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Ontario Natural Building Coalition Holds Annual Natural Building Conference

By Frank Tettemer, ONBC Director

This definitely was the most fun to be had all winter.

Timing is everything, and this year's gathering of the clan at Camp Kawartha, near Lakefield Ontario, warmed my heart during one of the coldest of Canadian winters. With temperatures outside the straw bale conference room dipping to -24C (-11F) at night, the crackling fire in the wood stove provided a popular place to gather around over the weekend.

Tina Therrien's welcome and opening remarks on Saturday morning lit the flame of curiosity and instilled the warm comradeship that nicely permeated the weekend conference. Her dedication to forming the Ontario Straw Bale Building Coalition 15 years ago, and her continuance as Chairperson has been instrumental in supporting this organization's transformation into what it is today; the Ontario Natural Building Coalition. 

Jacob Deva Racusin spoke of many things around building impact, social justice, and creativity. Lessons learned were all about making straw bale walls using additional layers and materials. The synergy of plaster, straw, cellulose, rain screens, and cladding can easily place natural materials into the Passivehaus world of warmth. 

Chris Magwood's presentation reached out to owner-builders, professionals, and designers, about the importance of setting goals and priorities, well before the excavator arrives on site. Emphasizing that everyone's needs are different, and establishing priorities for each individual is the first step in good design. And when it's time to compare different materials and building components, his new book, "Making Better Buildings", covers everything vital and appropriate. 

David Eisenberg's warm voice and brilliant experiences always opens my heart. While transplanting Kathleen O'Brien's Emerge Leadership project to the forests and lakes of Ontario, he found fertile soil, within this group of 80 aware and alert natural builders.  Though it must have been a challenge for him, to travel the distance with a temperature difference of +80F to -11F, ‘Desert Dave’ seemed undaunted, as he patiently germinated the seeds for emerging leaders, to carry on the work of building not just net-zero housing, but to develop ways in which every new building is restorative and adds benefits to the natural environment.

Dawn Marie Smith traveled from Victoria, BC to show us how to use alternative methods to achieve code acceptance and obtain that elusive building permit. Reaching for the carrot of sustainable building is not always easy, and the ASRi and their publication, the Straw Bale Alternative Solutions Resource (ASR) manual, has made the work of digging these carrots much more straight forward. I loved how her experiences with Emerge Leadership helped to add sprinkles of additional insights during David Eisenburgs’ presentation.

Relaxing after dinner on Saturday, we were treated to our own 5x5 slideshow  - five photos from a couple dozen contributors - who each had five minutes to talk about their photos. Hilarious and inspiring, the show was a fun warm-up to the evening, that included libations from a selection of organic wines and craft brewed beers from the Bale Heart Bar, that livened up our senses for socializing, while singer-songwriter Rick Fines strummed and sang, caressing the spirit of inspiration in us all.

Did I mention how well we were treated and fed by the Camp Kawartha cooks?  They really knew how to accommodate the evolved diets of our participants, with delicious meals and healthy snacks. Thanks to all for your spirited participation in making this year one of the finest conferences ever.

Chris Magwood keeps the audience spellbound

Rick Fines entertained on Saturday evening

Tina Therrien - http://naturalbuildingcoalition.ca/ & http://www.strawhomes.ca/
Jacob Deva Racusin - http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/the_natural_building_companion:paperback%20+%20dvd & http:// & newframeworks.com/
Chris Magwood - https://www.newsociety.com/Books/M/Making-Better-Buildings & http://www.chrismagwood.ca/
David Eisenberg - http://www.emergeleadership.net/ & http://www.dcat.net/index.php
Dawn Marie Smith - http://www.asri.ca/
Rick Fines - http://rickfines.ca/
Camp Kawartha - http://www.campkawartha.ca/ 

Denis Drouin and Tina Therrien start the conference 
off in song.

Jacob Deva Racusin 

David Eisenburg

Dawn Smith
© Ontario Natural Building Coalition
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