Zero Impact eco-sustainable guest houses built with respect for people and the planet
In 2003, Stefano Solsati decided to build his house in straw bale construction: it was the first house in autoconstruction here in Italy. We were fascinated by this way of constructing and started to research this method of building by taking workshops and visiting as many straw bale constructions as we could to learn about the technique. In 2018, we started constructing our house, stables, and Casa Viva’s two guest houses.
Straw is an agricultural by-product which is able to filter carbon dioxide from the air transforming it into oxygen. It absorbs and releases humidity and is an excellent insulator both for warm and cool air.
The simpler the construction of a straw bale building the better the outcome. Because of this it is possible to work on your own house. Being able to participate in the construction of the buildings was very stimulating for us.
We live in a historical moment which begs us to make responsible choices. Safeguarding the environment for us must become a priority. For this reason we have chosen to construct our project with straw and other eco-sustainable materials.
How are the walls of a straw bale house constructed?
Straw bale constructions are durable, resist fire, remain dry and are solid and secure.
The main structures of Casa Viva are built with solid larch wood: the external walls arranged in a diagonal fish bone pattern which are both aesthetic and structural at the same time. Between the wood and the straw there is an anti-moisture sheet which works the same way as technical sportswear, allowing moisture to evaporate while preventing it from entering.
The straw bales, which substitute bricks and act as isolation, are so tightly compressed that they also have the capacity to sustain the weight of the roof. The tightly compressed bales also resist the risk of fire.
Covering the straw, reed mats are hung horizontally over which we spread an antique Roman lime mixture. Every room has a ‘window of truth’: a hole in the wall, framed and covered with glass which is made to look like a framed picture which allows people to see the layers of the wall.
How does it feel to sleep at Casa Viva?
Sleeping in one of our rooms gives one the feeling of being in a cozy, comfortable environment. The mind calms down and the acoustics are perfect for sleeping. There is the feeling of being in a very soothing natural environment.
The walls made of straw keep the rooms fresh in the summer and warm in the winter. Infact, the temperature of the rooms gives one the feeling of a living body.
Compared to cement walls. The walls of a straw bale house are similar to a living organism that immediately give the sensation of phyco-fisico wellbeing.
Cement walls absorb but do not release humidity. Straw on the other hand, is able absorb and release humidity keeping the walls completely dry and free of harmful moulds.
Also the acoustic isolation in straw bale houses is better. In cement houses, there is a cold echo that bounces off the walls. In straw houses the walls absorb the sounds of daily living and make the rooms very comfortable and silent.
Our houses release oxygen as though they were lungs; they are almost living breathing beings. In Italian ‘viva’ means alive. For this reason we named our guest houses Casa Viva.
Every little gesture can become revolutionary
We are living in the middle of a climatic crisis that is the result of the damage that we have been doing to the environment for decades. We can all start to do our part by being responsible for the choices we make without blindly following the masses.
Historically, we have been educated to construct with heavy, solid materials like bricks or stones to render our homes sicure and to ‘keep out the enemy’. Our enemies today are the climatic changes that we are actually facing. For this reason we have chosen to construct our home and business the most responsible way possible.
Siamo stati educati a costruire con i mattoni per avere case sicure che ci potessero riparare da un ipotetico nemico esterno. Il nostro nemico oggi è questa crisi e siamo chiamati ad agire, partendo anche dai materiali che usiamo per costruire una casa in modo responsabile.
For us Casa Viva is a kind of mission: to share the choices we have made with as many people as possible and this gives us a lot of joy. As we write this newsletter two guests that came back to see us this year told us that they would like to plan their very own tiny straw bale house on their family land.
Every action counts and a world in balance is within reach when we make responsible choices.