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The Oikos Cottage

March 30, 2010

About 10 years ago I read a magazine on building homes with straw bales. ” You can do that” , it seemed like such an odd idea – a perfectly “Wacky” idea.  After some research I started to realize that straw bale home building makes more sense to me than  wood framed houses.  Straw bales have a high R value ( it’s been a debatable subject but I think I can safely say that a 2 ft wide straw bale has an r value of over 50) . Straw bales are an agricultural waste product  ( it can be used as animal bedding – or you use it on mushroom farms but most straw bales are considered waste products and is usually disposed of).  As a waste product you can obtain this material much cheaper than the materials needed for a wood framed house.  Straw bale homes have a higher fire safety rating than wood frame homes  – straw bales are densely pack so there is little air (O2) contained in a bale for fire combustion to take place , think of trying to light a telephone book on fire.  Add to this, Straw bale homes have a plaster cover and if the plaster is done properly than there is no chance of  the bales catching fire.

About 4 years ago I came across the website of the straw bale home designer, Bob Theis. On the his site he had (still has) a collection of  small straw bale “Proto-type homes

Here you will find a collection of truly brilliant small straw bale home designs .  I would love to explore these designs with various S.K. models but I will start with the Oikos Cottage. .  I sent Bob an e-mail this morning asking if it would be okay to post his Proto-type  pages to this blog ( I would really like to see more interest develop for these designs) – here is the letter that he wrote back which I think will best describe this design concept.

“Hello Craig,

There is a groundswell of interest in tiny houses it seems. I wish I had the time to follow all the threads appearing on the net these days.

By all means, feel free to write about the prototype gallery. And please pass along responses you get from others.

I should mention that the Oikos house was originally designed by David Baty. He asked me to illustrate it, and naturally I was compelled to tweak the design a bit, but it’s really his puppy.

One insight I’ll share: my several decades of designing small spaces have taught me that a house is far more “sustainable” – that is, livable over decades – if at least two people can coexist comfortably there. And coexistence is much, much easier if you can at times close the door on whatever your partner is up to.

In a tiny house, a super compact way to do this is to access the sleeping loft from the exterior, allowing complete separation from the activity and noise in the living space.”

In a small house, try real hard to create a closeable bedroom, or at least a bed alcove. The effort is worth it.

I’ve designed places for several single people, closely tailored to their solo lifestyle, that had to be radically reworked, or even left behind, when they shacked up with someone. Best to plan that in.

That’s the message for the day.

Bob Theis

p.s. A small straw bale house ( 600 sf ) I designed for a family of 7 that lost their home in the wildfires will likely be built in public workshops this year near Chico, CA. If you are interested, or want to mention it to others, watch for postings from <> and <>

Thank you for this Bob.

Over the next couple weeks I would like to break down my modification of the Oikos into different components and post write ups on them but tonight I want to leave you with the why of this new design, first – I wanted to draw some much deserved attention to Bobs Proto- types Second – I wanted to have a flexible “studio” style space in the added back half (north half) of the home.  You can work on your bike here – do your laundry – build a kayak – turn it into a fancy dining room – partition a section off with a large curtain to make a temporary guest bedroom – what have you. I use to work building sets for theater and I became fond of the idea of having a certain space designated to building something new and imaginative and then taking it apart – packing it away and starting something new in the space.  With this in mind – you define the space, the space does not define you ( hey that sounded philosophical). I also wanted an arched back roof section that would face the north – to shed the cold north winds of winter  and I wanted celestial windows with a southern exposure mid way in the depth of the house ( north to south) to add a passive solar heating for the north half of the home.

Well bye for now.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2010 10:53 pm

    Wow, I never thought I’d see a house that sleeps 3 people in 300 sq feet! My only concern is that with all the elevated beds and narrow hall space, it might feel a little cramped. Have you taken a look at this concept? It’s pretty cool, and give the option of a bedroom with a door that shuts without sacrificing space.

  2. March 30, 2010 11:08 pm

    I get the feeling that this design would be a great vacation cabin. I would have no problem living in the Oikos cottage – for me it would be positively spacious. I would love to tackle the Oikos as is as a build project.
    Here is a design that will fit a vacationing family into a 8’x8′ cube – it’s amazing how much will fit into such a small space.

    The dornob loft idea is great!!! I like their ideas and that loft would work great in the Studio Cottage design. I wonder if it would come in a wheeled model.

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