accepting 2024 Host Applications

If you said “yes” to all these questions then hosting a seven day comprehensive workshop may be for you. Imagine having 30-40 people working on your project for 7 days straight. There is no faster, less expensive or more enjoyable way to get your dream structure built!

On this page you will find the information you need to help you decide if you want to apply to host a 7-Day Straw Bale Workshop. Please review the details, and if you want to pursue the possibility of hosting further, please complete your “Host Application” below.

The information on this page may seem overwhelming. We are not trying to scare you away from hosting; however, we want you to be clear of what you are signing up for. Hosting is most definitely a rewarding experience, but it is not easy. It will take proper planning and execution, all of which will be MORE THAN WORTH IT in the end.

After spending 2022 and 2023 seasons with Andrew prior to his retirement, Timbo & Dainella are now caretakers of StrawBale.com's community and traditions! Timbo's 20+ years as a straw bale Design-Builder. And, Dainella's construction, workshop leadership, and experiential education background make them a perfect fit to support years of Workshops to come!

Before you read on, please watch this short and fun video which interviews a past workshop host. It will help you get a feel for how amazing hosting can be.

Play Video

After spending 2022 and 2023 seasons with Andrew, Timbo & Dainella are continuing StrawBale.com’s community approach and carrying on the workshop traditions!

Learn more about Timbo’s 20+ years straw bale-focused background as a Design-Builder and see one of his builds in this short video [click here to view video].

And, read about Dainella’s construction, workshop leadership, and experiential education background [click here to read blog.]

Host Requirements

What Timbo & Dainella Bring To The Workshop

How It Works

We can hold the workshop on structures from 1000 square feet to around 2000 square feet (exterior dimensions). Of course, how far we get on the structure is dependent on the group size and motivation level. Timbo & Dainella are strong motivators and can keep the group focused and productive; however, we cannot guarantee any specific amount of completion. Ultimately, the host is responsible for the completion of the structure after the workshop. If all goes well, we will apply 1 coat of plaster to the inside and outside of the building. That said, if we do not get that far, Timbo and Dainella will make sure that at least one section of the structure is completed from toe-up to first coat of plaster so that the participants and the host can see the entire process.

Hosting Application

If you are truly interested in hosting, the next step is complete the Host Application below. 

The answers you provide help us quickly get up to speed on your vision, project scope, and be prepared to best answer any questions you may have. After reviewing your Host Application, we will reach out to schedule a call to explore what your Workshop might look like!

If your project is accepted as a workshop, we will send you a contract written between you and Straw Bale Resources, LLC detailing the agreement. Finally, a refundable deposit in the amount of $15,000 is paid to Straw Bale Resources, LLC by the host to secure the workshop date and location. The deposit is due with the delivery of the contract agreement to Straw Bale Resources, LLC. The deposit is refunded in full to the host (assuming that the host upholds the provisions of the hosting agreement) in two stages as follows.

$7500 is returned upon the start of the workshop.

The final $7500, minus Timbo & Dainella’s travel expenses, the host’s own tuition from their original workshop attendance, and the food expense for that week is returned within one week of the completion of the workshop. If the potential host attends a workshop along with more than one person, only one tuition shall be refunded to the host.

Once your construction begins, photos of the construction process should be emailed to Straw Bale Resources, LLC at [email protected] along with progress updates once a month to confirm that the necessary progress has been made and the structure is on schedule for the workshop dates. We ask that the hosts send such updates on the first of each month at the very least and you can expect us to be checking in on a monthly basis, plus answering your questions along the way. If the building is behind schedule and the workshop dates cannot be met, Straw Bale Resources, LLC retains the right to keep the deposit and cancel the workshop. We want to be clear about how important it is to have the building ready for the workshop participants at the scheduled time. Should the host cancel the workshop for any reason, or otherwise be unable to fulfill the requirements of the hosting agreement, Straw Bale Resources, LLC retains the right to remove the workshop from the schedule and keep the deposit in full. Additional conditions and details are given in the hosting agreement.

