Central Otago

A regional team from the communities of Alexandra, Clyde, Cromwell, Queenstown and Wananka
Straw Bale House for the arid, treeless central otago environment.
Sarah Johnston
Sarah and Sven Johnston of


Vision for More Sustainable Housing

A Sauna and a loft are in keeping with our client’s Finnish roots. Earthen floors, a five tonne masonry stove, thick earthen plasters and a large central earthen ‘mass’ wall will all act as passive solar collectors absorbing the warmth of the direct solar radiation during the day and warming the home during the cold Central Otago winter nights.
Utilizing straw bales as our high R6 wall insulation will take a non-toxic, natural, renewable and potentially polluting waste product (as straw is often burned) and create a wonderfully insulated sanctuary from exterior noise and temperatures. This is a perfect material for the dry and Central Otago climate and with little local sources of timber.

There will be no fossil fuels used to meet the space or water heating needs for this home. Passive solar, active solar thermal and a super-efficient five tone masonry stove will keep the interior space and domestic hot water needs just the right temperatures while keeping environmental emissions to a rock bottom minimum.

Press Release

Straw bales stack up for Central Otago sustainable home
Central Otago residents can look at building themselves a better future thanks to a nationwide sustainable housing competition being driven by Otago Polytechnic.
A team led by Otago Polytechnic and consisting of 10 people from Alexandra, Clyde, Cromwell, Queenstown and Wanaka, has been hard at work all year designing and building a straw bale house as their entry for the 2009 Sustainable Habitat Challenge (SHAC).
The walls of the Clyde house are now ready to go up so everyone’s invited to lend a hand at the ‘bale raising’ in Earnscleugh Road on Saturday 7 November between 9.30am and 4.30pm.
And for those ‘sold’ on the idea of straw bale homes as the perfect solution to sustainable housing in Central Otago, the house plans will be publicly available on the so they can download them and start building their own house.
Sven Johnston, says he believes the house will “stack up” well against other competition entries from around the country, which will all be judged late next month.
“Straw bale houses are used extensively overseas, particularly in the U.S. where it’s become a very common building practice.
“Straw is a great building material option for Central Otago – it’s cheap, natural and provides great insulation for the dry Central Otago climate. Essentially we’re taking a waste product and turning it into a solid, durable, well insulated and easy to maintain home.
“There won’t be any fossil fuels used in this home. Solar heating and a super-efficient masonry stove will keep the interior warm and provide for hot water needs while keeping environmental emissions to a minimum.
“We want to encourage people to copy what we’ve done so we’re making the house plans available on our website for downloading by anyone who’s interested.
“The bale raising and open home will be a great opportunity for people to get hands-on experience to see how they can build a better future for themselves and their families. We’d love people to bring their kids and come along this Saturday to help put the walls up,” he says.
Located at 1088 Earnscleugh Rd, the three-bedroom house is built with non-treated timber and straw bales which give it a high thermal mass and insulation up to two times the building code requirements.
Earthen floors, a five-tonne masonry stove, thick earthen plasters and a large central earthen massive wall will act as passive solar collectors, absorbing the warmth of the direct solar radiation during the day and warming the home on cold winter nights.
The masonry stove radiates heat over a long period at a fairly constant temperature and only needs to be lit every few days. The fire burns hot and quickly, producing very little smoke, and the masonry stove radiates the heat slowly over a long period of time.
It also features a sauna at the request of the owner Sampsa Kiuru who can’t wait to move in.
For more details about the Sustainable Habitat Challenge visit
or for straw bale construction visit
Photo caption: House construction
More information about the Sustainable Habitat Challenge
Nine teams from around New Zealand entered the Sustainable Habitat Challenge (SHAC) and have designed and built (or renovated) a sustainable home.
The SHAC teams comprise members from polytechnics and universities throughout the country, with a diverse range of backgrounds such as engineering, marketing, building, architecture and filmmaking. They are supported by private individuals and businesses interested in contributing to the challenge.
Key members of Central Otago team include designers Sarah and Sven Johnston, Paula Hugens from Green Bean Engineering Consultancy, and builder Chris Naylor from Alexandra. In 2008 up to 50 professionals and volunteers participated in the design of the house.
For further information contact:
Sarah and Sven Johnston of


* SHAC09-TeamCentralOtago-ConsentDocumentation.pdf (4MB)
* SHAC09-TeamCentralOtago-FinalReport.pdf (3MB)


Design changes and consenting issues have slowed progress. Building is now expected to start in September 2009. Student involvement
Team Central Otago SHAC Events

When What Where Time Cost Tutor
Sat 29thand Sun 30th Dry Stone Wall Construction course Cromwell 9am-4pm $247.50 Steve Holmes
Sat 12thand Sun 13th Schist Veneering course Cromwell 9am – 4pm $247.50 Steve Holmes
Sat 12th Introduction to Natural Building workshop Wanaka 9am- 4pm $110 Sven Johnson from Sol Design and Jessica Eyers from SEED Consultancy
Thurs 10th The Commercial Benefits of Green Building seminar Queenstown 2-4pm $65 Jessica Eyers from SEED Consultancy
To be confirmed Masonry Stove lecture Cromwell 4-5pmNetworking event Free Albie Barden
To be confimred The benefits of Masonry stoves workshop for architects Cromwell 2-4pm $65 Albie Barden
2 days To be confirmed Build a Masonry stove course Clyde 8.30-5pm $440 Albie
6 days to be confirmed Design and build a masonry stove course Clyde 8.30am-5pmSome evenings $1000 Albie Barden
1 day to be confirmed Build an outdoor pizza oven QueenstownWanaka 9.00am-4pm $110 Albie Barden
Sat 10th Introduction to Natural Building workshop $110 Sven Johnson from Sol Design
Fri 16th Photovoltaics – has their time come? Workshop Cromwell 1-3 pm $65 Tony from Smart Energy Ltd
Fri 16th Micro Photovoltaics and Wind – lecture Cromwell 4-5pm5-6pm networking event free Tony from Smart Energy Ltd
Sat 17th Micro hydro for your property workshop Cromwell 9-11am $65 Tony from Smart Energy Ltd
Sat 17th Wind power for your property workshop Cromwell 1-3pm $65 Tony Smart Energy Ltd
Sat 7th Straw Bale wall raising 9.00am – 4.00pm Free Sven Johnson
Sat 7th Dry garden visit Cromwell 11-12 Free Jo Wakelin
Sun 8th– Fri 13th Straw bale Design and Construction course Clyde 8.30am- 5pm and some evenings $1000 Sven and Sarah Johnson14 people maximum
Sun 15th The big open Home eventCelebration lunch for those who have helped Clyde 10am-4.00pm Free Judges of SHAC project present. Much publicity and press release here leading to Cromwell public display centre as next phase
Mon 16th Natural Building for Architects 1.00-3.00pm $65 Dr Robert Vale
Fri 12th Natural Plastering Clyde 12.30-4.00pm $65 Sven
Natural Plastering lecture Wanaka 7.30pm Sven
Sat 13thand Sun 14th Natural Plastering 9am-5pm both days Sven
Fri night, Sat, Sun Introduction to Natural Building Wanaka,Queenstown Sven Johnson

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