We're sponsoring the Big Straw Bale Gathering 2018!

BSBG sponsor badgeI'm delighted to say Huff & Puff Construction are sponsoring the inaugural Big Straw Bale Gathering, to be held 10th-12th August at Down to Earth, Swansea.

This is the first event of its type, a gathering to discuss and learn straw bale construction and share the latest and best thinking within the industry.

Held at Down to Earth’s beautiful strawbale roundhouse in South Wales, the weekend will feature talks, discussions and hands-on workshops, for all levels, led by the UK’s best natural builders and leading associated professionals. So come down and get excited about building with straw, learn some new techniques or get stuck into the geeky technical stuff.

When you are full of knowledge you can relax with great local organic food, music, dancing, yoga, ‘Strawbale Ale’, children’s activities and a host of extracurricular events ranging from walks to canyoneering on the beautiful Gower peninsular!

Us Huff & Puff folk will be on hand throughout the weekend, so come and seek us out to say hello, and for advice and answers to your straw bale questions. :-)

Book your tickets here: http://strawbalebuildinguk.com/bsbg-tickets/


The first year of Huff and Puff Construction

Huff and Puff Construction has now been running for over a year! I took a career break from my other day job (IT software and projects at Bournemouth University - BU) last year and started Huff and Puff Construction with the aim of bringing straw bale building to the masses. This was not such a strange career move as it might sound. I have been always been 'green' and an avid DIYer - and IT project management and building project management involve a great many similar skills. In fact research suggests (I can't find the link at the moment but will add it if I can), that building project management can result in much higher levels of satisfaction all round because its easier to get things right in the first place. However, I think that for all the methodologies in the world, the most important thing is taking care of the people involved, from the customer (very important of course!) to all the people doing the work. The importance of happy workers is often overlooked. And a natural building project has more chances than most to be a happy building project for everyone involved.

At the start of 2014 I had to return to the other day job for a while, which has made for an interesting and busy year to date. The good news is that business is most definitely looking up, and so the other day job has now gone (byeBU!) and I can concentrate fully on the important business of this year's work.

First up I've restarted work on Apple Tree Nook here at Huff and Puff HQ. You can see from the photos we are not out of the ground yet, but many valuable skills and experiences in using diggers and dumpers, health and safety and the best ways to reuse and recycle soil etc. have been gained or improved.  Please see the gallery on this post for a taster of where we are right now.  I'm not sure how much progress we'll make on Apple Tree Nook this year, as paid work is going to have to take priority, and money is tight.  If we can get the foundations and the plinth walls done I'll be happy, then everything else would be a plus.

I am pleased to say Huff and Puff should be involved in another two straw bale projects this year and may have our first project lined up for next year too. I hope to say more very soon about a community project towards the north-west of the county which will be this year's main focus. There is also a house build coming up in central Dorset in the summer that may feature the wonderful Straw Works, run by Barbara Jones (who if you're interested in straw baling in the UK you simply must look up - and do get her book: Building with Straw Bales: A Practical Guide for the UK and Ireland). I've had a few conversations with Barbara now and although last year I purposely didn't look too hard at Straw Works - I wanted to find my own way and ideas - now that I have I am very pleased that we seem to be on the same wavelength about a great many things.  Barbara has a number of builds under her belt that I can currently only dream of - and I'm hoping to make use of Barbara's consultation services in my upcoming builds to make sure we get things absolutely right.

As ever, please get in touch if you are thinking about a straw bale build, or any other natural building work this year or in the future.  I'm always more than happy to discuss your plans.

Doing business the Huff and Puff Construction way...

EthicsThe ethical stance of our business is very important to us. You hear a lot of horror stories about builders. The truth is the breakdown of communities and families means we often have to turn to people we don't know and trust them with work on our homes. Wouldn't it be great if you had friends and neighbours who knew how to help you build a house? (We'd love to see a time when that's a more likely scenario, but that's a subject for another post I think.) Websites that offer references have a part to play, but there's more to it than that. Most people I know - including me - would still rate a recommendation from friends or family above anything else when engaging tradespeople.

Our homes are a massively important part of our lives and we invest a lot of thought, time and money into them. Huff and Puff Construction's approach is to try to make any building project as pleasurable as possible. Building a new home, or adding to your existing home, should be a happy and positive time, even though there are various stresses involved. So why should you trust us with work? Especially as we are a new company and you can't (yet!) look at lots of completed projects? Well, please run through the following points about doing business the Huff and Puff way, and see if you like them.