Building Permits

Check with your local building department. If the structure requires a building permit and periodical inspections, those inspections need to be completed before the workshop. If the host has an inspection that cannot be performed ahead of time and must take place during the workshop, for example partial electrical service, they will need to let us know at least three (3) weeks prior to the start date. Communication between Timbo and the inspector is recommended to improve the flow of the workshop and limit or eliminate any delays to the workshop process.

Tool Requirements

Basic tools for construction, including utility knives, nail guns, chainsaws, and other tools must be on site two (2) weeks prior to the workshop. Click on the Tool List for a full list of required tools.

Workshop participants are asked to bring small hand tools, gloves, hearing & eye protection, a plaster hawk and a trowel with them. We also ask them to bring whatever tools they think will be helpful on the build. After all, the more tools we have, the faster we can build. It is best to have someone on site who can run errands during the week. There may be materials that were forgotten ahead of time for the construction site or the kitchen and it is ideal to have the host on side for last minute questions to keep the project moving forward, plus they won’t be missing out on the workshop!

Tool List

Click for full list of tools

What Happens If No One Signs Up?

If not enough participants sign up for the workshop, it may be canceled. This is a risk to the host as he or she will likely have completed significant construction on the building before such determination is made. We work hard to fill every workshop and so far have managed to be 99% successful. We advertise on StrawBale.com, Facebook, Instagram, and we place announcements in other pertinent areas as well. We also supply the host with a PDF file of a workshop flier to be printed and distributed around the local community. We strongly encourage our hosts to help fill their workshops as it’s in everyone’s best interest. To give you an idea of enrollment, the average participation in 2018 was right around 32 people per workshop!

When To Book The Workshop

We prefer to book our workshops a minimum of 9-24 months in advance. This gives the host ample time to prepare the site and us time to advertise and fill the workshop; however, we are also open to booking under a shorter timeline if the project makes sense. Please email us at [email protected] to discuss your timeline if you are uncertain.

In addition, all future hosts must attend a workshop before hosting their own to get a good feeling of the workshop flow. If you attend a workshop, we’ll refund your tuition (minus the food expense) in the final deposit return. Note that if multiple members attend a workshop prior to hosting the same event, only one tuition will be refunded to the host.

FAQs

These are great questions and ones we get a LOT. The food is a major part of the support a participant receives during a workshop and there’s nothing like a hearty meal to fill people with happiness after a day of hard work on your building site. That said, participants are always SO happy that they are being fed that we have found that there is no need to create a complicated or fancy menu. Good, hearty, healthy foods do the trick each time. 

During the week-long workshop, you will be feeding people 21 times (3 meals for 7 days). Breakfasts are simple and hearty (fruit, bagels, toast, hard-boiled eggs, oatmeal). For lunches provide a large salad and a sandwich bar with ingredients laid out so that participants can assemble their own the way they like them. This leaves only dinner as the only meal that requires cooking (other than the oatmeal and hard-boiled eggs for breakfast). Again, keep it simple. A typical week’s dinner menu will include meals like chili, enchiladas, spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, bean soup, etc… The great thing about each of these dishes is that you can prepare them before the workshop even begins (or at least get all of the ingredients measured out, bagged up, and ready to go) and then just insert them into the oven when it’s time.

For clean up it’s typical for participants to clean their own dishes (they are always happy to do so…this isn’t a wimpy, ‘pamper me’ crowd) and you’ll just be left with kitchen clean-up from the actual cooking. We do have a sample menu that we send out to potential hosts; however, you are free to cook what you want to. If your land is completely undeveloped before the workshop begins and you don’t have a kitchen at all to do the cooking for the workshop, don’t despair. We’ve run workshops on plots with no water and electricity before with success. In this case, a large grill with a side burner can certainly work. You can prepare things like burgers, hot dogs, soups, spaghetti, and chilis on the side burner.

And, sometimes hosts choose to hire a traveling chef or caterer to handle meals. It is really about what is the best fit for your unique workshop situation.

