The Greenhouse

This project was worked on by many different people. It began in July. 1996, as part of a course on Natural Building offered through the Faculty of Architecture, TUNS and led by Jean D'Aragon and Straw Bale Projects.


We used an experimental earth bag system which evolved from local traditional building knowledge, and work done by Nader Kahlili and Joseph Kennedy in California in the l980's. This system has great potential as an affordable, sustainable foundation.

A drainage trench four feet wide and filled with gravel takes water away the site on a grade from one foot to four inches. The principal is that, if water can be directed away from the foundation then there will be nothing to precipitate the usual frost heave.

The site was leveled, disturbing the ground as little as possible. Recycled polypropylene feed sacks were filled with gravel and soil. These were secured closed by stitching them with nails. The bags were laid out in a running bond, then tied together with nylon strapping which was tightly cinched down.

This foundation is extremely solid. It uses local and recycled materials as well as less embodied energy than conventional systems.


The more areas where straw can be used the warmer and the more economical the building will be. The vaulted greenhouse is an experiment in the use of straw as a roofing system Using traditional bent wood arches of green larch a strong and beautiful base for roofing was created.

The walls were covered in a cement stucco. The windows were orientated to solar south and slightly sloped for maximum solar gain.


An inferior quality tarp was used to sheath the roof, which has proved to be its downfall. This tarp was painted with roofing pitch, but the summer sun caused the tar to flow and exposed weak areas in the tarp which allowed water in. This was not detected in time and has caused the burlap to rot out. Another lesson clearly learned, in the living laboratory at Ship Harbour.

Straw Buildings
North America

Straw Buildings
Nova Scotia

Straw Bale

Ship Harbour

Ship Harbour

Ship Harbour

The Bread
Oven Shelter

The Round

The Greenhouse

Straw Bale

Natural Building

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