To realise our dream of building a straw bale house, our first port of call is the local town hall or “Mairie”. Although the land came with outline planning permission for two dwellings, we still have to submit our designs and have them approved by the powers that be – all hail the planners 😉
A daunting prospect at first, collating the information required took some effort on our part, indeed deciding upon a final design was a lengthy process in itself! Once our permaculture design for the land was finalised we knew exactly where to situate the house. From there we utilised the skills, knowledge and research of building techniques to design a….<wait for it>….rectangle. Although a round house would have been our preference, the Charente is super strict with its rules and regulations about new house design. This means a roundhouse is out of the question. Similarly, the other regulations are quite restrictive; windows must be taller than they are wide; the pitch of the roof must be no larger than 35%, which is extremely shallow; the roof must consist of French tiles; the list goes on. Although this sounds like a large list of restrictions, in some ways it helped to give us a framework to start designing from, and that coupled with the design restrictions imposed by building with straw bales moved us along greatly with the design.
Once we had decided on a design and had drawn it by hand we set about learning the 3D modelling programme SketchUp. A free programme with endless great features, it allows us to create accurate mock ups of the design, and provides the Mairie with all the requirements for the planning submission.
Our last waiting point is a soil study being carried out by a lovely company called AquaTiris. The study will prove that our land is suitable for a reed bed system for dealing with grey water (shower and sinks). As soon as this is completed we can submit it to the town and departmental councils along with all our other gubbins. All being well, our approval to commence work will be with us within six months of the submission date.