written by:
September 18, 2012

For "Gotta Bale," the Off the Grid story in our October 2012 issue, we visit the Santa Cruz, California, home of college professors Bernie Tershy and Erika Zavaleta. Though there's a lot that makes this Arkin Tilt Architects–designed home green, a key feature is the staw-bale insulation on the street-facing wall of the home. Arkin Tilt has a score of straw-bale houses under its belt and the firm shared a few behind-the-scenes shots with Dwell to help us understand just how Tershy and Zavaleta's house came together.

Before setting any straw in the walls, Arkin Tilt had to design a support system tailor made for big bales of hay. They relied on wooden I-joists here on the front of the house spaced at intervals so that a set number of bales (tipped up on their sides) would fit. Photo courtesy of Arkin Tilt Architects.
1 / 7
It was a community affair getting all the straw bales into place. Anni Tilt referred to it as a "bale raising" in the Amish mode of a barn raising. Tershy echoed the sentiment, recounting how friends, neighbors, and the Arkin Tilt team all pitched in to get the 150 bales into place. Here we see Tershy and Zavaleta manhandling what would soon become insulation. Photo courtesy of Arkin Tilt Architects.
2 / 7
Here's a view of what the facade looked like when it was made just of straw. In addition to keeping the home warm on chilly Santa Cruz mornings, the straw acts as a highly effective sound barrier between the main living spaces and the street. Photo courtesy of Arkin Tilt Architects.
3 / 7
The wooden post on seen here is actually a structural support and a piece of driftwood that the family salvaged from the California coast. Much of the ornamentation in the Tershy/Zavaleta home comes from wood they've found in their travels, but here is where it does the most architectural heavy lifting. Photo courtesy of Arkin Tilt Architects.
4 / 7
Workers install bales in the wall that will eventually make up the divide the living room from Bethany Curve, a charming park that functions as the home's extended backyard. Photo courtesy of Arkin Tilt Architects.
5 / 7
Once the bales are all in place, Arkin Tilt covers them with a welded wire mesh before they get their finishing touches. Photo courtesy of Arkin Tilt Architects.
6 / 7
Lime plaster goes on over the wire mesh and seals in all the qualities you want in a good wall of insulation: heavy, thick, nonporous, and able to retain plenty of heat. Add in that this straw is essentially a waste material from rice farmers and you've got a wonderfully green way to keep a home toasty. Photo courtesy of Arkin Tilt Architects.
7 / 7
StrawBale Joist
Before setting any straw in the walls, Arkin Tilt had to design a support system tailor made for big bales of hay. They relied on wooden I-joists here on the front of the house spaced at intervals so that a set number of bales (tipped up on their sides) would fit. Photo courtesy of Arkin Tilt Architects.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016