Why and what? The most important thing in any building project is to decide to build the right thing.

Building generally addresses a need and the most important questions are: why do you want to build something - and what do you want to build to address that. It sounds simple, doesn't it? But often it isn't. Especially when you may need to get advice from all sorts of people to see if what you want is feasible and affordable etc. So where do you start? Well, we pride ourselves on taking the time to discuss with you what you'd like, and help define your requirements. We can give you pointers on how to manage your project, or you may want us to manage your whole build, or for us to help you manage it yourself.

As long as you are considering us for work, we don't normally charge for an initial basic design and estimate - however for house-sized jobs there may need to be some negotiation on that. We promise to be totally honest with you when we discuss your project with you. I would rather see my business fail than give you bad advice, just to get business. I promise that if you need something we can't offer - or even if we can and you'd very sensibly like other quotes or advice - I will not hesitate to suggest other companies that may be able to help you.

Whatever advice you seek from us, the response will be based on getting the best result for your particular circumstances. Whether you'd like to self-build, save every penny possible, or want to spend a lot, we can help with both your design and build. We like creative ways of achieving a lot for a little - and straw bale gives excellent opportunities for this - meaning you can get something that looks fab for less outlay - and what's not to like about that?! We want your project to be successful because it matters to you. And also because we passionately believe in this style of building for all sorts of good reasons.

Finally - and very importantly - we promise you good communication. Once paid work is decided upon we will agree a contract so we both know what to expect and where we stand. Whatever you engage us to do, we promise to meet regularly (on site I'd strongly suggest a quick chat every day) to inspect and discuss progress. In this way any issues are identified promptly and can be resolved with the minimum of fuss.

If the above is all in place then all those other important things that will help make your build a positive and enjoyable experience, will be covered. For example, you'll know when your builder/trades will be on site, what work is being done, when it will be completed, if there are any problems etc. and if so, what is being done.

Does this sound good to you? What do you like or dislike about getting trades in to do work? Let us know in the comments below.

Let there be straw...

And welcome to February! My apologies for the lack of recent blog posts. In some ways it would be nice if the intervening time had involved a spot of winter hibernation at Huff and Puff HQ (I like my sleep), but no such rest has been forthcoming. Instead, I've recently been working on a kitchen refurb that has allowed me to do some internal lime work and also try out some of the materials I'm hoping to use on other jobs. That's nearly complete, so there will be a post and some photos soon.

We have some enquiries for sizeable jobs on the go at the moment, however nothing commissioned yet. In fact the only major job we have scheduled so far is our very own Apple Tree Nook project.

If you are interested in discussing work for this year please do get in touch. Planning and building regulations, if necessary, can take up a lot of time, so now is the time to begin!

Also, please get in touch if you'd like to do some hands-on learning about straw bale building, or if you'd just like some advice on your own build. I'm hoping to post more soon on this sort of thing, however at the moment suffice to say I'm happy to arrange something with you for a small fee for self-builders, or free of charge if we're doing some work for you.

The next post will hopefully cover work on Apple Tree Nook, which I'm glad to say is restarting imminently!

Straw Bale Building in Dorset and the UK

Straw bale builders
We love straw bale building!
If you are in Dorset, or even further afield in the UK, you'll find that Huff and Puff Construction is one of very few specialist straw bale builders in the country. We can help you at any stage of your project, whether you are thinking of self-build, or want the whole job taken care of.

We love to talk about and see straw bale builds, it's the reason we exist! So please get in touch to discuss your plans. Call Phil Christopher on 07770 565656 or e-mail phil@huffpuff.me. And don't forget to check out our blog and our website for all our latest news. We hope to hear from you soon!

I'll huff and I'll puff - and then I'll do something useful instead...

Phil in a rather fetching straw hat

Welcome to our blog!  My name is Phil Christopher and Huff and Puff Construction is a new family company based in Wareham in Dorset, on the south coast of the UK.  Our business is different to many builders because using sustainable products and methods is at the core of the business.

This is the place where you can see and read about our work in detail.  So what can you expect?  Well, currently we are working on some sample projects here at Huff and Puff HQ to showcase our talents.  Expect timber.  Expect straw.  Expect re-use of materials.  Expect stuff that works with nature and not against it.  Expect breathable, healthy things.  Oh, and expect it all to look really good too!

We also really want to speak to you!  We welcome your comments on the posts - or use the Contact Us page.  Let us know what projects you'd like to do - or see us do.  What do you think we're getting right and wrong?

Watch this space and we hope to speak soon!