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Natural Building, Eco Building, Donegal, Ireland

Constructing the Lodge

The Lodge is the large communal building for our glamping guests which was completed in May 2019. The building is a natural building made with timber, straw bales and 'cob' (earth). 

The roof is a grass roof alive with the grasses and wildflowers excavated from the site.

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A Natural Building 

Round Pole Timber Frame

All the timber was sourced locally from sustainable forestry in Donegal. Over 90 timber poles were stripped and sanded, or half a kilometer of timber if placed end-to-end. That's 500sq meters of surface area or 30 tonnes of timber. i.e. a lot.
 

Straw Bale External Walls

Straw bale building is a construction method often used in eco building construction, it is sustainable from the standpoint of both materials and energy needed for heating and cooling.

Advantages of straw bale construction over conventional building systems include the renewable nature of straw, cost, easy availability, naturally fire-retardant once compressed and covered with clay plaster, and high insulation value.  
Straw bale walls are typically coated with a thick layer of lime plaster.  The combination of insulation and thermal mass provide an excellent platform for passive solar building design for winter and summer. And the cosiness of the Lodge is a testament to this.

Cob (Earth) Internal Walls

The internal walls of the Lodge were built

with 'Cob' which is another method of natural building.  The use of earth in construction dates back to the 10th century BCE in Mesopotamia. It is a combination of sandy sub soil, clay and straw. It’s mixed together in large batches by stomping (or we prefered dancing) on it. Cob is considered the most sustainable method of building there is. Since it's made of earth it is entirely recyclable, biodegradable, breatheable and non-polluting. 

A 'Living' Grass Roof

The soil excavated to build the Lodge was placed back on top of the roof along with all the native grass and wildflower seeds within it making for a 'living' roof, blending the building into the landscape from which it came. And a joy to behold in Summer when in full bloom!

Reed Bed & Wetland Waste System

All the grey/waste water produced in the Lodge is processed through a reed bed and wetland filtration system. This system creates a natural biological filter rather than a chemical treatment. It is a relatively zero energy input, low-tech, high-efficiency system that can be used to help protect streams, rivers and lakes from almost any source of effluent or dirty water.

Cow Poo!

An unanticipated and not very appealing job was collecting cow poo to add to the clay plaster which helps make the mix stickier when plastering. It also helps prevent cracking and contains an enzyme that prevents mould.

Skylight

You would not believe how difficult it was to find someone who could make a 3.5m irregular 12 sided/dodecagon skylight! It took a while (and a few sleepless nights) but eventually we did, phew.

Air-to-Water Heating

The hot water and building is heated by an Air-to-Water system. As this is powered by 75% renewable energy (air) and only 25% electricity, this heat pump is the most cost-efficient and sustainable heating solution available today.

Solar Panels

The Lodge is powered by solar panels. Any remaining electricity required is provided

by Airtricty which exclusively uses wind energy. The  Lodge therefore is powered 100% from green energy.

 

Upcycled & Repurposed

We repurposed and upcycled whenever possible throughout the build;

  • Empty wine bottles were used to create art features in the Lodge.

  • All the window sills in the Lodge were made with windthrow trees

  • The back-of-house mop sink installed was bought by Marcus’s aunt in 1973 and is still going strong!

  • The office desk was handmade and drawers created from old wine crates.

  • Upcycled old pallets were used to build log boxes for storing firewood as well as for making wooden shower mats in the shower rooms.

  • Practically all of the furniture in the Lodge is second-hand.  So forgive any signs of wear and tear, they add character and reflect a history!

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Helping Hands

Natural building is very labour-intensive and takes a LOT of helpful hands.  We are hugely indebted to the close-to 100 amazing volunteers who came at different stages of the build from Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, the US and even Taiwan and stayed with us to learn natural building techniques and in turn help us with the building. Big lunches lounging in the sunshine, raucous dinners and campfire shenanigans - their energy, enthusiasm and the laughs we had will always be a special highlight of the build and we are grateful for the lasting friendships that were forged. (Hopefully we'll see some of them again when it comes to building our forever home!)

