In partnership with Low Carbon Trust

Building with straw bales course

Two courses with places available:
Friday 5 - Sunday 7 April 2019
Friday 19 - Sunday 21 July 2019

This three-day course runs from 9.00am to 5.30pm in Stanmer Park, Brighton.

This course is for anyone interested in building with straw bales - a cheap, natural, healthy and low impact way of making your own house. This is a practical building course and involves lots of hands-on workshops.

What will the Building with straw bales course cover?

Learn how to build a straw bale structure. This intensive three-day course is designed to inspire you and give you the basic skills required for straw bale construction. The course covers building walls with straw bales and basic carpentry. We will try to avoid power tools and people of all abilities are welcome. You will also learn about the environmental and practical benefits of constructing buildings using straw bales.

During the course you will learn:

  • How to build straw bale walls
  • How to work with straw bales, including shaping, cutting & tying
  • Learn about detailing for doors and windows, and how to construct roof structures.
  • Examine existing straw-bale buildings, built using different methods
Learn how to render with clay and lime on our Rendering on straw bales course.

How Straw bale building supports permaculture principles

In permaculture, we aim to use renewable resources, and so building a house of straw makes perfect sense.

Many people are amused by the idea of straw bale buildings, but, when properly built and maintained, they can last hundreds of years and are less flammable than wooden structures.

In fact, we recently built a straw bale building at Stanmer Park for the purpose of housing our scrumping project, and this new Fruit Factory will be open to visit during Apple Day.

Who is the Building with straw bales course for?

This course is open to anyone aged 16 or over. It will be of interest to architects, planners, builders and engineers, as well anyone thinking about building their own home. It is suitable for complete beginners, as well as those who are familiar with eco-building and want to know more.

Learning methods and outcomes

This is an intensive practical and theoretical course; expect long days of hands-on work with short theory sessions, but also lots of fun. By the end of the course, participants will have an overview of straw bale building, know the basics of designing a straw bale building and have the practical skills to build a straw bale structure. Course participants who complete the entire course will receive a certificate, which will be sent via email after the course.

What some of our course participants have gone on to accomplish

Straw bale building projectSee photos of a building project completed by one of our participants, using what he learned on the course.

Another former course participant has gone on to build a straw bale house in Africa and credits the course for giving him the confidence to tackle the project. Read his blog.

Course tutor

Ian Brown is the main tutor and has been teaching low impact building and sustainable construction for many years. He currently teaches construction at City College Brighton. He has built various low impact projects and specialises in straw bale building.

VideoWatch Ian's presentation at Green architecture day 2015.


Stanmer Park (near University of Sussex)
South East England

Get directions to Stanmer Park.

If you intend to book accommodation, please check availability before booking a place, as accommodation in Brighton can be hard to find, especially over the summer months.

Get details on local accommodation and Brighton Permaculture Trust supporters who can provide accommodation in their homes.

Recommended reading

No prior reading is required, but here are some suggested websites and books if required:

Building with Straw Bales by Barbara Jones
Build It with Bales by Matts Myrhman and S.O. Macdonald
The Straw Bale House by Athena Swentzell Steen, Bill Steen & David Bainbridge


Fees include tuition, handouts and refreshments.

  • £340 - Sponsored/organisation rate
  • £340 - Individual income more than 25k/yr
  • £285 - Individual income 18-25k/yr
  • £230 - Individual income less than 18k/yr
  • £87.50 - Individual, concessionary rate (check eligibility)*

* Concessionary places are limited. If places are not available check back two weeks before the course/event as more may be available then.

We endeavour to make our courses and events affordable to all. Unfortunately, we do not receive any external funding for most of these and rely on large amounts of voluntary input.

See the cancellations and refunds policy.

Booking the Building with straw bales course

Booking is essential, as most of our courses/events are fully booked weeks in advance. However, if places are still available, then bookings can be made until midday the day before the course/event. A place is not secured until we have received the requested payment.

Please do not book unless you are able to pay for your place.

Paying for your place

Please read this section carefully.

When you complete the booking process, you will receive a confirmation email from us. If you haven't received that email within the next few hours, please contact us immediately, as this email contains vital information regarding your booking.

You can pay when you book your place using a credit/debit card or PayPal, or you can tick the 'Pay later' box (in the Event Fee section), which gives you the option to pay by BACS or send us a cheque after you have booked. If you choose to pay later, you will have 7 days to pay for your place. Bookings that remain unpaid on our system for longer than that will expire. You will receive notification of this expiration by email. If you then decide you want to come, you will need to contact us to see if there is a still a place available for you.

If you are booking within two weeks of the course, or the course is nearly full, you will not have the option to pay later. Instead, you will need to pay immediately at the point of booking using a credit card or PayPal.

Be certain that you understand ALL the information on this page, then:


Book the 5-7 April 2019 course


Book the 19-21 July 2019 course


Contact Us

For further information or if you have problems with your registration, please contact us.

  • Steff
    "Ian's and Mischa's passion for what they do are both inspiring and contagious. It was a privelege to have them as our tutors."

    Steff Branscombe

  • David
    "As an intensive 3-day course, all the steps of the process are covered with practice and talks, but it feels very relaxed."


  • Helene
    "The amount we learnt in the time was surprising, especially as it was fun and a relaxed atmosphere. Everyone used their experience and skills to help others. Great people, great team led and tutored brilliantly by Ian."

    Helene Packman

  • Janey
    "I started the course full of excitement and finished the course exhilarated and feeling very confident that my project was certainly achievable. Thank you all so much, and the fun we had was a bonus."

    Janey Bray

  • Katy
    "The principles were communicated in a very straightforward way with a really positive 'can do' approach which was hugely empowering and confidence building."


  • Rob
    "The instructor was brilliant. Very knowledgeable, great easy-going teaching style. The substantial hands-on content was the best part."

    Rob West

  • Antonio
    "Inspiring & real! I can see it easily happening in my life."


  • Dave
    "It couldn't have been a more perfect building. The whole park and the community projects all around were a great setting for a natural building course. Ian was down to earth and very approachable."

    Dave Castleton

  • Emma
    "Wonderful opportunity to meet like-minded people + those from different walks of life. Sense of camaraderie fantastic, as was the commitment to getting across the most important points in a relatively short space of time."

    Emma Lilley

  • Richard
    "I was very impressed with Ian's knowledge and teaching style. Enjoyed it a lot. The balance of theory and practical work was very good, and it was easy to get hands on experience of some key skills."

    Richard Stannard

  • Hugh
    "Everyone was so friendly and open - the tutors, the volunteers and the participants - and this made it really easy to learn everything too."


  • Steven
    "Ian and the entire crew were engaging, enthusiastic, passionate and knowledgeable about straw bale building. They answered questions freely and patiently."

    Steven Bulaon

  • Anon
    "The atmosphere in the group was very positive and lively, possibly helped by the tutor being very patient and funny."
  • Tanya
    "Ian was great; took every opportunity to cram more knowledge in but in a light-hearted way; friendly, approachable and knowledgeable - born teacher! Thoroughly enjoyed it all and would definitely recommend it to anyone interested. Hope to get a chance to put it all to use before too long!"

    Tanya Cowan

  • Anon2
    "One of the best seminars I've ever attended in my life. Ian was very clear and to the point. Not too complex and not too easy. Good presentation skills to keep it lively. The techniques learned will be very useful for me."