ARCHITECT Joost Bakker is a champion of the humble straw home, and he's spreading his simple-living message across Victoria.
Never mind about the big bad wolf, the CSIRO tried to burn Joost Bakker's straw house down - and failed.
The Yarra Valley home, built on a steel frame and with straw-filled magnesium oxide board walls, was subjected to temperatures above 1000 degrees celsius in a CSIRO-controlled test earlier this year, and passed with flying colours.
Now Joost, the Yarra Valley-based architect behind the Joost Greenhouse series of sustainable and organic restaurants in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth has teamed up with Mitch Watson, the founder of the Hepburn Mineral Springs company, to build Mitch's home at Daylesford.
The house (pictured), which is made from "endlessly recyclable" materials, is due for completion early next month, but is already creating quite a stir in design circles.
Not that Joost (pronounced Yoast) minds - he's well placed to defend the virtues of the humble straw bale. His family grew tulip bulbs in Holland for generations before migrating to Australia in 1982.
"We had always used straw to cover the bulbs and stop them freezing. In Australia, we found we could extend the season and plant earlier by keeping the earth cooler in summer by covering it with straw. Since then, I have always wondered why we don't use straw as insulation," he says.
"Straw is all natural, it still breathes, it is non-toxic, and we can design a whole house around the standard bale that has been around since 1880."
The fire-resistant qualities of a Joost design are as much about what's in the building as what isn't - air. "It's a combination of not having any oxygen behind the wall - a densely filled wall means there is no oxygen cavity - and the magnesium oxide board.
EVEN during the CSIRO test, the temperature inside the house did not rise above 35 degrees and the level of toxins in the air was well below the acceptable level, meaning someone could survive inside," he says.
Several larger developers have indicated their interest in using Joost's designs which require 3000-4000 bales per house - a huge potential boon for farmers.
A market for straw for building or paper, he argues, would see the farmer encouraged to grow taller crops and be paid better for it.Other materials in the house are similarly eco-friendly or, as Joost likes to say, "endlessly recyclable".
"My philosophy is simple; I look for natural, non-toxic and reusable," Joost says.
A roof-top garden, lined with rubber membrane and filled with soil, will add extra insulation to Mitch's house, slow water run off, help prevent erosion and provide food for the home.
"Buildings shouldn't take away habitat, they should create more habitat, because as soon as you build a house, you are creating waste water, collecting water, producing waste product and nutrients, all these things can help create habitat," he says.
But it doesn't stop there.
Joost Greenhouses all harvest urine from the restaurant restrooms which can be used as fertiliser or pesticide, and the Daylesford house will include a similar set-up.
It will also have a worm farm to treat sewage and organic waste from the kitchen.
The three-bedroom one-bathroom design is not the norm, but perhaps represents a swing back to a more simple way of living. "Since when do we need a bathroom each?" Joost says.
"I've had some pretty heated discussions with a few engineers... I often say, 'If you guys designed a Boeing 747 like this it would never get off the ground'."