The School of Natural Building (SNaB)

8a6ad7e5-9ec1-4b1f-9cb2-59f294f04b9bThe School of Natural Building (SNaB) is a growing community of trainee natural builders under the leadership of Straw Works Directors Barbara Jones and Eileen Sutherland. It is open to anyone interested in acquiring natural building knowledge and skills. For further details about how to get involved, get in touch. In the meantime, trainee Joshua Paterson tells us all about his journey with SNaB so far.

Meet a SNaB Trainee

In a bid to highlight the wide variety of people drawn to the exciting world of natural building, we’re inviting you to meet a different SNaB trainee in each issue. This time it’s the turn of Joshua Paterson, who was amongst the first wave of trainees to join the School.
What do you do at the minute? 
Alongside my interest in all things natural building, I’m currently developing skills as a freelance artist whilst working part-time as a health and fitness instructor – so something of a mixed bag for the time being, at least!

How did you discover strawbale building?
In questioning the status quo of the current property market, my partner Sophie and I became interested in the idea of eco self-build as a potential¬† route to a home of our own back in 2013. But would it be affordable? Following forays into other natural building techniques such as cob, early in 2014 I stumbled across the Straw Works website just as they were advertising a Preparing to Build with Bales course mere minutes from where we live. By then we’d also experienced straw firsthand after spending a weekend in Carol Atkinson’s strawbale cabin – well worth a visit!

771cef85-e56f-492e-a192-2b077528409dWhat inspired you to become involved in Straw Works?
It’s certainly true that Straw Works and SNaB represented an unique opportunity to gain skills which would be invaluable to our own project but for me the appeal ran even deeper than this. The ethos of the company and Barbara’s vision for it – accessibility, equality of opportunity, the focus on affordability – is something I can really relate to and feel passionate about sharing with others.

What have you done so far within the SNaB traineeship?
According to my logbook, quite a bit! I travelled to Poland for practical building and lime rendering courses in the summer of 2014, and have since covered carpentry and car tyre foundations for the Skipsea project, more lime rendering in Stroud, and, most recently, cedar shingling in Dorset. I’ve also managed to squeeze in some natural building volunteering on two different projects in Norfolk, helping lay an earthen floor and trying out some clay plastering.

What would you consider to be the high (and low?!) point of your experience as a trainee so far?
The return trip to Poland for the lime rendering was particularly special – I’ve been lucky to meet some fantastic people through the traineeship and that’s one of the best things about it for me. As for a low point… not being able to do even more even sooner?!

Where do you think the traineeship will take you?
I’m determined that strawbale building will be a part of my future, whether it be assisting with build projects or promoting natural building as a viable affordable alternative. I’m already something of a strawbale evangelist, sharing my passion with friends, family, work colleagues, strangers on the bus – anyone who’ll listen, really!
So to round up, what are your personal strawbale building dreams?
Sophie and I were able to secure a plot last autumn which we hope with any luck will one day be the site of our very own strawbale home – exciting times ahead!

You can follow Josh and Sophie’s strawbale building journey on Twitter @lagomhome.