Time Capsule

Marcus had the idea of burying a time capsule into one of the cob walls so that hundreds of years from now  (hopefully much longer!) if anything happens to the building these items would reflect the times we lived in at time of building;

  • a Lidl supermarket receipt showing the cost of a loaf of bread, a litre of milk and other staple foods

  • the front page of national newspaper The Irish Times (headline on the day was Cardinal Pell being convicted)

  • the front page of local newspaper The Donegal Democrat

  • a Peppa Pig key-ring (donated by the twins)

  • a photo of those of us who were there on the day

  • a print-out of our website homepage outlining the purpose of the building

The Lodge is a sustainably-built, environmentally-friendly, living, breathing building showcasing great Irish eco building design. It has since been included in the European database of strawbale buildings at www.strawbuilding.eu 

Below is a gallery of photos following the build progression and further below are several short videos for anyone interested in  alternative, natural methods of straw and cob building.

Construction Gallery

'Reciprocal Room' is almost complete

The 'Reciprocal Room' floor is finished...and shiny!

Fireplace

Proud fireplace builders.

Fireplace

Work on the huge fireplace begins with the help and guidance of stonemasons Andy Peters and Pete Gibson.

Taking a break

Taking a break

Eco Lodge
Showers near completion

Showers near completion

Floor goes down

Floor goes down in kitchen

Lough Mardal Glamping Ireland

Sky-light being installed

Lough Mardal Glamping Ireland

3.5m diameter dodecagon sky-light installed

Lough Mardal Glamping Ireland

Cob-filled stud walls

Lough Mardal Glamping Ireland

Cob wall taking shape

Lough Mardal Glamping Ireland

Ta-daah! Our cob glass bottle art design in the cob wall is complete. Thank you Sophie for doing such a wonderful job!

Lough Mardal Glamping Ireland
Lough Mardal Glamping Ireland

Trying out some art with recycled wine bottles

Lough Mardal Glamping Donegal

Clay plastering the internal walls

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Donegal
Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Donegal
Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Donegal
Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Donegal
Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Donegal

Cob building internal walls begins

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Donegal

We now have a grass roof!

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Donegal
Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland

Protective wrap comes down

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland

Lime-rendering complete. Coat after coat has been applied by hand, initially massaged into the straw and then layers added to create a uniform surface. The final coat is being applied now after 6 weeks of hard work and about 20 tonnes of lime and sand!

Lime Rendering
Lime rendering begins
Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Donegal

First walls

Glamping Ireland

Windows in!

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Donegal
Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Donegal
Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Donegal
Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Donegal
Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Donegal
Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Donegal

Strawbale Inspector

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Donegal

Earth being spread on roof for grass roof

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Donegal

The building is 'wrapped' to ensure the strawbales (for the walls) keep dry inside

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Donegal

Roof membrane complete. Next stage earthing it up for the grass roof.

Lough Mardal Glamping Ireland

Roof membrane almost complete

Lough Mardal Glamping Ireland
Lough Mardal Glamping Ireland
Lough Mardal Glamping Ireland
Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland
Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland
Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland
Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland
Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland

Front of building in snowy landscape!

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland

The long beams and geometric shapes mesmerise

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland

Forewoman watches on in blizzard

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland

February 2018. Snow! Such a great time of the year to be building. ;-)

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland

6th Feb - The reciprocal roof is complete!

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland

Suddenly looking very big

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland

4th Feb - The uprights for the outer ring go up

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland

January 2018. Brrrr....

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland

The inner ring is almost complete

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland

Someone's taking it easy

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland
Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland

Starting to take shape

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland

Wood-henge!

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland

Ever-growing piles of timber waiting to be stripped

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland

First (of many) delivery of timber

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland

11th Oct - Measuring out the site - with a very meticulous helper

Lough Mardal Lodge Glamping Ireland

Plans for the Lodge building

Construction Video Gallery

Building the Lodge

Building the Lodge

Building the Lodge
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Strawbuilding
01:34
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Strawbuilding

Cob Building
01:47
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Cob Building

Lime Rendering
01:32
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Lime Rendering

Earthing Up Roof
00:54
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Earthing Up Roof

It's a wrap
00:43
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It's a wrap

Blizzard building!
00:25
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Blizzard building!

Lodge build progress
00:24
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Lodge build progress

Snowy Mountain Views
00:46
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Snowy Mountain Views

Timber Prepping
00:58
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Timber Prepping

Roundwood timber delivery excitement
00:33
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Roundwood timber delivery excitement

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