The international Bale Heart Award is the latest feather in Warkworth architect Graeme North’s cap.
North is a building design pioneer in New Zealand using low impact natural materials including straw bales, unstabilised earthen walls and lime plasters.
He received the award at the International Straw Building Conference: Natural Building in the 21st Century in Methven, Canterbury in front of 200 delegates from 15 countries.
North’s buildings can be found dotted about the region and around the country and often incorporate recycled materials like coloured bottles and materials from local sources like stone, clay and natural timber.
But his initial efforts were often viewed with suspicion by councils as there were few standards they could relate back to.
This saw him setting up the Earth Building Association of NZ and chairing the Earth Building Standards committee in the 1980s, leading to the first Earth Building Standards.
This saw him receiving a New Zealand Institute of Architects Research Award in 2000 in recognition for his work on the standards.
The lack of experimentation in natural build materials is behind North’s involvement in the Yes In My Front Yard Trust (YIMFY). The Trust aims to set up a research facility to test building technologies and natural materials so they are able to be used more widely and become more mainstream.
With concerns over climate change the renaissance in using natural materials has a spin off effect of low-carbon builds.