Green Buildings of San Mateo County

Small Straw Bale Yoga Room

The Small Straw Bale Yoga Room, also known as the Green Sanctuary, won Honorable Mention for the 2006 Sustainable San Mateo County Green Building Award. In July 2005, in a backyard in Pacifica, the walls of this small straw bale structure were raised by a group of volunteers who came together to learn the techniques of natural green building under the direction of Berkeley architect, Martin Hammer, and Tim Owen-Kennedy of Vital Systems Natural Building and Design.

The owner's visionary statement:

The Green Sanctuary will be an artful and utilitarian personal yoga and meditation studio located in the backyard space of our home. The design and construction of the studio will utilize green building materials and techniques wherever appropriate. A secondary goal of this project is to help educate the community of Pacifica about green building options and provide an opportunity for some hands-on community building activities.

The building process in photos:

Getting Started

The Start of the Day
The beginning of the day.
Building the base
Building the base
Building the base.
Making the top of the wall
Making the top of the wall.

Building the Walls

The First Bale
The first bale goes up.
Building the Wall
Building the Wall Building the Wall

Finishing Touches on the Walls

Sifting Dirt
Sifting the dirt.
Wetting Straw

Mixing Straube
Adding Clay
Adding clay slip to the straw.
Mixing Straube
Mixing the straube.
Packing Straube
Tiny window made of two glass jars.
End of Day One
Future blue window.

Making Bamboo Walls

Constructing the frame of the bamboo walls.

Weaving straw-clay into the bamboo wall.

Earth Floor

Packing down recycled concrete pieces.

Adding lava rock to floor.

Putting in tubes for radiant heating in floor.

Laying the floor.

Mixing the earthen floor materials.

Earth Plaster

Plastic mesh is put up before
earth plaster is applied.

Applying earth plaster to walls.

Lime Plaster

First coat of lime plaster.

Second coat being applied.

Adding Color to the Exterior

Mix of ferrrous sulfate and water
is sprayed on the buiding.

Adding Color to the Interior

A coat of clay color is
added to the walls.

Completed Yoga Studio






Project Team:

Architect: Martin Hammer
Builders: Vital Systems, Moroso Construction, and a group of workshop participants and volunteers
Owners: Quynh Nguyen and Craig Brown