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Wednesday, July 28, 1999

  • Grad builds straw bale community
  • All the campus is a stage....
  • What's good for the goose
  • Positions available this week

Grad builds straw bale community

Freida Abtan would like to explode the myth that all UW students aspire to a Silicon Valley lifestyle after graduation.

A math graduate with a programming job at a local software company, Abtan scoffs at the idea of working to save for a house in the suburbs. Her dream: a straw bale home shared with friends in the country.

This summer, that vision is being constructed on a piece of land outside Fergus with a group of five others who share her "do-it-yourself attitude".

Most have been friends since their days at Kitchener Collegiate Institute and already constitute "a community," says Oona Fraser, a visual artist who has a notebook full of sketches of prospective house designs. Jascha Narveson, who attended UW and is currently studying music at Wilfrid Laurier University, describes the group as a "mixture of environmentalists and do-it-yourselfers," who have embarked on "an interesting mental and spiritual exercise."

Unlike the three little pigs, they plan to construct a home to withstand the elements -- not to mention the big bad wolf -- and have approval from Erin Township authorities for their project.

A partial concrete foundation will support a wood frame construction. Straw bales will be used as "really big bricks," says Fraser, and finished with stucco inside and out. The 1,800-square-foot residence will have six bedrooms, a common area, kitchen, and bathroom, complete with wiring and plumbing.

Straw bale construction methods have developed over centuries in Europe and Asia, according to their sources, and have the advantage of being "easy, cheap, and warm". As well, they employ a locally-produced, renewable resource, are environmentally friendly, "and if you put the walls up wrong, you can tear them down and start over," Abtan laughs.

The most common concerns expressed by the uninitiated are fire hazard and allergy problems. The house will burn no faster than a normal house, she says, and as for allergies, the stucco seals off any offending allergens.

Site preparation is underway, and the group hopes to hold a "bale raising" by the end of August and to move in by winter. Since the land is being provided by the family of a group member, the total project is expected to cost just $35,000, with much of the money used to run electricity into the site.

"We're pretty big on wanting to build the place we live in," explains Abtan, but the project is getting by with a little help from (highly-skilled) friends of friends, and volunteers are welcome, "especially others who want to learn about straw bale construction."

"There's a real straw bale culture developing," says Narveson, and resources and contacts are easily found on the internet. To learn more or lend a hand, contact Abtan at fabtan@undergrad.math.

All the campus is a stage....

Students in the Waterloo Catholic District School Board's Performing Arts Summer School take to the stage in the Humanities Theatre tonight at 7:30 for the opening of the musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The three-day run continues through Friday, with $10 tickets available at the door.

The school -- now in its eighth year -- offers aspiring actors, dancers and singers a hands-on experience producing a Broadway musical. Students participate in the technical aspects of the show, as well.

"It is the goal of the Performing Arts Summer School program to help students develop a positive self-concept, to build self-esteem, increase their creative sensitivity and capacity for expression, and acquire attitudes and values that lead to satisfaction, productivity and responsibilty," says Jennifer Rodrigues, program coordinator and arts consultant for the school board.

Also playing tonight at UW is Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Streetin the second week of its three-week run at Theatre of the Arts. The Second Company's take on the Stephen Sondheim musical is set in the 1940s during the London Blitz, instead of the original Victorian version. Director Brent Krysa promises "a complex melodrama comprised of an elaborate plot and intense music."

Tickets for the production, which continues through August 7, can be purchased at the Centre in the Square at 578-1570.

What's good for the goose

In contrast to the more drastic "modest proposals for geese" contained in a letter to the editor in the July 21 Gazette,a group of students from the spring ERS 285 class will explore "Goose Aversion through Landscaping" as part of the WATgreen projects presentations Thursday morning starting at 9:30 in Environmental Studies room 132.

Also on the agenda are discussions of "Energy Use Reduction in Math Building," "Naturalization of an Elementary School's Yard," and "Guidelines for New Buildings on Campus." Everyone is invited.

Positions available this week

This week's Positions Available list from the human resources department includes these staff jobs: More information: ext. 2524.

And a last-minute sale notice

"As a token of appreciation to our customers, the Bookstore, UWShop and Techworx in South Campus Hall wil be holding a summer sale on Thursday, July 29," reports Jason MacIntyre, marketing coordinator for retail services. Shoppers will received a 25 per cent discount on "selected merchandise" at the Bookstore and Techworx, and 25 per cent off all regularly priced, in-stock merchandise at the UWShop.

Barbara Elve

Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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