Concern for environment leads woman to build unique home – The Sun Times

By Shawn Giilk
Sun Times correspondent

Donna Dilschneider is building a house that will laugh at any fairy-tale wolf’s best efforts to blow it down.

Constructed primarily from straw, her new home is the latest experiment in the innovative Lakewood subdivision just south of Stokes Bay on the central Bruce Peninsula.

“We have some interesting homes here,” said Dave Barrow, one of Dilschneider’s neighbours, many of whom have taken a keen interest in the project. “Next door is a post-and-beam style house, while we have another neighbour with major allergy problems that required some special steps,” he said during a recent tour of the home.

The straw house has attracted more than a passing interest, however, since it’s likely the first of its kind on the peninsula.

“Everybody seems to be very interested in this,” Dilschneider said. “Everybody I meet asks about the straw bales.”

Dilschneider, a retired journalist who calls herself “something of an environmentalist,” said she did some intensive research before settling on the design.

She wanted to build something unique, conforming to her beliefs after moving to the peninsula from Thessalon.

“I wanted to move a little closer to Southern Ontario,” Dilschneider said. “I discovered Lakewood and decided it was a nice concept, a nice philosophy, to care for the environment, so I decided to buy here and build a straw home.”

Dilschneider said she’s very impressed with the enthusiasm for the environment that many residents in the Northern Bruce Peninsula show.

“I’m interested and concerned about the environment. I like to do everything I can to do my little bit to preserve it.

“I read about or heard about this (straw homes) years ago and I’ve been researching it. I think there was a straw-bale workshop in Sault Ste. Marie a few years ago. I didn’t get to it, but I read an article about it.”

Dilschneider said she had been living in Toronto before moving to Thessalon a few years ago.

She grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan and loves country life. The Ferndale Flats remind her of the prairies, she said.
The house is a modified post-and-beam structure, she explained, although it could have been built using the straw bales as load-bearing structures.

“It’s a bit more expensive doing it this way,” Dilschneider said, “and some people build their own straw bales. I’m not doing any of that myself.”

The interior and exterior of the home will be finished with a thick layer of stucco, giving it an adobe-style appearance.

“It is environmentally friendly, it’s very energy- efficient, you get great insulation value and I like the stucco effect,” Dilschneider said. “I think it’ll be nice and cozy.”

She wasn’t sure of exacty what insulation rating the stacked straw bales have, but Dilschneider said it approached the maximum level available.

The home is being built by Lakewood developer Les Varga’s Northern Wood Builders with assistance from Ben Polley and his company, Harvest Homes.

Construction began in October after some delays and cold weather has pushed the completion date further back.

The contractors need warmer weather to apply the stucco and that may now have to wait after winter’s early onset.

“I’d like to be in here tomorrow,” Dilschneider said with a smile.

In the meantime, she is renting a house two doors away while she keeps an eye on the project.

Dilschneider is also installing a low-energy radiant in-floor heating system in the house.

“I think it will be wonderful to have warm feet all of the time,” she said with a laugh.

The house should be completed next spring.