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Straw-bale home design for future: Mill Creek triplex boasts energy-saving features

Edmonton Journal – August 7, 2012

Let’s begin where things should always begin — with personal hygiene and a good hand washing.

If I lived in Dave and Caroline’s home, no problem. I’d be washing my hands on the half-hour and hour, during commercials, before, after and during meals, when the mood struck, the band played, the earth moved or any time I happened past the half-bathroom on the main floor.

Inside Dave and Caroline’s half-bath is the cutest, tiniest and most manifestly awesome sink in the world. No, really. The design of this twee-little sink won a prize at an international design festival.

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Edmonton’s Downtown Condo Boom – Census 2011

Toronto Star – February 8, 2012

Buying an investment property wasn’t on Chris Buyze’s mind when he signed the papers for his 58 square-metre studio on the edge of downtown Edmonton.

“It was a place I wanted to be, it was something I could afford … I wanted to be close to amenities,” including the city’s light rail transit network, he said.

Buyze was 20 when he purchased the loft in a three-storey converted warehouse in 1999. The neighbourhood, which was deserted after business hours, was considered a rough one.

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Edmonton Urban Design Awards 2009 – Award of Merit in Urban Architecture

City of Edmonton Website – 2009

The Mill Creek Flex Homes’ project purpose was to develop sustainable residential infill within the inner city.

This three-unit, 2-storey row housing fits into the City of Edmonton’s vision of higher urban density in the “core,”
while complementing the existing neighbourhood’s built form.

The development’s location and proximity to local amenities increases the desirability and livability of the project.

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Top 40 under 40 2010 – Chris Buyze

Avenue Magazine – November 1, 2010

Forget brick and wood. Chris Buyze has seen the future in housing, and it is straw.

As a partner in Battle Lake Design Group, Buyze is a leader in the construction of straw-bale homes,
bringing to Edmonton this sustainable form of building that was once considered a back-to-the-land practice.

The company recently finished the first multi-family straw-bale project in Canada — a triplex called Mill Creek Flexhomes.

On the day he was interviewed by Avenue, Buyze spent the morning laying sod at the project.

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Structural strength in Straw

Drayton Valley Western Review – 2009

The straw house has come a long way from the straw thatched house depicted in the fairy tale the Three Little Pigs.

Built out of bales 18 inches wide by 16 inches deep and 30 inches long,
the wolf will be hard pressed to blow this house down.

Straw structures can be made in two different ways. The first is the straw bale in-fill.
The in-fill method places the bales in between two support structures. The supports carry the weight
of the roof; the bales are not a structural component. The load bearing structure is another way
to construct a straw house. Compressed stacks of straw bales carry the weight of the roof in this
type of structure. The straw insulation in each structure type is then sealed with a stucco (adobe)
finish and then painted. Walls within the structure are constructed according to conventional methods;
the only difference is that they are secured to the structure by being fastened to the floor and ceiling,
as opposed to studs in the walls.

Regardless of the method used to build a straw building the most common reason why consumers
are deciding to build straw houses is the desire to reduce the environmental impact.

Environmental consultant Dave Mussell, who has worked on several straw bale construction projects
with the Battle Lake Design Group, says environmental impact is reduced in two ways:
materials gathered to build the structure, and the long-term operation of the structure.

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‘Heart of Edmonton thriving with condo owners’

Edmonton Journal – April 11, 2009

Friends and family of Chris Buyze were incredulous when they heard he was
planning to move into a condominium in downtown Edmonton.

“People thought I was crazy,” Buyze laughs. “They said you’re moving where? A
nd you’re moving that close to the Greyhound (bus station)?”

Buyze, president of the Downtown Edmonton Community League, says the reaction was not totally
unjustified when he took up residence 10 years ago in a loft in the historic warehouse district on 104th Street.

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‘It’s Good to the Last Straw’

Edmonton Journal – July 8, 2008

Battle Lake Design Group are partners in the Mill Creek Flex Homes in Edmonton.

The development uses straw bales and solar energy and is almost sold out before the sod is turned.

Battle Lake’s Chris Buyze says that Mill Creek homes will have a lower footprint with flexible uses,
such as rooftop gardens and home studios to work in.

The air quality will be good inside and out, because the major components reduce toxicity and
no volatile organic compounds will be used.

“We need to look at higher densities in urban areas that provide well-designed housing that creates community.
Mill Creek has a lot of focus on green space and gardens,” says Buyze.

“These homes are designed to be low maintenance with new solar systems that are no more complex to
operate than high-efficiency gas furnaces.”

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