In recognition of the effects of the economic downturn on residential architects, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) California Council is trying to lift spirits by hosting a new awards competition exclusively for residential architecture in the Golden State. Single family houses, affordable housing units, condos, mobile homes – if the structure was completed after January 1, 2007, it’s eligible.
Sustainability and creativity will be rewarded: one of the jurors is Anni Tilt, an architect and founding member of the California Straw Building Association (CASBA), an all-volunteer organization formed after the California Rice Straw Burning Reduction Act passed in 1992. The act forced rice farmers to find alternative methods for disposing of their straw waste. (Straw is the part discarded in the harvesting of the rice grain: if left it spreads disease throughout the fields which are feeding ground for wildlife.) CASBA provides resources and workshops to build small straw bale structures in balmy Berkeley. It’s catching on. In snowy Switzerland, local architects are taking advantage of the inexpensive, natural insulator. The first hotel in Europe to be built entirely with straw bales, The Maya Guesthouse, is under construction in the little village of Nax Mont-Noble – population 403, unemployment 0%.