Living a sustainable life has become really important to us over the last couple of years. Fueled by a desire to be self-sufficient, we gave up on trying to live in the UK and traded countries to France. We would not have thought about doing this were it not for Dan’s parents who already live in France and adore the place. The thought of getting in debt for 30 years in the UK just to own some bricks and mortar (that we probably wouldn’t like anyway), because the housing market is so inflated, felt like a decidedly incorrect choice for us.
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.