Port-a-potties are the norm at workshops. It is a rare workshop in which there is a flush toilet. You’ll typically need two port-a-potties with a cleaning halfway through the workshop. A simple hand washing station can be created next to the port-a-potties by hanging a solar shower and a place to put a bar of soap.

Each participant is responsible for bringing their own sleeping tent and gear. Some people will bring their RV if there is space at the site. You don’t have to provide anything other than ground space for sleeping quarters. If there isn’t any shade on-site though, a couple of those inexpensive 10×10 pop-up tents work great for people to work under (bale shaping especially!) and gather under in the heat of the day. A comfortable, shady place to eat is important and goes a long way for hot workers!

We have found a great solution for showers. They are instant hot water showers heated by those small propane mini-tanks (like the small green ones you would attach to a small camp stove) and they work great. They draw the water from a 5-gallon bucket and it comes out nice and hot. Two of them are typically sufficient and you can create a privacy screen out of materials easily available in your area. We also like to have a couple of extra solar showers in case there are many people hoping to shower around the same time.

We know a lot of straw bale builders; however, we may not know anyone specific to your area. It is really ideal to have Timbo and the builder in contact ahead of the scheduled build. There are many things that Timbo knows from experience that can save you an enormous amount of time and money and it’s important to get those pieces conveyed before things get underway. One of the aspects that hosts seem to really appreciate is how much Timbo helps them out and answer questions through the process, from plan review to the very end.

We may not personally know of anyone in your area; however, there are several things we can do to help you locate bales. Timbo and Dainella have all sorts of resources that they are able to pull from!

Whether you were getting a loan or not, we can tell you that you will want to have complete plans. Building without plans just never works out well. We have some great designers that we can recommend you to if you do not already have someone in mind.

We really like hearing that you have come up with your own design because it implies that you are already becoming very familiar with what is important to you in your home and getting some clarity on what is going to work well. The most successful building projects are those in which the home owners are involved in each step and know their home project intimately. The home owner is responsible for getting the plans drawn up; however, we can offer you some leads on great straw bale architects/designers to help you. (Timbo is still providing custom home designs; although it is on a limited basis he does prioritize supporting hosts where possible.)

It is extremely important to have a good set of construction plans before you begin your project. Although an upfront cost, it is well worth the investment. Timbo will provide feedback on your plans prior to the workshop to help identify potential sticking points and details that could be done better; however, that’s not enough to make for a great set of plans. It all starts with you and the designer.

Think of the cost in this way, for 7 days you will have multiple hands baling your home for you at no cost to you (except for some costs which I will discuss next). At the end of the week, depending on group size, the size of the project, how ready the site is before workshop begins, and how much gets done each day, you will most likely have your whole home baled and the first coat of plaster applied at least on the outside. 

If you were to pay a baling crew (assuming you could find one) to come in and do that work it would likely take them 3x longer, and you would be paying each of them for that entire time. Because straw bale construction is simple to understand and learn, there is believe it or not, not a huge difference in how much gets done between a professional crew and a workshop crew. At least not in our experience. Timbo is able to run the site with expertise and confidence because he knows what he is doing so things get done quickly and properly. Keep in mind, we are focused on the baling portion only (with some plaster too of course!) so you will still need someone to do the rest of the job from framing to finish cabinetry.

The costs of running a workshop are as follows: 
- Host pays for travel expenses which typically do not exceed $1700 (International Hosts may have higher costs. Contact Dainella at [email protected] directly for more information).
- Food costs: We pay $100 per paying participant to you, the host, to offset your cost of food. That might not cover all of your food expenses depending on what you decide to serve, but it will cover a significant portion of it if you budget out the menu well.
-Tool Costs: The host pays for tools whether it be through a rental yard or purchasing. 

We’ve really tried to set it up so that it’s as little “extra” work for the host as possible.

In a typical workshop, depending on structure size and group size, a post and beam straw bale home will be baled and have the first coat of plaster on the inside and outside. We never know how much we will get accomplished, so this is just a rough idea. That said, Timbo & Dainella always makes sure that at least one section of the house is completed through the first coat of plaster so that the host and participants get to see the whole baling process through. To give a sense of relative scale, the work a class of 30 completes in one week is equal to 21 weeks of work for two people (for example, a married couple building on their own)! Not a bad jump start to the project!!!

We work on a first-come, first-served basis. We try not to book more than 1 workshop per geographical area per season, so securing your spot in advance reserves that area in for your workshop. That said, typically we book out about 24-12 months before the workshop start date. We are receiving record numbers of host applications and we do our best to select the most promising candidates that will benefit the most from hosting a workshop. If you have a specific year and time of season you prefer, we encourage you to connect with us by completing your host application sooner than later!

Before the money is sent we will actually enter into a legally binding agreement between you as hosts and us as Straw Bale Resources, LLC. You may choose to take the agreement to your attorney to make sure that everything is comfortable for you before signing. In addition, we are happy to connect you with previous hosts so that you can hear firsthand what the experience was like for them.

By the time we arrive for the workshop, the framing needs to be done, the roof structure needs to be on, and the roof waterproofed (not essential for the finish material to be applied but that is best). All windows and doors need to be installed except for 1 or 2 simple windows. Ideally the interior partition walls will be framed up as well, however, all studs closest to the bale walls need to be left off until after the baling.

So many! Here’s a few… A straw bale house is at least 3x more energy-efficient and has a fire resistance of 3x compared to a typical conventional house. These homes are extremely soundproof, are made from a compostable “waste” material, do not off-gas like conventional homes, and have soft lines which translate into a calm and beautiful home. This last point is hard to convey in words, but there is nothing quite like the ‘feel’ of a well-built straw bale home (if you have ever visited one, you know what we mean!)

We hope we haven’t dissuaded you from the idea of hosting. We simply want to be 100% clear that hosting is a big commitment and responsibility and that it’s not for everyone. We want to be as transparent as possible upfront so that we are all on the same page. That said, hosts find the experience to be extremely worthwhile and positive and are amazed by how much gets done in just one week.

If you would like to email some past hosts, please let us know and we can give you some people to contact. 

In support,
Timbo & Dainella

Testimonials from Previous StrawBale.com Workshops

“As a Building Designer, my first investigations (8 years ago) into the technical details of straw bale house designs landed me on Andrew Morrison’s web site. As my work began to include more straw bale designs I came to consider Andrew the maestro of straw bale construction. When I saw he was teaching an Australian workshop I didn’t hesitate to sign up. I really wanted to see first hand how he took care of the detail.

Twenty seven participants from all over Australia descended on an organic farm SE of Adelaide with nothing in common but our curiosity and thirst for knowledge about straw bale construction. A bunch of total strangers pulled together, shared learning and asked a lot of questions whilst we built and rendered all the straw bale walls for our hosts. Our hosts were amazed. We were amazed. We had a ball, learnt a lot, laughed even more and went away with new, strong friendships and a greater understanding of straw bale construction.

Andrew was a brilliant teacher, a very personal teacher, who made everyone feel that their role mattered and their questions had value. He is a great human being, and is clearly doing what he loves and knows best. It was simply a brilliant week, one which brought out the best in all of us. We left excited to get home and begin our own straw bale projects.”

–Pamela Forward, Designer, Australia

 

“Hello Andrew, This is Brian Hannagan writing to just let you know now that I am still so satisfied 6 years later. The workshop you led has helped create one of the best quality straw-bale homes I have seen. I was skeptical and did enormous amounts of research before I planned this building and by far the walls and corners; and best of all the curved openings look amazing. I am not sure how you held everyone to the standard that I wanted but thanks again.”

–Brian Hannagan, Oregon

 

“We had a fantastic time. The workshop was well worth the effort, the interactions were fantastic and we would host again in a heartbeat. Financially with Andrew, all your money comes back. I had zero issues on this.”

–Rainer Vollmerhaus, Caledon East, Ontario, Canada